Over the past several years I have reaped the benefits of the Kawarthas and their limitless, ever-surprising fishery. 2017 will mark the first year I’ve ever taken advantage of its hardwater opportunities.
I know the fish have always been there, but my love for hardwater was absent. However, my horizons are expanding thanks to the right people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the last year.
Well, I finally decided to heed his words.
Doing a full 180 on open water esox, I folded to targeting their diet staple, slab fish. More specifically, crappie.
Having only one day of the weekend to fish, Kawarthas seemed like the natural choice. With vast sprawling lakes reaching into the limits of almost every other major area in the region, the Kawarthas are just a short drive from me and my home waters.
Heading out on the ice, the thunder rolls below our feet as the peak sun of the day warms the waning mass.
We start in the afternoon chasing the evening bite. Planning for nightfall we hole-hop until we locate everything crappie look for when the evening rolls around; weeds, and other structure to feast amongst.
I started with a small spoon, then moved to a tube bait. As the day rolled on we swapped baits making sure we were covering all of our options and water columns.
With a fish camera, we watch in unwavering wonderment as the fish below us swarmed. Spotting the crappie amongst the sunfish and perch was like a game of Where’s Waldo in an aquarium.
An underwater camera: as a photographer, that’s a tool that could convince me to ice fish more. I’d officially found my gateway drug into ice fishing.
I missed a fish on my first drop, and I didn’t get another bite until well into the evening. Any more than 30 minutes between bites, just enough to let the proverbial dust settle after drilling new holes, we were on the move.
The burn in my stout legs raged on.
We found a relatively shallow spot of roughly 12 feet, with healthy weeds at 6 feet high stretching towards the ice. The crappie had moved in.
With the fading light, and after many a sunfish, Aaron hooked into the first crappie of the day. A true Kawarthas slab.
Dwarfing my own head, the fish was simply the largest crappie I’ve seen. That’s not some angler's tall tale, because I truthfully haven’t witnessed a lot of large crappie, aside from those half-lodged down northern pikes throats.
Not only had crappies changed my opinion on slab fish in a few hours, they also proved to be a worthy opponent on hardwater, though not difficult enough to frustrate me – not too much, anyway.
Once we were on the bite, I started to realize just how much fun crappie on hardwater could be. With every enthusiastic hook set, I ate my words.
Hailing from central Ontario, the Kawarthas and all of their splendors are only little over an hour away, but I would drive much further to enjoy their fishery.