By Dan Johnson

As Christmas draws near, ice anglers willing to explore skinny water weedbeds could reap a holiday crappie harvest of epic proportions. That’s the word from veteran panfish hunter and Lindy pro staffer Paul Fournier, who reports finding crappies cruising shallow salad bars overlooked by the bucket brigade.

“Most crappie anglers automatically head for deep water right now, but that can be a big mistake,” he says. “Certainly, there are fish offshore. But fishing pressure can be intense enough to scatter the schools, and I’ve found that the biggest crappies often hold in much shallower water when conditions allow.”

And this winter conditions not only allow crappies to frequent skinny water, it flat-out encourages such behavior.

“Because of the thin, clear ice, shallow weedbeds are flourishing,” he says. Such greenery offers panfish an enticing blend of oxygen and fine dining. “Plus, all the water running into the lake from rains and melting snow is delivering an even healthier dose of dissolved oxygen,” he adds.

To drive the green, Fournier focuses on inside and outside weedlines, along with open pockets within thick canopies. Lindy’s venerable Frostee Jigging Spoon is his weapon of choice, tipped with a small soft-plastic trailer, or when crappies average more than 10 inches in length, a pinched-off minnow head.

“Don’t be too aggressive,” he cautions. “Shake the spoon in place enough to make the treble hook start swinging.”

When salad bar crappies play hard to catch, Fournier downsizes to a Lindy Toad, dressed with a plastic tail or live bait trailer.

“This is finesse time,” he says. “Drop the jig to bottom, pound it a few times, and then slowly raise it.”

Incredible as it may seem to anglers accustomed to targeting offshore crappies in depths of 30 feet or more, Fournier finds success in as little as 3 feet of water.

“Right now it’s the place to be for the biggest crappies in the lake,” he laughs. Which should be more than enough incentive for enterprising ice fans to explore the inshore bite and, in doing so, enjoy a little extra Christmas cheer.