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Where do fish go when lakes freeze over? At some point, we’ve all had this question pop in our heads. While the answer is quite simple, it’s interesting to know the science behind it, as we can use them to our advantage as anglers during winter season.
What happens to fish
Fish end up needing less food and oxygen when lakes freeze because their metabolism slows down. This makes them a bit more sluggish and inactive—easier for predators to catch. They also have difficulties breathing due to cold water potentially damaging their gills.
The cold also impacts their population. Not only does ice affect aquatic plants’ growth by blocking out sunlight, it also gives young fish less open water to spawn in. Many fish rely on these plants, and they naturally need to maintain their population to survive as a species.
How fish survive
On the bright side, their being cold-blooded gives them a strong fighting chance in freezing lakes. It helps them adapt to changes in their environment, specifically temperature, and allows them to survive in such temperatures for long periods of time. Of course, there’s a limit to how long they can survive. If lakes freeze over completely for far too long, fish could die.
It’s also important to note that while water’s surface freezes solid, water under it doesn’t necessarily freeze completely. Therefore, fish can simply swim deeper and find temperatures that best suit them. These deeper areas also have higher oxygen content, helping fish breathe.
Of course, these answers are very much general. Survival tactics may differ from one fish specie to another. Take Me Fishing provides some examples: baitfish swim into “vegetative cover” to hide and find food, while brown bullhead catfish bury themselves in mud until temperatures rise.
Now that you know how fish survive in frozen waters, it’s time to learn how to fish during winter! Check out this blog article for more.
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