Other Winter Fish to Catch
When most people think about fishing, especially winter bass fishing, they envision warm summer days on the lake casting a line into glistening water. Come fall, the boats are packed, the best ice fishing gear is stowed, and they await the spring thaw to start up again.
Those in the know, however, are aware that fish are still alive and feeding during the winter, although it is at a slower rate. Just like us, bass need to stay warm and eat during the winter freeze, and if they are eating, then they can be caught.
Fish are cold blooded, meaning they adapt to the water temperature around them. Cold water means a slower metabolism which leads to less feeding. However, a crafty angler knows this means freshwater fish will congregate in groups, near food sources, and in deeper water where bait fish gather. That means opportunity.
When winter fishing for bass, remember they are feeling sluggish. No fast moving lures here. Just slow-moving, bottom hugging jigs to draw them out of their stupor for a snack. Spoon and blade baits are perfect for this time of year.
While cold-weather fishing, it is also important to know what types of fish are most active during the winter. Don’t be afraid to branch out into new areas and new species. Here’s a few species to think about.
Winter Bass Fishing Tips
Large, muscular, and known for their fight, it may surprise some to find that muskie are great targets during the winter months. The trick is to understand that the fish’s behavior changes dramatically, so the angler must adapt. They move from the deep water to the shallows where bait fish congregate.
In winter, these fish will move to offshore drop-offs and feed aggressively. Try trolling a line through the water with a large, slow-moving jig. Then get ready for the strike and hang on.
While not as aggressive as a pike or walleye, these southern fish are still active during the winter months and are a good target fish when other species slow down. The best bait is minnows, while small plastics, and small spinners will draw them to the line.
While not the top ice fishing prey, crappie have been known to bite through the ice and are worth considering for any winter fishing trip.
Most fishers think of these bottom feeders as warm-water, deep-fried catches. However, channel catfish are among the most active winter species. Those who expect a slowed and sluggish winter fish will find them aggressive and fun to bring in.
Try going after them with jigging spoons, minnows, and blade baits. Just be ready for a fight.
Yellow perch are one of the few fishes that seem to love the cold. They are active and aggressive even in freezing water. These feisty fighters will bite when other species won’t and have been known to go through ice to get a snack.
Try using small ice jigs tipped with blood worms, and remember these are bottom feeders. So, focus on deeper basins, especially those with a muddy bottom.
As their name implies, northern pike can be found throughout the coldest regions in northern Canada and America. That’s because they have adapted to the cold, making them active and aggressive feeders in even the coldest water.
These fish will go after minnows and most artificial baits and are a favorite of ice fishers and river anglers alike. For those fishing or food, these are also one of the tastiest fishes in the region, perfect for the grill or the pan.
Anyone living in the Midwest knows about walleyes. What some in the north do not know is these fish can be found in lakes and rivers up north during the winter months and will feed all winter long.
A slow-dragged jig and plastic combination in open water will bring these aggressive hunters to the line. They can also be caught through the ice using set lines, especially in areas with rocky bottoms.
Ask any angler, especially a youth, about summer fishing and they will immediately mention the fun-to-catch bluegill. However, these summer mainstays are also very active during the winter months.
Curious and stout fighters, hey will go after small jigs, especially those with a scrap of crawler or a maggot attached. Try slow reeling the bait through water columns near steep shorelines.
Now it would not be a winter water article without mentioning the prime target of freezing fishermen: river trout. These fish have evolved to prefer cold water, especially the quicker-moving, below-freezing, waters of winter rivers and streams.
With higher metabolic rates than other species, these winter wonders are aggressive, active feeders who will not only go after the bait but will put up a heck of a fight when hooked. Add to this that they are a staple food fish and it’s hard to go wrong with a mid-winter river trout fishing trip.
Remember during the winter that the fish are just as cold as everything, and everyone, else. That means they want what every angler on the ice is looking for as well: a warm meal and a cozy place to eat it.
Make sure bait is kept as warm as possible, including spinners and jigs. Sure, the water is going to cool them quickly, but the fish can sense the warmth and will gravitate to what that fish thinks is a live, warm-blooded piece of prey.
Keep to areas where there is good cover and plenty of insulation. Deep water is colder water, so look for shallow drop offs and slower-moving river waters.
Finally, remember that cold brings sluggishness to even the best fish, especially during winter bass fishing. Large, slow-moving rigs will increase the chances that a tired, cold fish will get up the energy to go after the bait. Take the line to them, so that they can come to the bait. Everyone out there who like free money, do not forget to enter the Rusty Angler $500 Bass Pro Gift Card Giveaway. We have more great winter fishing tips for anglers, too! After all, there is nothing like winning a little cash to land that giant bass.