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Two Timing Northern Ontario Crappies

Gord Pyzer and Doug Stange learned the wisdom of their ways the other day, “two timing” magnificent black crappies in Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country, while filming an upcoming episode of the In-Fisherman Television Show. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Two Timing Northern Ontario Crappies

Strategies for catching black crappies this winter

There is only one time I can think of when it pays to be a "two-timer," and that is when you're ice fishing in Northern Ontario.

Since you're allowed to ice fish with two different lines, in two different holes in the winter, it is always a wise strategy to take advantage of the additional opportunity. For a couple of reasons.

The most obvious is the fact that with two lines in the water, you double your chances of hooking a fish. But the reason I like "two-timing" is that I can offer the fish two distinctly different choices for dinner. Will that be chicken or ribs? Or, an entree and dessert?

It is that kind of logic that was guiding a good friend and host of the In-Fisherman Television Show, Doug Stange and me the other day, while we were filming an upcoming episode, ice fishing for black crappies in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country wilderness.

But, here’s the secret: the way we put our "two-timing" game plan into effect was different than most ice anglers tend to employ. Indeed, instead of drilling four holes spaced widely apart, to cover more ground and a variety of water depths, we augured each pair of holes tightly together, side-by-side, within a foot or two of each other.

Again, there was a method to our madness.

With two holes spaced only inches apart, we could vertically jig a flash lure, like the Clam Speed Spoons we had tied onto the ends of our lines, and call any nearby fish over to our holes. And if the curious crappie was sold on the speed dating process, its fate was sealed and the deal was quickly done.

But, if the crappie hesitated even briefly to hit the fluttering spoon, it sucked in the tiny horizontal hanging jig, tipped with small scented soft plastic larvae, sitting motionless in front of its nose, suspended under the second rod.

Doug Stange, popular host of the In-Fisherman Television Show, will tell you that some of the best ice fishing for black crappies exist in Northern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Talk about an amazingly effective two-timing tag team.

Something else, I found intriguing was the fact that most days, one or the other presentation usually tends to dominate. In other words, the crappies will rush over and immediately strike the spoon. Or, it will call the fish over, but you wind up hooking most of the fish on the deadstick rod.

With Doug and me the other day, however, it was almost a dead heat, with each presentation catching roughly half of the outrageously large, 14- and 15-inch plus, almost two-pound, dinner plate-size crappies.

As a matter of fact, several times one of us would spot a husky fish appearing on the Ice 55 sonar screen which easily monitored both of the baits. But we never knew which lure the crappie was eyeing. As a result, we'd shiver and quiver the spoon to entice the fish to bite, while keeping a close eye on the tip of the neighbouring rod.

Sometimes we'd feel “thunk” and immediately set the hooks into a lively fish. But, other times we'd spot the lithe tip of the deadstick rod either twitch, just once, or ever so slowly start bending over like a blade of grass caught in the wind.

Indeed, it is always fascinating to see how the same fish can hit two different presentations, separated only inches apart, so differently. It is also the reason you want to use a slightly different rod, reel and line combinations.

Case in point: when I was rip jigging the spoon, I was fishing with a 28-inch, medium/light action rod and reel spooled with 4-pound test Sufix Ice fuse line, tipped with an 18-inch leader comprised of 4-pound test Maxima fluorocarbon.

The deadstick rod, on the other hand, was much more wand-like, with an extremely light action tip that was complimented even further by a spring bobber attached to the end. I spooled the reel, on the other hand, with a 2-pound test Maxima fluorocarbon line that was as thin as spider's silk and even more invisible.

As Gord Pyzer explains, the reason he likes to “two-time” is because he can offer the fish two distinctly different presentations at the very same time. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

I should mention, too, that two-timing works amazingly well for walleye, sauger and yellow perch. Just scale your rod actions and line strength according to the size of the fish that you expect to catch.

And speaking of the fish that we caught, I'll give Doug the last words on that subject.

"You know," he said, "it's been a long time since I enjoyed ice fishing action like we had today."

I didn't have the heart to tell him that living in Northern Ontario, is what I've come to expect every day.

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