The older I get, the colder I get.
Despite this malady, I still leave the warmth of the fireplace, bundle up in multiple layers of clothing and brave those biting northern winds on a winter day to venture out on my home lake because I know the bass and crappie will still bite, and I will have plenty of good spots to myself.
When freezing temperatures arrive and the snow starts to fall, many anglers make the mistake of putting away their rods and reels until spring. Whether you have a cabin on a lake north or south of the Mason-Dixon line, you can still experience plenty of good winter fishing either through the ice or in open water.
I do envy the northern anglers who get to ice fish in those fish shacks that have all the comforts of home: chairs, cold beverages, radio, maybe even a television – and heat.
The waters near my cabin in Missouri rarely freeze hard enough to ice fish, and the ice never gets thick enough to support a shack. I tried ice fishing once in the backwaters of the Mississippi River, but I never got a bite, so it wasn’t an experience that would compel me to try it again.
Rather than drill a hole through the ice to fish, we plow through thin ice with our boats to reach the open waters on my home lake. The fishing can either be boom or bust during the winter since the metabolism of fish slows down, so they eat less often, and the fish tend to bunch up in one spot. If you miss feeding time or you’re unable to find the right spot, you’ll likely get skunked. But if you happen to pull up on the right spot at the right time, you can catch several of your biggest fish of the year.
Even if the action is slow, the peace and solitude of wintertime fishing makes it worthwhile to be out on the water. I recall a time catching crappie in a snowstorm when it was so quiet I could hear the snow hitting the ground. On sunny days, one of my favorite winter sounds is the tinkling of ice chips when the wind ripples the surface. I also enjoy seeing the bald eagles that soar overhead before alighting in a tree to watch me fish, a sight I never see during the hustle and bustle of warmer months.
When cabin fever flares up, it’s easy to ignore my intolerance of the cold to enjoy the most tranquil fishing time of the year.
Luring in the fish!
John says one of his best lures for cold water fishing is the jigging spoon. This versatile lure triggers strikes for a variety of species and can be used for ice fishing or vertical jigging in open water. It’s fluttering action mimics a dying baitfish that is succumbing to the cold water.
John Neporadny, Jr. is a full-time freelance writer who spends his winters fishing for bass and crappie on his home waters of Lake of the Ozarks.
See also 10 Tips for Teaching a Kid to Fish