By Dan Johnson

If you’re headed onto the ice this weekend—and I sure hope you are—options abound in terms of species and situations. From pike patrolling shallow shorelines to walleyes, jumbo perch and tullibees cruising the abyss, ample opportunities await as January fades to February.

For veteran guide and Lindy pro staffer Jon Thelen, crappies are hard to beat for a variety of reasons.

“Suspended crappies are the most fun bite right now,” he said this morning. “In most areas the weeds have pretty much died off and the fish have moved into deep holes. And unlike other species like walleyes that can be a bit less active at this point in the winter, crappies become more aggressive.”

Hot depths vary by lake, but mid-lake basin holes dipping into 20 feet down to 30 feet or more are great starting points. Thelen says that sonar is key to finding the fish because they’re suspended and scattered. Depth dictates his lures.

“If the fish are 20 feet or less from the surface, I tie on a 1/32-ounce Lindy Watsit Ice Jig,” he says. “It’s the correct size for matching a variety of food items such as bugs and baitfish, and the little soft-plastic tail and legs add tantalizing action.”

For deeper fish, he switches to a Lindy Tungsten Toad, which is heavier that lead for its size. It allows him to use a small jig in deep water, get it down quicker and keeps his line tight, making it easier to detect strikes.

“You can use any of the hook sizes—10, 12 or 14. I like the larger hook because you can pack more larvae on there, which is perfect for triggering aggressive fish.”

Thelen stresses the importance of keeping your jig above the fish. Watch your electronics and position your lure 1 to 3 feet above them.

Given the scant snowcover on many lakes, Thelen advises hunkering down on patches of snow wherever possible.

“I saw this for perch last week on Big Stone Lake while filming Fish Ed TV, and heard it from Lindy pro staffer Paul Fournier this morning. Setting up on patches of snow can be critical because it’s darker under there, and as a result fish feed more aggressively throughout the day.”

Thelen also recommends donning ice cleats when traversing slick lake surfaces this weekend. It’s easy to slip and fall on glare ice, and cleats are a whole lot cheaper than a cast or a sling.