Serious anglers need to know how to fish in any season—even during winter, when temperatures drop and most fishermen prefer to stay home. You practically end up having fishing spots to yourself, resulting in more catches. But different weather means different game, and there are things you need to know when trying to fish in the cold.
Live bait over lures, but…
The cold lowers fishes’ metabolism, causing them to move less and slower than when it’s warm. This is exactly why live bait would work better during winter, as lures tend to move much faster in the water, potentially scaring away fish during the season. Worms, minnows, and shads are some great examples.
But if you want to stick with lures anyway, do your best to have them mimic live bait by choosing ones with hair or feathers. If you’re going for the bigger fishes, go for around 3-4 inches, but if you want quantity, 2-3 would do. Even with lure colors, you want to stick to those that look more natural and could blend in with the winter environment. Bright and shiny ones would be ideal.
Dress, plan, and gear up for the occasion
We naturally wouldn’t dress during winter the way we do during any other season, so staying warm while fishing is top priority. Can’t reach maximum performance while freezing, after all.
Wear insulated and waterproof boots and gloves to keep warm. While you’re at it, see if you can find a fingerless pair of gloves for better movement. Thick socks and a hat would help keep you warm, too, on top of a good old coat that can ward off the cold. The rule of thumb is to avoid cotton and opt for synthetic fabrics or wool.
Beyond comfortability, safety is important to winter fishing as well. The U.S. Coast Guard has previously warned that the months with the most boating fatalities are January and February, and we don’t want to add to those statistics. The best solution is to simply not fish alone, but if no fishing buddy is willing to come, at least leave a float plan with them in case of emergencies.
Lastly, the cold could freeze your line and prevent it from moving properly, so a line conditioner that keeps it straight and tangle-free would be a good addition to your tackle box.
Know the right time and place
No, you don’t need to be some sort of weather guru to know these things, as tools in websites such as Ultimatebass.com and the Department of Natural Resources already offer information on the best fishing spots during winter. This includes what fish are present in certain areas and what exact times of the year you can catch the most or best fish.
A good rule of thumb, though, is to steer clear of waters with high currents; not only are they bad for fishing, they can also be quite dangerous for anglers. Try to look for areas with more sun as well, as fish naturally group up around warmer spots. Another weird tip you can go for is to look for where birds dive—that indicates presence of fish in certain areas.
Similarly, fish while the the sun’s out, between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., to get some bites.
Fishing during the winter season is a daring, but rewarding pursuit. Just make sure to keep these tips in mind and you’ll be good to go!
If you're a fan of ice fishing, don't miss our post Ice Fishing: Gear, Rig, Techniques, and Safety!