Tips for Cold Water Fishing

cold weatherLast week’s near freezing weather had an immediate effect on fish. The initial change is in their feeding habits, lasting several days after a front, depending on how quickly air and water temperatures warm back up. The strike zones shrink. Fish move to the bottom third of the water column seeking heat radiating off the bottom. Water becomes ultra clear and fish are easily spooked.
With colder water temperature and slowing appetites, your best bet is to make your presentations very slow. I go to two types of lures when it gets cold – the CAL Curly Tail Jig and the 3-inch DOA Shrimp. The CAL Curly Tail Jig is very flexible and with no more movement than a slight bit of current, the tail will move, creating life-like action without moving the lure away from the fish. Since fish have a very small area surrounding them that they will chase a lure, this lure can stay in the ‘strike zone’ looking alive. The 3-inch DOA Shrimp is my other choice. It looks and smells as natural as the real thing. Since shrimp often lay on the bottom without movement, fish don’t suspect anything unusual or intimidating. The fact that shrimp are the most prevalent forage in the bay makes a shrimp a natural offering.
Normally I use a 2-to 3-foot 25-pound leader of fluorocarbon material with 10-to 15-pound braided main line. If the bite is slow, lighten and lengthen the leader, dropping down to 15 or 20-pound test for snook, trout, flounder, and redfish. The bottom third of the water column includes the bottom that may have structure that can chafe your line. Choose the lightest leader you can get away with without too many break-offs.
If a fish follows your lure to the boat but it won’t eat, try throwing a smaller lure, especially in clear cold water. Color may make a difference, and at times darker lures excel in the cold, but my personal preferences are lures with night glow or glow with gold or clear holographic glitter.
Sunshine and dark bay bottoms adjacent to deep water make for good feeding zones. More cold weather is expected for next week, so make sure to throw long casts – those will get you the fish.