The Best Fishing Days: When it’s Cold?

By Andy Whitcomb

Nov 28, 2016

Some of the best fishing can be found once fish have settled into cold water. 

Cooling water temperatures can make fall fishing great but also a bit tricky as fish transition to different locations and feeding moods. But cold water is inevitable. Winter is on the way, if not already here in some places.  Once the water temperature drops into the 50’s or lower, fish species react in different ways but sort of settle into their winter bite which can be surprisingly hot.

For example, right now Pennsylvania’s famed “steelhead alley” streams are shoulder- to-shoulder in many places. We won’t make another 2-hour trek up there until a serious cold snap reduces the heavy fishing pressure. The bite resulting from the fewer wading anglers that fish see along the banks will more than make up for the slight drop in a steelhead’s metabolism.

For some species, the techniques change in cold water. Largemouth bass anglers may switch to more finesse lures such as a 3/16 ounce shaky head jig bounced slowly along the bottom. The jerkbait, with a long pause between twitches, also gets more “playing time” in cold water because the bass may be suspended mid water column. 

But for other species, the same techniques continue to produce in cold water if you just slow it down a little bit. Walleye, sauger, and the hybrid “saugeye,” still can’t resist a jig tipped with a minnow that taps rocks across the bottom. And before any calm water begins to ice over, pike will still slam slowly retrieved spinnerbaits and spoons.

I’m not a fan of the cold. In fact, one might say I’m down right grumpy when I’m out scraping the truck windshield. But the consistency of the cold water bite and the resulting frequent good fishing days usually put a smile on my shivering, chapped face. Which reminds me, be sure to wear your life jacket to help protect from dangers of hypothermia. 
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.