During the colder months of the year, even here in the south, many fishermen and women put their gear away for the winter, thinking that the prime fishing times are over. What's really happening, in many cases, is that fishermen are catering to their own comfort, not wanting to adjust their fishing habits or perhaps their dress. In other words, they hybernate for the winter. These fishermen are missing out on some of the best fishing times by putting their comfort in front of their fishing enjoyment. Many of you know that I am not a morning fisherman and I take a great deal of ribbing about this habit. It's not because I don't like to rise early to fish, but I have simply found that fish will bite at all hours of the day, if you adjust your fishing technique accordingly.
Cold weather fishing is abandoned by many fishermen because they have been told that fish just do not bite in cold weather. That is simply not true. It's all about the water temperature. Fish are cold blooded creatures and as such their body temperature varies with the surrounding temperature of the water. As the water cools, their metabolism slows down and their body functions all kind of slow down also. because of this, in really cold water, below 40 degrees, most fish will nor eat as much but that does not mean that they do not eat at all. Generally you have to put your bait or lure closer to the fish to entice it to attack. Slower trolling or a slower retrieve of a lure when casting during cold weather is the correct adjustment to make in cold water.
Also keep in ind that in the colder months, especially in lakes with little current, the water temperature gets warmer as the depth increases. There is no real absulute that appplies to all lakes but temperature changes of about 2 degrees for every ten feet of dept is a good standard. This is particularly important for the small bait fish. For these small fish a three of four degree increase in water temperature can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, so the bait fish schools in the winter time will go as deep as necessary to find comfortable water temperatures. As the bait fish go, so will go the game fish so in cold weather, you will have to fish deeper in the water column. Bass as an example might like water depths of 15 to 20 feet in the spring and summer months, but they will go deeper to 40 or 50 feet in the winter, so you will have to fish for them at those depths to have success.
There is some debate among fishermen about the size of bait to be used in colder months. Some believe that smaller bait is better. I subcribe to the other argument and recommend larger bait in cold water. My belief is that with a slower metabolism, the fish will not want to exert the energy required to attack a small bait, but will attach one that they see as a full meal, worth the effort. I also believe that as winter approcahes, most of the smaller bait type fish have grown to their maximum size, having been born early in the spring, and a large bait looks more natural to a predator fish.
Fishing near certain types of structure is also advisable in the winter. Docks with black floats beneath them will absorb sunlight and will often provide water that is a couple of degrees warmer in the winter. This can be enough to attract a fish. Concrete bridge piers will also transmit warmth deeper in the water and are good places to find winter fish. Concrete boat launches both public and private offer the same advantage.
If the weather gets real cold to the point that the surface water starts to freeze around the shorelines, this is a good time to look for feedng Catfish along the edges of the ice line. Gizzard Shad start to die at temperatures belor about 40 degrees. When ice starts to form, the Shad start to die and the big Catfish are always around to grab an easy meal.
So, start adjusting your cold water fishing habits, but please stay in the hunt. If you take the winter off fishing, start thinking different. Put on a few extra layers and get yourself some fine fishing.