How to Fish in Cold Water

Cold water fishing, despite its challenging nature, is often a very rewarding activity for the fishermen willing to brave the cold. On wintry waters, you can expect frozen fingers, icy line, and bitter winds. But with the right techniques and a little patience, you can also expect a better chance at catching real lunkers. In the warmer months, bedding fish – especially generally smaller males – become more active than bigger fish, making it harder for you to seek out and haul in the big ones. In the cold months, fish of all species and sizes become more lethargic – evening these odds out. Check out the following tips to take advantage of them and hopefully land a monster fish.

Change Where You Fish

cold water fishing spotIn the Spring, Summer, and Fall, most fishermen prefer to fish relatively shallow structures. Fish tend to hold there in warmer parts of the year because the structure provides shelter and easy access to potential food sources. As it gets colder, though, fish tend to migrate in schools to deeper water. As the depth increases, temperature stabilizes and it’s easier for them to do their version of light hibernation. Steep drop-offs and underwater channels are the most popular spots for winter fishermen to hit. As an added bonus, fish of most species typically hold in tighter groups when the water’s cold. So if you get a bite in a specific spot, you can expect that there are more fish to be caught nearby.

Change What You Fish With

The warm months in most parts of the United States are all about getting reaction bites from fish. Because they’re much more active, the fish are more likely to go after something that catches their eye quickly. Brightly colored and flashy Topwater baits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits are widely used for this reason. In the winter, however, it takes a little more finesse to convince a lazy fish to bite. Unless the water you’re fishing is very muddy, subtly colored soft plastics and jigs are best for cold water fishing. And what you lose in attention catching flash you can make up for with bait scents and salted plastics. They’ll stimulate even the most lethargic fish’s appetite.

Change How You Fish

woman with fishing poleSo you’re in the right spot and using the right bait – you still won’t catch too many fish without proper presentation. While you might be used to burning a spinnerbait or spoon to get a reaction bite, cold water fish will pay no mind to this technique. Instead, take the method you use for soft plastic fishing – dragging the bait along the bottom and popping it up periodically – and slow it way down. Let a few dozen seconds pass between each movement. It will allow slow moving fish the opportunity to catch up with the bait. The technique requires quite a bit of patience, but it is the best way get fish in the boat when the water’s cold.

This winter, don’t give cabin fever the opportunity to set in. With the right location, bait, and presentation, there’s nothing stopping you from experiencing some good fishing all year round.