Knapp 11-16

Sid Brown showed off a Mosquito Lake walleye.

My friend Sid Brown allowed his lure to free-fall to the bottom. He then tightened up the line and made a few turns of the spinning reel handle to raise the lure up a few feet.

“Four cranks,” Sid said, indicating the sweet spot, depth-wise, where we’d been taking fish. His next exclamation, less than a minute later, was “Fish on!”

Last week Brown and I took a multi-day trip to Northeastern Ohio’s Mosquito Lake, continuing a fall tradition we started last year. During this three-day trek we learned a few things, including the importance of presenting a bait at the correct level, in this case crappies.

Our most productive spot for crappies was a submerged bridge located over the old Mosquito Creek channel. Such places can be magnets for gamefish, particularly in this instance where the entire bridge, deck and all, remain.

We had fished the same area the year earlier, taking several nice walleyes off the spot. While there we’d taken the time to accurately mark, with waypoints, the location of the bridge abutments on both the east and west sides of the channel.

When we first eased up on the submerged bridge, the display on my Garmin Echomap chart plotter revealed huge schools of fish, marks suspended from halfway down the water column all the way to the bottom. Mosquito Lake supports strong numbers of gizzard shad, which provide a significant portion of the food fish base. Our initial feelings were that we were seeing schools of shad, with walleyes likely being below them. But about a half hour of fishing only produced a small crappie or two.

Those first couple crappies gave us a clue, though. Maybe what we were seeing were schools of crappies intermixed with shad. Knowing that crappies tend to suspend in the water column, and that ice anglers can often coax them into biting by suspending a bait above the school, I brought my lure, a half-ounce blade bait, several feet up off the bottom. After giving it an initial jig to catch the attention of any crappies hovering beneath, I let it hang motionless. A few seconds later a nice crappie inhaled it.

Using the Spot Lock feature on my Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor to hold us in place, just off the edge of the bridge deck, we caught dozens of crappies, black and white, until the afternoon sun waned. Our hope was that as daylight ended the walleyes would turn on. They did, and we ended up closing the day with a couple fine specimens in the 21-inch range.

The crappie pattern remained strong the for the entire three days. When the action would slow on other spots, we would return to the bridge for some fast crappie action. During the final day we took home a dozen between 11 and 15