I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas and is excited to bring in the new year. Even though it’s winter, the random 60 degree days can make the fishing up or down. Winter fishing is in full swing and here’s what to look for.
Stripers: Fishing with bait this time of the year can be successful, although the cold temps can make it uncomfortable. Preparing for the cold temps can pay off. Catching large gizzard shad can be time consuming this time of the year. Locating them on your sonar is your best bet. Look for the shad to be in 15-25 ft. of water. A heavy 8-12 ft. cast rated 1.5 lbs is what’s needed to get to them before they scatter. Smaller gizzards can be found in water just shallower than their bigger brothers. Alewives can be caught fairly easy under the lights.
Fishing the larger shad, I still prefer planer boards and light lines this time of the year. Run the length of line behind the board according to the depth of water you’re fishing over. When running light lines behind the boat or float, I stretch them out from 35-60 ft. When fishing smaller baits, the same methods will work, as well as running downlines.
Artificial: This time of the year, casting and jigging can really pay off, a lot of times out fishing bait. I prefer to favor more artificial in the winter and just do to not mess with bait at all. Casting really pays off when the birds are working bait. Lures to use are swimbaits, sassyshad, flukes on jig heads and bucktails in 3/8, 1⁄2 and 5/8 ounce weights. Plugs are useful in shallow to medium depths. including Yozuri crystal minnows, bombers, fast-tracs and redfins. When casting, I like to let my bait sink 5, 10 or 15 seconds before retrieving. Reel in your line slowly, then stop 2-4 seconds every few feet. A slow lift on the rod can help, as well.
Jigging is also effective. With the water temps still in the mid to high 40’s, I prefer a fluke on a 1⁄2 or 3⁄4 ounce jighead over a spoon. I favor spoons more in colder temps. Jigging can be fished as deep as 60 ft. A simple sharp short jig motion is effective, as well, as 2-3 hops in each jig motion.
Look for stripers to be working bait in the mouths of coves and creeks, as well as over points and humps. Birds can be a dead give away over fish and bait. Look for fish to be in the middle sections of each river arm.
Catfish: Don’t get a lot of attention this year. Catfish can be caught, but can be slow fishing. Jigging spoons for flatheads can be effective, finding them can be difficult. Flats and points in 30-45 ft of water can be effective. Remember to release those large Flatheads.
Bass: L.T. Burnette of SML reports on Bass– The bass have been biting pretty regularly despite the fact we’re almost beginning a new year. The water temps have kept the fish unusually shallow, but as the water temperature begins to drop, I look for them to move deeper and stabilize into a more traditional winter pattern. Crankbaits and jigs along natural rock and rip rap banks have been successful in the last few weeks. Alabama rigs and single swimbaits have also started to become effective. Look for those fish on main lake points that are close to deep water. The jigging spoon bite will be here soon. Reading your electronics is vital to being successful, catching the deep schooling fish with a spoon.
Being safe this time of the year is crucial. Several of my fishing buddies are using the self inflatable life preservers. I unwrapped one Christmas morning, and I’m looking forward to wearing it this winter. Even though the air temps may warm in our area to a possible 60 degrees through the winter, the water temps can still take you into to shock or worse, injuring you on a fall. Along with your winter clothing, the life jacket weather self inflatable or a standard style can really increase your chances of survival. Just a smart tip I wanted to offer and a practice I’ll be using this winter for my safety.
Be safe out there, good luck and good fishing!