COLD WEATHER FISHING   Leave a comment

Cold Weather Fishing

Dress warm and enjoy winter fishing other than on ice.


The cool water of late fall allows fish to spread out and find comfort zones in a variety of levels.  Thanks giving weekend has given anglers in southern Illinois a chance for some very late season fishing.  The break in the weather and our normally mild temperatures were great.  The water carries oxygen down to different levels of the lake.  Fish will go to a variety of levels and still be comfortable.

Some anglers mistakenly seem to think that fish are like bears and that they go into hibernation in winter.  Many large game fish are taken from cold water.  Fish are not as aggressive when the water temperature is below 55 degrees, but they still eat and will take a properly presented lure.

Cold water anglers may have to fish a variety of locations.  It makes winter fishing more difficult as the fish are not congregating in a single type of location or habitat.  Fish located in a single area may or may not be a specific species.  What might be thought of as a crappie location may prove to be a school of bass.

Bass patterns vary in cold waters.  The techniques are much the same only slower.  Although one can catch bass on crankbaits and spinner baits, it is a good idea to downsize for winter fishing.  One might even want to try jigging spoons or small jigs.

In cold water fish suck a lure in gently and leave only the sensation of a tic on the line.

Cold water fishing means warm clothing and it is a good idea to take along an extra clothing just in case yours get wet.  A ski suit, hand warmers, ski mask and rubberized gloves are a good idea.  It would not hurt to have a thermos of hot coffee, hot chocolate or soup.

It is important to use care around cold water situations.  Wet rocks or a dock can have ice on it and cause an angler to fall into water or other wise injury himself.  When launching a boat, care must be taken that both boat trailer and tow vehicle can get back up the ramp.  Ice on ramp can be a problem.

Getting back to fishing patterns, any current in a body of water will increase the oxygen content and fish will relate to it.  Generally, fish will be in the 12 to 20 foot deep range.  In larger impoundments without warm water discharges, the warmer water will be in the section closer to the dam.

In the main part of a lake, the combination of structure and current is a good location.   Fish tend to be just out of the current near structure.  Forage fish are there picking up the small plankton that flows with the current.  Bass hang around such areas close to stumps, beneath undercuts, rocks, or just on a sharp breakline.

Runoff increases a river flow and current.  Warming temperatures signal a feeding frenzy in predator fish.  For some reason the larger fish are the first to react.  Often one will have to fish hard and for a long time to get bites.  Often the fish that bite will be the larger ones.

Disruptions such as sudden noises on shore or in the water makes the fish shut down.  Light also seems to have an effect on fishing action.  The brighter the day, the closer to the bottom fish seem to be located.

Weedy areas or those with dark bottoms warm sooner and are areas likely to harbor fish.  The weeds and the dark muddy bottoms absorb what heat there is available on a sunny day and hold it longer.

Cold water lures fall into two categories, jigs and deep diving crankbaits.  Rods should be very sensitive and the line very light test.  The bite will be just a tic and therefore the light line is necessary to identify a bite.  One piece rods are also more sensitive than a two piece one.

Fish all lures very slowly.  The lure needs to get down to or near the bottom.  Crankbaits should slowly bounce along the bottom kicking up small clouds of mud.  A loose wobbling crankbait that disturbs the silt on a branch or stump is more likely to attract a fish’s attention than one that just passes over it quickly.  Because the bait fish are just a slow reacting as are the larger fish, crankbaits need to move in slow motion.  The idea is to make the crankbait imitate the action of the baitfish, that is, to dart, slow down, shimmy in one spot and then move off.

Remember that the lure is going to have to be right in front of the larger fish’s nose for him to react.  Long retrieves are a must in order to get the crankbait down to the strike zone of a fish sitting on the bottom.

Jig fishing is a little easier.  A 1/16th or 1/32nd ounce jig fished right below the boat will work well.  With a fish locator, one can park the boat right on top of the fish and bounce a jig right in front of their noses.  Thoroughly cover the fishing zone with the jig.  The fish will not be more than a foot off the bottom.  One can do well with just about any type of jig or jigging spoon as long as it does not weigh more than an ounce.

Jigs must be fished slowly and right up against any structure available.

In the case of both the jig and crankbait, it is important to pay close attention for the tic of the bite and to set the hook quickly.  They will not hold the lure for long.  Any variation in the action of the line calls for a quick hook set.  This is a game of total concentration on the job at hand.

Cold water fishing means sluggish fish that bite lightly but it often means big fish.  Be safe, fish slowly and you to might tie into one of those lunker bass and crappie.  Why not get out there and give it a try?



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