Carefully choosing the days you fish during winter months can make the difference between catching a few small ones or a boatload. For that reason, savvy anglers prefer to fish in advance of an approaching cold front, not the 24- to 48-hour period after it passes.
Those fishing the day before a predicted cold front find cloudy skies, a southerly wind, and milder-than-normal temperatures, all of which are considered angler- and fish-friendly conditions. Conversely, the day or two after a frontal passage brings colder temperatures, clear skies and wind.
For many, choosing the days to fish is not an option. And it seems, more times than not, extreme winter conditions are the norm - particularly if you are fishing in a tournament. If you must fish regardless of weather conditions, consider the following:
Make sure trolling motor batteries are fully charged.
Fish the warmest water you can find, whether a deep, a hot-water discharge or a sunny afternoon shoreline.
Downsize baits and tackle.
Slow the retrieve.
Make multiple casts to the same spot.
Fish live bait when allowed. It's easier to feed fish than to trick them into biting.
Spray lures with smell attractants. The best scents are shad, shrimp and garlic.
Use your electronics (sonar/GPS) to locate fish in deep water.
Fishing windy points and banks is difficult, but that is where most bait and predator fish will be.
Dip your fishing rod in the water if ice forms on the guides.
Spray reel lubricant on the spool to keep the line from icing.
Stay warm and dry. Dress for the worst imaginable weather conditions. The weather seldom gets too cold, windy or wet with the proper clothing.
Hand and foot warmer packs are inexpensive and help keep your extremities warm.
A portable catalytic propane heater, like the ones used on golf carts, can be mounted in a cup holder on the boat's steering console.
Wear a personal floatation device, particularly when fishing alone.
Tips from Capt. Gus
During winter months, some of the best fishing is between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. When the water surface warms, fish swim closer to the surface and are easier to find.
Hot Spots of the Week
Anglers fishing near diving seabirds are being rewarded with nice catches of bass, perch and stripers. Surface action can occur at anytime, so keep a watchful eye on the sky. Best bets are where creek runs meet the main river channel and anywhere large concentrations of sea gulls and terns are flying low or resting on the water. Those targeting bass are finding them on sunny shallow banks in the afternoon. White perch are on the bottom in water to 50 feet deep.
The surface water temperature is in the 40s and low 50s. The lake level is about 3 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and around 3-feet-2 below on Mountain Island Lake.