5 Tricks for Effective Winter Fishing

While most of the willing would count themselves pretty good anglers, there are a few things to know that can improve their success rate.

Go Small – Few anglers realize that small bodies of water possess the same biodiversity as larger ones. While coveted by spring and summer fishermen, these mining pits, stock ponds, pay lakes and even golf course hazards are replete with fish of all sizes. They tend to warm more quickly during a thaw and the best results are found where underground springs open into the lake. Likewise, fishing on the north shore of a small lake is fruitful because cold north winds pass over this section.

Go Live – Without engaging in the perpetual debate between live bait and artificial lures, there are advantages to opting for live when winter fishing. Whether going for trout, bass or catfish, anglers know that fish stick close to the bottom when the water is cold. Live bait has the edge on lake and pond bottoms because it can serve as unhooked ground bait to attract fish and keep them nearby while you are fishing. Once the piscine appetite is whetted, the particle bait on the hook becomes all the more attractive.

Go Far – Certain locations are more conducive to productive winter fishing than others.Field & Stream writer John Merwin once opined, “Winter is also an opportune time to fish those places you’ve always wanted to try or for those species that have always fascinated you.” Should time and budget allow, fishing enthusiasts should travel to points well-known for species of interest or ambition. Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula are famous for steelhead weighing up to 30 pounds; the Chattahoochee River system in northern Georgia boasts record-breaking striped bass; and the trout are abundant and eager in Arkansas’ White River tailwater. A little research and investment can buy a gratifying fishing vacation this winter.

Go High-Tech – Chris Smith, a senior fisheries biologist for the state of New Jersey asserts that in winter, “The key to finding the fish is good electronics, which show bottom contours, baitfish and structure where the fish are holding.” Fish finders are sonar devices that transmit sound waves through the water below. The sound wave beams broaden as they penetrate deeper into the lake. When a fish swims into the sound wave’s “cone,” the wave bounces back to the fish finder device, calculates the depth of the fish and creates an image of where the fish is.

Go Warm – Whether wading, boat fishing or ice fishing, layering makes all the difference in endurance and performance. A base layer of silk or natural fiber works best against the skin; an insulation layer should both trap warm air in and allow perspiration to dry; and the shell layer, such as Gore-Tex, should provide solid resistance to wind and water.