Location is the key in winter, but how does a fish’s metabolism and behaviour changes in the colder months and how this will affect where it spends its time in the chilly months? Chris Cox serves up some knowledge…
“Firstly, particularly relevant from our point of view is that their food processing systems are less efficient, so even if they do eat, it will take longer to pass through the system and they will get less benefit from it. Plus, there are the changes in the water itself. Oxygen levels will be higher, colder water is denser so sinks. Conversely, warmer water tends to be at the top. Water clarity tends to increase as fish activity reduces and other water life dies back as well. In my experience, fish tend to find areas of the lake that they find more suitable to just ‘exist in’ when the conditions are cold, I nickname them ‘comfort zones’ and once I’ve found them I prize them. Finding a ‘comfort zone’ is very much a matter of luck, but as a starter I like…
(A) Areas with shallows nearby (these will warm up more quickly on the better winter days, and often produce short periods of activity).
(B) Open water areas with a good average depth for the lake, that get some disturbance from the wind, but not margins that regularly take the brunt of the colder winds.
(C) Don’t ignore good summer holding areas like snag trees etc. but I dislike areas of sunken dead leaves, deep silt etc.
(D) Be prepared to re-cast to different areas a bit more often, fish with as light a bobbin as conditions will allow and watch for any minor line-bites etc.
“Basically, be prepared to try any area until you find the fish, then note the area. I firmly believe that these ‘comfort zones’ don’t change much, unless something extreme happens. Not really part of this question, but very much part of the secret of successful winter fishing, when you have found the comfort zone remember…
(A) Find where they feed and fish those times efficiently… feeding times will be short and limited but often around the same time each day. Make sure you have fresh baits out and everything is spot on for those times. (My most consistent is late afternoon).
(B) Give them small quantities of a food they really like. They won’t want a lot to eat so don’t over bait the swim, and use tried and tested baits that you know work on the water you are fishing.
(C) Fine the tackle down as much as you can, to compensate for the water clarity. Try smaller hooks and fluorocarbon hooklinks.”