When I think about fishing during the months of December through January, I can’t help to not think about how cold it’s going to be.
Over the years I’ve learned that what keeps me the most comfortable during the winter months may be different than someone else. I remember a fishing partner of mine talking about how his new boots were perfect for the cold weather. I immediately went out and bought a pair. Although they were comfortable, my feet were still freezing by the end of the day. It wasn’t until I was issued a pair of rubber boots referred to as “Mickey Mouse Boots” while in the Army, that I found a boot that kept my feet warm and dry during the coldest of days. Up until that point, I spent hundreds of dollars on trying to keep my feet warm. That experience opened my eyes to the individual differences we may have in staying warm and comfortable during the colder months.
I prefer to be a little on the colder side than too warm. One of the most expensive pieces of cold weather clothing I ever purchased was a set of insulated jacket and bibs. They’re very comfortable, but unless it’s below 50 degrees all day long, they’re not something that I would be able to wear all day. I prefer the uninsulated bibs and jackets. I’d much rather wear an extra layer underneath that I can remove once the sun comes up than to be too hot. My friend on the other hand wears his insulated bibs, boots, and jacket without ever overheating.
Winter fishing in our local lakes is for the truly dedicated angler. Fortunately, most of our local lakes are planted with trout beginning in November. One of the biggest mistakes an angler makes when going after trout is to overthink things. Planter trout have been raised their entire life in a controlled environment designed for them to grow as big and as fast as possible. They’ve never learned how to survive in the wild. If you’ve ever been to a lake on the day it’s being planted, it’s not uncommon to see trout trying to swim up on the bank, or out in the middle of the lake all by themselves. If they do survive the first couple of days, they’re most likely to eat anything that resembles what they’ve been raised on. That’s why I believe Power Bait or any other dough bait product continues to be one of the most productive baits for trout in our local lakes. One of the simplest and most effective methods of fishing for catching trout is to used Power Bait that’s floated off the bottom. It’s important after packing your hook with Power Bait to make sure that it’s got enough bait in it so that it floats.
Another less fished species during the winter in our lakes is the bass. Smallmouth and spotted bass are more active in cold water than Largemouth Bass. All three species of bass can be caught during winter, but spotted bass are the easier of the three to target. They like to school up during the winter and can be found around points, humps, and ditches during this time. One of the best lakes around for fishing during the winter for bass is Lake Camanche. Anglers do well while fishing A-Rigs or G-Rigs. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of anglers catching multiple fish one cast. The bass on Lake Camanche like to school up tight during the winter, making for some great fishing once the school is found and fired up. A favorite bait is a drop shotted worm, nail head worm, Ned Rig, or a Spider Jig. All the baits can be fished off the bottom and when pulled slowly through schools of fish, they can be hard to resist for spotted bass. For the biggest bass in the lake, experienced swimbait anglers take advantage of all the planting of trout and toss out their favorite trout imitating baits in hope of catching a giant. Some of the biggest bass in the lake have been known to hang out in areas where the trout are habitually planted. Some have even become conditioned to the sound of the truck pulling up to the shoreline. Anglers who know this target those areas.
Fishing the Delta during the winter can be surprisingly great. One of the biggest perks is that you’re not going to have to wait in line to launch your boat. During the week, the Delta can be almost eerily quiet, making it a place that I’d want to bring a partner with me. Most anglers still fish for Striped Bass during this time. Some will troll for them while others prefer to fish with live bait. I prefer the live bait approach. The problem that I have with live bait during the winter is having to reach down into a live well full of freezing cold water to get my bait. Because of that, I have a little dip net that I keep in my boat. For bait, mudsuckers, shad and bluegill are hard to beat. Bluegill are my favorite, since they are easy to catch and are free. They can be drifted of fished off the bottom for Striped Bass. Those trolling are trolling with broken back Rebels or Yo Zuri lures. Depending on the area you’re fishing you may have to use the shallow diver over the deep diving version. The toughest part about trolling for Striped Bass during the winter is having to deal with all the floating debris from decaying vegetation. Some days are better then others but if there’s a big outgoing tide there is definitely going to be some debris.
For largemouth bass, a slow presentation is the key. Winter is the time that a lot of anglers will get out their jigs and drop shot rigs. One of the best jig fishermen I’ve ever known told me that he preferred a black and blue jig during the winter when it was a cloudy day and a red and black jig when the sun came up. I’m not sure if it made a difference or not. Fishing a jig is something that anglers have moved away from in a lot of ways but remains very effective. One of my favorite and consistent patterns during the winter is fishing around the irrigation pipes that pump and pull water from the Delta. They don’t necessarily have to be on, for some reason the fish like to hang out near those pipes during the winter making them a high percentage stop for me. As for the drop shot, fish can be caught just about anywhere, ditches and bends in the river are the places that I like to target. Winter fishing on the Delta can be a slow grind but with patience and persistence you’d be surprised at what you can catch.