5 Best Freshwater Fish to Catch this Winter

By Debbie Hanson

Jan 25, 2021

Wondering about best freshwater fish to catch? Consider these freshwater fish species once you’ve checked the regulations, bring a few home for a fish fry

Whether you want to go on an ice fishing trip in the northern states or cast out a line someplace in the warmer waters of the South, some of the best freshwater fish to catch during this time of year also make good table fare. Consider targeting these five freshwater fish species once you’ve checked the state fishing regulations, and then bring a few home for a family fish fry.

1. Black Crappie.

Use small jigs or minnows in clear ponds, natural lakes and reservoirs with plenty of vegetation when targeting black crappie. Crappie are often most active throughout the cooler months of the year, so winter is one of the best times to target them in the eastern half of the country. They also make a tasty addition to the dinner table when fried or sauteed in a butter sauce.

2. Yellow Perch.

Found primarily in lakes or ponds in the Northeast and Midwest, yellow perch are active feeders throughout winter and are often caught while ice fishing. These panfish are an ideal target for families and kids since they are willing to take most any natural bait as well as artificial lures or flies. Perch are one of the top freshwater fish to eat, particularly when pan-fried in brown butter, drizzled with a squeeze of lemon.

3. Bluegill.

To catch winter bluegill, use an ultralight freshwater fishing rod and jigs tipped with minnows or waxworms around weed beds close to the periods of dawn and dusk. They are one of the most widespread panfish species in the country and one of the easiest fish to catch for beginners.

4. Walleye.

Walleye are best targeted around deep holes in freshwater lakes and ponds during low-light conditions, such as dawn and dusk. Spoons and minnow-tipped jigs will be your best bet in terms of getting cold-weather walleye to bite. Many anglers consider walleye to be the best and most edible freshwater fish because they have excellent food value. The light, white flaky fillets are coveted by anglers in many of our northern states.

5. Channel Catfish.

If you can find a river-run reservoir within a close drive from home, the best winter strategy is to fish the deeper holes that also have vegetation or some form of cover. Use bottom-oriented freshwater fishing presentations like slip rigs and split-shot rigs. When you reel in a channel catfish that is within the regulations, you can make a southern fried catfish recipe or blackened catfish recipe. Yum!

Since you know about five of the best freshwater fish to catch (and eat) this winter, the next step is to make sure you have your freshwater fishing license and the right tackle for your cool weather adventures.

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.