The Fall bite will be wrapping up soon as we transition on into the starving times. With some of the weather we have had around Kansas lately it isn't any secret that Winter is just right around the corner. We all know what that means, some of the best Crappie fishing of the year is just right around the corner too. Once the water temps start dipping into the forties they will start moving to the Wintering spots. The Slabs that have been on schooling shad all Summer roving the open expanses of the Main Lakes will begin stacking up on ledges and brush in numbers that can climb into the hundreds. Like everything in life, the bigger the reward, the greater the risk, and Winter Crappie fishing is no different. There are a few extra precautions you need to take before venturing out in the cold.
The first thing you need to do is go over your boat with a fine toothed comb. Drain and replace the fluid in your lower unit. If it has water in it you will have to replace your lower unit seals. Oil floats, and any water in your gear case is going to freeze up on you. Best case scenario when that happens is you won't be able to shift it into gear until the engine exhaust heats it up enough to thaw it out. Worst case is you have so much water in it that it freezes up and actually cracks your lower unit housing or trashes the gears and bearings due to lack of oil. After every trip you take you have to fire the outboard up and let them idle for a few seconds in the parking lot to clear the impeller housing and purge the water jacket. If you don't you run the risk of the water in the impeller housing freezing up and blowing the seal, that will cause water to end up in your gear case as well. And before it ends up in the comments on the group Facebook page, We are well aware that none of that is in the owners manual. Most likely because they assume your boat was Winterized and stored away or because they don't mind selling a few extra lower units to the parts and maintenance shops.
Some underwater video of a Wintertime school of Kansas Crappie
Some other things to make sure you do is make sure your PFD is up to the job. If you haven't checked the Co2 cartridge all year now is a good time to go on and do that. Flailing around in water with temps hovering just above freezing isn't the time you want to discover it isn't working. I myself just wear a regular zip up kind under my Parka. The parka keeps it out of the way of my line and such plus it helps keep you warm, and you don't have to worry about a bad Co2 cartridge. One more thing you should do is stick your phone in a ziploc bag and keep it in your pocket. If you fall in and can't make it back to the boat you will have a dry, working phone to call 911, if you don't your a dead man, that phone is gone the second it gets wet. If you can, try to avoid going out alone. Try to find a buddy to tag along in case something happens. If you do end up going out by yourself you need to make sure somebody knows exactly where you are headed in detail. What Lake, ramp, area you plan to fish and when to expect you back. Also, try to avoid wearing your hunting gear unless it is your Blaze Orange. In the event the worst actually happens and people have to come looking for you it tends to help make things a bit easier if you stick out like a sore thumb as opposed to blending in to the reeds and brush along the shoreline. You also need to have a complete second change of clothes stored in a dry bag in the boat. Just trust me when I say it's a good idea unless a seven mile run back to the truck for them after a dip in 41 degree water with a 38 degree air temp just sounds like an awesome time to you.
You need to be aware that you are completely on your own in the Winter, I can't possibly stress this fact enough, KDWPT will pull their boats out of the Marinas and have them Winterized and stored on land for the Winter as well as the USACE Park Rangers. The Marinas are working half days if they are even open at all. If your out by yourself and something goes wrong, No one is there to save you. The water temps in the Winter will kill you long before the Sheriff or Fire & Rescue could get a boat in the water and reach your location so play it safe. As long as you do it right, there is no reason you can't go out and safely enjoy the Winter bite, you will be glad you did. It really is some of the best Crappie fishing of the year.