BlogJanuary 2017

Winter Fishing Conservation Review

Winter Fishing Conservation Review

By Andy Whitcomb

Jan 03, 2017

Fishing during the winter requires some additional cold weather precautions for anglers and the fish. Here are some conservation tips to follow during winter.

Just because it is cold now doesn’t mean fishing stops. Amazingly, some northern parts of the country have been looking forward to fishing through a thick layer of solid ice. Fish, although sluggish now, continue to bite, even in the lowest temperatures of the year. You just need to adjust your fishing techniques and gear. Once we do catch fish in the winter, we still need to remember how best to conserve the fishery for the future.

For instance, when ice fishing in the cold there are many tips to help anglers stay warm and safe. Fish require some extra attention during really cold temperatures too. Fish gills and eyes can freeze in just seconds of cold air exposure. If you plan on releasing the fish, keep them wet, have the right tools, and work quickly.

Pay attention to the hook set. Bites in cold water have a tendency to be much softer. In fact, you may just start to feel weight at the end of your line. Setting the hook early keeps the hook near the edge of the mouth. If you are using tip-ups, consider the circle hook technique.

Don’t forget to follow regulations. Just because the fish may have been caught in extremely cold conditions, the same size restrictions apply. Recently I read a report that two 50+ inch muskies were caught through the ice at local lake. Both fish were released. Not only will someone else maybe get to experience an amazing fish, but those top predators are doing their job of keeping fish such as crappie from stunting.

Until my family can find some vacation time to head south and escape the cold, we are going to make the most of it. Winter fishing can be great as long as you take extra precautions for you and the fish. 

Hope everyone found a gift certificate for a 2017 fishing license in their stocking!
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.