Winter Fishing – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back | house

The weather last week was one of extreme fluctuations in temperature, cloud cover, wind direction and wind speed.

We saw freezing temperatures and sleet on Tuesday with no cloud cover and almost calm winds.

Next came a three-day warming trend with increasing clouds, and temperatures reaching 72 degrees with brisk south winds by Friday. Temperatures then dropped as northerly winds accompanied by a strong cold front moved through the night into Saturday morning, dropping the ambient temperature again to 37 degrees, with a wind chill of 27 degrees.

Despite the extreme conditions, there has been a slow, clear rise in water temperature in our reservoirs over the past three weeks thanks to increased day length, multiple nights with air temperatures higher than lake surface temperatures, and solar heating during the day through little or no cloud cover. Non-existent. .

Because I’m on the water frequently, I’ve been able to see small, incremental changes in the fishery that correspond with the annual spring warm-up.

Some of these changes I’ve noticed include aquatic insects beginning to hatch, gamefish abandoning deeper water, gamefish showing a willingness to chase bait farther and faster than they did just a few weeks ago, and the release of milk from male white bass. It was seized.

I realize that most readers won’t be in the water as frequently as I am, so one of the goals of this article specifically (and this column in general) is to share what I see with you so you can make better use of the time you have. It should be spent profitably outdoors.

So, if you’re a recreational angler and you’re not stuck pursuing just one particular species, here’s my “recipe” for you from now until mid-March.

First, consider the weather. The type of weather we experienced Wednesday and Thursday is the type of weather that will produce better results for every hour we spend on the water. These two days had overnight lows of 42 and 53 respectively, both days saw a nice southerly breeze, and cloud cover during these two days increased from about 30% white cloud cover on a blue sky on Wednesday, to 100%. Gray cloud cover on Thursday.

Next, consider going after white bass. They are, by far, the most abundant game fish species in our local reservoirs, and their preferred temperature range is lower than that of other species, such as largemouth bass. Therefore, they “start” earlier in the year compared to other species.

As for location, my detailed records kept over three decades at Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes indicate that Stillhouse produces most consistently from mid-December to mid-March.

White bass often use the “shoulder” where the old river channel rises to meet adjacent flat areas. This week, the fish have been found at depths of 19 to 34 feet, and if our slow warming trend continues, the fish will continue to move shallower.

As for timing, it is possible to start very early. At this time of year, there is no need to wet a line before sunrise, and you can start up to an hour later on overcast days where the sun is completely blocked.

The best bite usually lasts for about four hours once it starts.

Finding fish is easier if your transducer is level, regardless of the make and model of your sonar. This will allow your side imaging technique to reach its maximum potential and obtain crisp, clean signatures that show the fish as bright rice grain-shaped signatures on a slightly darker bottom. In 30 feet of water, I can see a single white bass on the far left or right side of my sonar unit with the range set to 150 feet.

I usually find fish using side shooting. You can then circle back to return to them after marking their location using a waypoint and holding above or near them with your trolling motor. Then, using 2D sonar, down imaging, or LiveScope (or similar), you can maintain visual contact with the fish and bait.

Finally, in terms of presentation, all of the fish my clients caught last week came on one of two baits. When fish appeared directly below the boat on the sonar and we called for a vertical presentation, we used a 5/8-ounce bladed white-eye jig (found at www.WhiteBassTools.com).

When fish appear in profile on the left or right side of the boat, we cast horizontally with a 3-inch white Berkley PowerBait (www.purefishing.com) soft-plastic Ribbontail Grub on a 3/8-ounce VMC Neon Moon jighead. (www.rapala.com).

Using light spinning tackle with spools well filled with 10, 12 or 15 pound test braided line (I prefer Sufix 832) terminated with a 25 pound test fluorocarbon leader allows these baits to sink quickly to the lower third of the water column in which these fish are found.

As the number of warming days increases, great spring fishing will eventually begin, with this stretch from late March to late May being the best of all.

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