5 Essential Tips for Coldwater Fishing in December

By Debbie Hanson

Dec 18, 2023

List of essential tips for coldwater fishing in December. Where to fish for trout, what time of the day is best, get cold water fishing techniques for success

As winter approaches and warmwater fish species (such as largemouth bass and sunfish) start to become less active, the fishing for cold-water species (like rainbow trout and brown trout) can still be very good. Having a few tips for coldwater fishing in December can certainly be helpful if you want to target freshwater fish species that are likely to be more active in the cooler water temperatures.

This is not to say that you can’t catch warmwater species during the winter months because you absolutely can, they just won’t feed as often. Once water temperatures drop down into the 40-to-50-degree Fahrenheit range warmwater fish are more focused on conserving energy.


Cold Water Fishing Tips for December

Since cold-water fish species (like rainbow trout) are active in water temperatures between 44 and 65 Fahrenheit, scout out a good spot for trout fishing and check out these cold water fishing tips for the month of December.

1. Research December fishing destinations for rainbow or brown trout in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee. The Places to Fish and Boat Map can be helpful.

2. Fish during the afternoon or warmest parts of the day. The fish will become more active once the winter sun starts to warm up the water. Keep in mind the 44-to-65-degree preferred water temperature range for trout. Locating water that may be just a couple of degrees warmer may increase your chances of finding fish and getting bites.

3. If you are fishing a river or stream, look for slower water. The best places to fish in cold water are typically deep runs and pools. If you focus on these types of areas you may even find dozens of trout stacked up in a small area.

4. Beginning fly anglers should start by using a nymph fished under a strike indicator. Nymph flies are a common presentation when fly fishing for trout during the winter. Anglers fishing with spinning gear can try cold water fishing techniques using tiny, soft-plastic mealworm imitations rigged beneath a small slip float (always check to see if there are any specific gear restrictions for the waterway you plan to fish -- the use of spinning, spincast, and casting reels may be prohibited when fishing certain streams and rivers).

5. Scale down on your leader or tippet size. If you typically fish with 4X tippet, try dropping down to 5X. Lighter line often equates to more bites during the winter months.

Now it’s time to layer up and get out to experience more success while coldwater fishing in December!

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.