Brett McComas

Plankton are key for ice crappies

by Brett McComas

Hitting that magical window where crappies and zooplankton collide can produce some seriously impressive results. It’s all about finessing your way onto their dinner plate and doing so on their schedule.

Fools GoldDeepwater crappies can often be found following the vertical migration of zooplankton. Typically we think of the ‘magic hour’ as being sunrise or sunset, but it’s important to remember that sunrise can be as much as an hour later under the ice — thanks to the lack of light penetration.

Increased light levels in the morning trigger zooplankton to vacate areas higher in the water column and slide back towards bottom. It’s a similar situation towards evening. Maybe you’ve noticed the bottom ‘lighting up’ on your flasher near dusk? Zooplankton will begin to rise off bottom as the light levels drop, and they feed on microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton. Mud basins in the 22-34 ft range are where the magic happens.


Light line (no heavier than 3-lb test) and ultra-finesse tungsten jigs are key for these filter-feeding crappies. A lure like the VMC Tungsten Fly Jig has the perfect compact profile yet is still fishable in deeper water. Basic colors such as straight glow, white and occasionally black work great as Zooplankton are virtually translucent. Working the lure fairly aggressively will help to call fish in, but subtle jigging movements that will seal the deal. Tip it with a Trigger X Nymph.

Hope this helps you catch more fish!

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