QUICK GUIDE TO WINTER FISHING
Winter is a tough time to fish. If you forget one small item or break a thermos, a night can turn into a very, very long night. Cold water, freezing winds and shorter days make getting outdoors much less inviting. You need to be organised and prepared for the cold to get the most out of your winter fishing exploits. Below are a few tips to help you battle the cold and enhance your fishing success.
These might sound like some real basics, but time and time again I see so many people out there unprepared. It’s not only uncomfortable, it’s dangerous. Hyperthermia can set in fast.
Further to that, you need to stay in touch to make the most out of fishing in the winter. Adjusting the way you fish and keeping yourself comfortable go hand-in-hand. Here is a look at some ways to stay comfortable when you are out fishing and catch more fish.
DRESS APPROPRIATELY AND STAY COMFORTABLE
Don’t bother setting foot outdoors unless you are appropriately dressed for the cold – discomfort or hypothermia will preoccupy your thoughts and hinder your fishing efficiency. Any distractions that take your mind away from fishing will reduce your focus, effort and your catch.
Consider thermal underwear to reduce the amount of bulky clothing. Overdress if necessary. It’s easier to remove an item of clothing than to acquire one on the water. Some of the best fishing apparel is not that expensive either.
TARGET SEASONALLY ABUNDANT SPECIES FOR YOUR REGION
Fish populations migrate and change their behaviour with the seasons. Do some homework to double check which species are most active in the cooler months in your region. There’s no point targeting a species that has migrated north or from the freshwater to the saltwater to breed.
Keep an eye on fisheries regulations to ensure that you don’t target species within restricted periods.
FISH SLOW AND SUBTLE
Many animals including fish slow their activity down in cold conditions and redirect their energy into maintaining an adequate body temperature. Even though fish still need to eat in these cooler months, they can be reluctant to put in too much effort to chase down a feed. That means that you need to put extra enticing baits right next to the fish.
Lure anglers should select realistic lures with seductive actions or inviting smells. Subtlety can make the difference in these scenarios. Work lures slowly with long pauses and small twitches.
FOOL FISH WITH FLUOROCARBON
Clear water is another characteristic of cold weather that can dampen fishing success. Lower rainfall leads to less runoff and improved water clarity. In clear conditions, fish have improved vision and can become more wary of lures, hooks and leaders. The only way to avoid spooking fish is to enhance your presentation.
Opt for light fluorocarbon leaders. Fluorocarbon has a refractive index close to that of water so it is less visible underwater than other leader options. Choose the lightest leader weight possible to improve your chances of a bite. I’ve witnessed a Bream angler with 6lb leader catch nothing while his companion caught plenty on a 4lb leader. It may seem ridiculous, but in clear water, even a 2lb difference in breaking strain can make a massive difference.
TARGET WARMER WATER
Another way that fish conserve energy in winter is by moving into warmer waters. This typically means shallower waters with less circulation. Areas such as weed beds and rock bars are great areas to target in the cold. Shallow weed beds reduce water movement and retain heat. The weed acts like insulation and provides habitat to bait and predatory fish. Dark rocks also absorb heat during the day and retain the warmth for longer and are prime fish habitat in shallow water.
Make use of the temperature function on a sounder to identify warm water from boats or target shallow weedy bays, flats and rock bars from the land.
STOCK UP ON SNACKS AND CARRY A THERMOS
Stay stocked up on food and snacks to keep your energy levels up. It’s always a wonderful idea to carry a thermos of hot water so that you can warm up and perk up with a quick coffee or tea. Energy is warmth and foods like beef jerky can do wonders for your inner body core. It’s not all about carbohydrates.
Although Australian winters can be challenging, spare a thought for anglers in areas of Scandinavia, Russia and North America who endure long dark winter days and frozen waterways. It’s really not that tough for us Aussies, so get organised, pluck up some courage and hit the water. You won’t have to battle crowds and you might be surprised by how good winter fishing can be.
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