For those die-hards who want to fish 12 months of the year or those who love the winter months, winter fishing is a great activity. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and catch some big fish. Freshwater species tend to group up in the colder weather, so it offers good catch opportunities if you can find the right spots. If you are going to go on an ice fishing trip or if you can find an ice-free area to launch a boat, then there are a few tips and tactics to make the excursion successful. Do the prep work and research, and take good equipment and clothing so you can have an enjoyable winter fishing trip in the search for a big catch.
Find the Right Spot
Whether you are new to winter fishing or have lots of experience, finding the right spot for a fishing excursion is important for a successful day. There are lots of fishing areasthat will have some good fish. Some are well known, and companies have set up shop to rent huts on the ice and other areas are more exclusive and hidden from the mainstream fishing world.
You will find lots of information online but also listen to word of mouth. Hidden areas may be known by anglers who have been enjoying winter fishing for years. They will know some great places as well as where to target specific species. The Department of Natural Resources, along with wildlife and fisheries sites can also be helpful when looking for local lakes or fly in places as well. They will often detail the types of fish in the area and when the best fishing takes place. They will also note the legalities and regulations around limits.
Avoid places where there are elevated currents. It makes fishing hard and it can also become a safety issue. Look for places that are a stable current all year round. Also, make sure to check the weather before you head out. As with warmer weather fishing, there are good times to be out and other times it can be miserable and even dangerous.
Winter fishing takes a little more prep than warm weather. The first thing is to make sure your reels are up to the task. Whether you are ice fishing or on open water, the cold can affect the reel bearings. They can get stiff and hard to use. Make sure the bearings are clean and well lubricated so there are no hitches once you head out. You can do this yourself or have a professional take the reel apart and give it a thorough clean. Either way, it will be beneficial to do.
Along with reel care, condition your lines. A line that is flexible and won’t twist is the priority. For this, you can purchase a line conditioner. This stops the water from freezing on the rod guides.
Finally, stay warm and dry. There is nothing worse than going winter fishing unprepared for the weather. Snow, wind, dampness and drizzle can all be part of the weather mix. Have a dry bag for gear and warm clothes for you. A survival suit and good boots are perfect for this winter weather. Times out winter fishing will be much more enjoyable if the gear and your body are protected from the elements.
While a rod and reel will be chosen based on whether you are on the open water or ice fishing, the bait is just as important. Live bait is better as the fish are going to be slower in the cold and if the bait is moving too quickly then the fish will be turned off. If you choose artificial bait,then make sure to use slow movements.
Buy lures that are good for attracting more than one species. Use those that are close to winter colors such as silver and white with a bit of color. Gold and chrome work well, as they will attract the fish’s attention. Feathers or hair are good options as well.
Look for areas that have species who are feeding during the winter and not hibernating. The metabolic rate of fish is reduced in the winter, so they won’t feed as often. It is important to target fish that are winter feeding. These tend to be species such as trout, perch, crappie, walleye and Northern pike.
Alter the Depth
Unlike warm weather fishing winter fishing can take a little more work. Rather than just letting the bait head straight for the bottom, alter the depths that it sits. Fish are not moving quickly so you want to find the spot where they are hovering. Investing in a fish finder then that can take a lot of guesswork out of the issue.
Winter Bait Tips and Tactics
Because fish are more lethargic in the winter, you may have to increase the appeal of the bait. Here are some tips on enticing the fish.
- Spice – adding some spice to the lures and baits can make them more tempting. Turmeric, garlic salt, chili and garam masala all can help get the fish interested.
- Salt – This should be rock salt that isn’t full of chemicals. It can be put on maggots, pellets or pieces of corn.
- Sweetcorn – Put a few grains of sweetcorn on the lure and the fish will bit. It’s easy for them to see and then eat.
- Bread – It will have to be a dense bread, or it will simply absorb water and drop off, but fish will like it and nibble then come back for the bigger piece.
- Maggots – Using maggots in a mesh bag works well. You can add a rubber grub to make sure there is some balance when casting on open water.
- Pepperoni – Weirdly this is a good option for winter bait. The spice and meat are attractive to the fish. The color helps as well.
Winter fishing can be really enjoyable if you go out prepared. It’s going to be colder and patience is needed but that will pay off with your first catch. Take these tips and tactics seriously and have the right gear, stay warm and stay safe so the day out on the ice or water is great.