BlogJanuary 2017

Winter Freshwater Fishing

Winter Freshwater Fishing

By Tom Keer

Jan 25, 2017

Part of what makes ice fishing so fun is that there are many different species of fish to catch.  And in the winter, they're all delicious to eat.

One of the best parts about winter freshwater fishing is you never know exactly what type of fish you'll catch.  A flasher's transducers helps to find concentrated schools and particular locations and lures help narrow down the field.  There are a lot of freshwater fish species to catch, so it's always a surprise when the fish comes up through the hole.

Warmwater fish: Some of the best fish to catch in the winter are warmwater fish.  Cold water makes 'em taste great, so when targeting panfish and bass, know your forage.  In shallows, panfish, perch and crappie may prefer bugs like wax worms, or mayfly larva and leeches whereas in open water they target baitfish. You’re likely to find bigger gamefish like pike and muskies on the bottom down deep as well as throughout the water column when they're on the move.  Drop jigs or live bait like minnows, smelt or salmon eggs to the bottom and work them up throughout the water column.  

Panfish: Bluegill, sunfish, and perch
Bass: largemouth, smallmouth, hybrid striped bass, and calico bass
Larger Gamefish: Northern pike, muskellunge, walleye, and sauger, a walleye-look alike.

Coldwater fish:  Those same trout that favor deep, cooler, oxygen-rich water in the summer move into shallower reaches in the winter.  That fact makes winter freshwater fishing for trout very different.  You'll find trout and salmon on expansive flats, especially if it has a soft bottom where they can forage for leeches, insect nymphs, and worms.  If soft-bottoms don't exist in your lake you may find them around natural points and rock piles or ledges.  Inflows and outflows are excellent places as inflows wash food into the lake while outflows concentrate them prior to exiting the lake.  

Trout: brown, brookie, rainbow, Lake, Tiger
Salmon: Landlocked

Winter freshwater fishing is a fun game of chance.  And when it really comes down to it there is no single best fish to catch in the winter.  They're all fun, so grab your fishing license and go before it's spring! 
Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at