Old Man Winter has finally arrived after what seemed a considerable delay. In late-summer I couldn’t have been more ready to see some cooler temperatures but the downright chill that we have had lately for days at a time makes me almost miss the summer heat. Not really, but a little warmer weather wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all. Now that we are in more of a cold weather mode when it comes to fishing there are a few things that you will want to consider before heading out into the chill.
One of the greatest things about fishing in wintertime is that an early start is not as important as during summer. On the coldest of days, look for fish to feel more like feeding during the warmest time of the day, somewhere between 10 AM and 4 PM, especially in the shallow back lakes. And, because the weather drastically affects fish activity level, some of the best conditions can be right before a cold front passes through. If you happen to be fishing post-frontal then keep in mind that fish tend to be less tide dependent and more sun dependent this time of year. Unlike summer months when water color is almost always off, in the winter months clear water, think aquarium clear, will be the norm. That might not sound too bad but honestly fish are at their absolute wariest in clear water and if you can see the fish they can see you, and almost always tend to stay just out of casting distance. This is one of the many reasons I will look for water that is somewhat off-colored or even muddy this time of year.
High winds are the most obvious reason that water will become muddy and most of the time this happens on the windward shorelines. I get asked often, “What is a windward and/or leeward” direction? A windward shoreline is the shoreline that the wind is blowing into. The leeward shoreline is the one protected from the wind. In mild to moderate wind, I will typically opt for fishing the windward shorelines because the water tends to have more suspended sediment – which we would term – slightly off-color. Water clarity on leeward shorelines can be quite clear – almost too clear sometimes. Most baitfish that haven’t ventured out to the deeper waters will be looking for some type of protection and/or structure to hide. In this case, the most readily available structure, if it can be termed such, will be the off-colored water. Baitfish typically hide amid seagrass, but during winter the grass is quite sparse in our area due to colder temperatures and shorter days.
If it’s one of those days when the wind is howling 20 to 30 mph from the north then I will choose to fish the quiet “leeward side” seeking protection from the gusty situation. This leeward side will also have better clarity and less turbulence so baits that are more buoyant with slower action are a good call. In clear water, they can see much better and as such become more scrutinizing in what they eat. In dirty water, your darker baits get bites because it provides an excellent silhouette for the fish to chase. Noisy lures are also a good bait to have in your arsenal when fishing slightly off-colored to dirty water. Opt for baits that have rattles in them, lures with paddletails and spoons like “Nacho Daddy” that has a rattle built into the spoon itself. Mirrolure’s Pro Catch 2000 is a suspending twitchbait that emits a low-frequency vibration and greatly mimics an injured baitfish in shallow water.
In clear water though, opt for baits in more natural colors like whites, bones and translucent, these will be more effective than blacks, blues, and chartreuses – for all lure categories.
On those really cold days, when fish are more lethargic, you can expect fish to be a little more hesitant to to accept what you are offering. This is when scented baits can really come into their own – scent attractants encourage fish to bite, and hold on once they do.In closing, I want to wish everyone the best of winter fishing luck and a very prosperous 2021. With all that we’ve been through during 2020 I’ll take all the good luck I can get…just to be safe!
Great Wintertime Fishing: https://youtu.be/iIYlaVi11rk