Winter Fishing TIPS (why you should be fishing this Winter)
While the weather may not be as pleasant, Wintertime fishing can be just as productive as any other season. Most recreational anglers are 'fair-weather' anglers, hanging their fishing gear up once the cold begins to set in; however, as temperatures drop, fish become predictable, making it easier to locate, target, and catch them. With the fish grouping up, and anglers inside, the best spots to fish are often unpressured AND available for you. Use the TIPS below to see why you should be fishing this Winter, and to help you Catch MORE Fish when you do!
Winter Fishing TIPS
- Fish Safe
- DRESS Appropriately
- Check the WEATHER
- WARMER water
- Fish STRUCTURE
- MOVING Water
- DOWNSIZE Gear
- Retrieve SLOWER
- TIP your Hooks
- Fish the WEATHER
Safety first. Temperatures in the Winter are cold, and can drop fast. Add a slight breeze, and a cold Winter day can quickly become unbearable. Dress warm (multiple layers) and take an extra coat. It is better to be too hot, than too cold.
And don't forget a hat and waterproof gloves. The first parts to freeze are often the ears and fingers; simply wearing a hat and a pair of waterproof gloves will help you prolong your trip and enjoyment.
Check the WEATHER
Weather can be unforgiving; especially so in the cold Winter months. Fewer anglers on the water leaves more fish for you to catch, but also means you have fewer backup options should something happen. Pick your days, and share your float plan (saved my dad and friend's life a few Decembers ago while they were offshore fishing). Mother Nature is not one to mess with; play it safe, you can always go next time.
As temperatures drop, fish head to warmer water where they school up with similar sized fish. These warmer pockets of water hold larger quantities of fish, and help increase the likelihood of getting bit. Warm water discharges, natural springs, rocky banks (warmed by the sun on sunny days), and deeper waters all provide warmer water; making these areas great to target while fishing in the Winter months.
In addition to seeking warmer water, fish also gravitate towards submerged structure in the colder months. Sunken Logs and Trees, Rocks/Boulders, Vegetation, and other forms of structure all provide fish with shelter and an ambush point to expend less energy while hunting. Targeting these forms of shelter, especially those in warmer pockets of water, can be an effective strategy at getting numerous reactionary strikes.
Wind and tides play roles in moving water; which in turn, moves particles and small baitfish. Predatory fish often use the moving water to their advantage, ambushing prey at points and ripraps where the current is too strong for smaller fish. Targeting moving water in the Winter months helps to provide a more natural presentation and can help you find more active, and feeding, fish.
Fish tend to be a little more picky in the Winter. Since their metabolism slows, they don't need to eat as frequently as the warmer Summer months; making them more selective on when and what they eat. Using lighter lines and leaders is essential since you'll also be retrieving your lure slower, meaning the fish will have more time to investigate your bait before it decides to bite.
Just like you, colder weather means more lethargic and slower moving fish. Retrieving your lure will allow you to reach deeper (where the fish are in the Winter time) and make your bait look like an easier meal; making it irresistible to a hungry fish not looking to expend a lot of energy. When you think you're retrieving slow enough, slow down even more; and it doesn't hurt to add occasional pauses. These 'changes of pace' can often trigger reactionary strikes from trailing fish.
TIP your Hooks
If you've found the fish, but you can't seem to get them to bite; tipping your hooks can turn a bite ON! You can tip a hooks with soft plastics, live baits, scented baits and/or by using dressed hooks. By tipping your hook, or using a dressed hook, you add action to your lure and help to make your lure more irresistible.
Fish the WEATHER
Mother Nature's schedule doesn't always cooperate with our fishing schedule, but scheduling your fishing trip around Mother Nature can make all the difference in the Winter months. Cold fronts, especially in the Winter, can 'kill' a bite and send the fish deeper. This lack of feeding activity causes the fish to feed aggressively just before the cold front ends. Similarly, a few days of warmer weather can warm rocky shallows causing fish to head towards shallower waters. Fishing to the weather can help increase the likelihood of catching fish.
The Winter is just beginning, you can hunker down and wait til Spring; or you can grab your fishing gear and start catching. Using the TIPS above, you can maximize your fishing time and increase your chances of getting bit!