Winter is a tough time for anglers because of low temperatures, snow, ice, and frozen lakes. But winter fishing is also a very rewarding experience which you should try at least once in your life. It’s a totally different experience from what you have during the warmer months.
In this article, I’ll give you 10 unique tips on how to fish in cold weather conditions so that you can catch more fish and have a better time on the ice.
1. Use a light line, less sinkers, and smaller hooks
If you want to fish in winter, you should switch to lighter gear than you use in summer. When fishing with small lures or live bait it’s a good idea to tie your rig directly to the leader instead of using a heavy-weight system. Using light gear will help you to hook more fish and even fight them on the ice without breaking your line.
Also, it’s a good idea to change your small hooks for smaller ones with curvy points which are not so sharp as regular ones. Sharp points can easily cut through the leader or tippet under the pressure of heavy fish or ice.
2. You can fish in warmer clothes
It’s a good idea to dress up much warmer than you would on the shore because even though water is generally colder, pier or boat increases your overall body temperature. Fatigue decreases your regulating ability and excessive heat loss might lead to hypothermia, so be sure to wear enough layers (wool, fleece) to stay warm and comfortable. Some anglers even take a bath in hot water before going out on the ice.
3. Keep your hands dry and warm
Lowering your hand temperature will result in decreased manual dexterity which can be really dangerous when handling gear and hooking fish under the pressure of heavy rod and drag. You can keep your hands warm and dry by wearing thick winter gloves under the neoprene ones. Also, it’s a good idea to carry a pair of spare gloves with you just in case.
4. Fish areas where the water is warmer than the air temperature
The colder the water, the less active fish become, and usually it takes them more time to find your bait. So it’s a good idea to start fishing in shallower areas where water is warmer than the air temperature. For example, if the surface of the lake is frozen oxygen starts to decrease which will force fish to stay in deeper areas with better oxygen supply. Also, it would be helpful to check out special tools for ice fishing like underwater thermometers.
5. Try trolling as well as still fishing
Trolling can be very effective in winter especially when the fish are concentrated at certain locations and the water is not completely frozen. When you’re casting lures or baits from a boat, try to troll them slowly along the bottom instead of just dragging them on the top of ice or snow. Also, if you want to get the best results when trolling, set your depth equal to 1/3 of water depth and try to cover more water by moving slowly along the edges or other productive areas.
6. When fishing on the ice, use a spinnerbait instead of crankbaits
Chips and cracks can be very dangerous when you’re walking on the ice so try to minimize your fishing time and use lures which don’t require much movement. Spinnerbaits or stick baits work great in this situation and they can be very effective by catching fish with light lines and small baits.
7. Use bright colors and vibration
Due to lower water temperature, fish react slower on the bites. This means that they won’t follow your lure as long and many times won’t even notice it. You should use bright colors which can attract their attention more easily and a good way to do this is to add flash materials like brass or mylar on your lures (e.g., lindy rig). Also, if you’re using crankbaits or spinnerbaits try to change retrieve speed and use more vibration or rattles.
8. Check out your gear before going out on the ice
Even though winter is a great time for fishing, it can be really dangerous as well. Snowstorms and blizzards can make you disoriented very quickly so try to be safe and check out your gear before going fishing on the ice. Always carry a survival kit with you just in case, including an ice spud bar, compass, maps of the area, or even a GPS device.
9. Try night fishing
It’s a very interesting experience because fish are more active at night under the cover of darkness. This means that it’s much easier to catch them and you can try different lures like spinnerbaits, buzz baits, or soft jerk baits which work great in this situation. Also, night fishing is a perfect time for jigging with shiners because fish will hold tight under the ice during daylight hours.
10. Fish with the most experienced angler
You should always make sure that there is at least one person in your fishing party who has lots of winter fishing experience. This way everyone will be safe and you’ll have a much better chance to catch fish.
And lastly, if you’re a new winter fisherman just buy some good ice fishing equipment for beginners, learn some basics and then try to catch as much fish as possible.
If you are going for winter fishing with a group of people, it is best that you go with the most experienced person who knows all the safety tips and guidelines. If it is your first time going for winter fishing, then do not go alone because you can get disoriented if there is a blizzard or snowstorm and it may result in serious injuries as well as damage to the vehicle.
Taking precautionary measures will ensure an enjoyable experience when you go winter fishing. Always make sure to go through the instructions given by the state department of fish and wildlife before going for winter fishing as they have all the guidelines set out for enjoying this activity safely.
Fishing in winter can be a really challenging and fun experience. If you follow these 10 unique tips for winter fishing, you’ll have a great chance to catch lots of fish and create unforgettable memories with your friends.