By Steve Hickoff
Winter fishing involves both frozen and open water. Let’s look at what you should and should not do as your four-wheeler access to cold-weather angling goes.
Many states have generous fishing seasons through the winter months. Angling never stops. While some think of Snow Belt options only in terms of ice, the truth is plenty of open water fishing is available right now in some streams and rivers too.
If you live in a southern state, easy access to fishing spots by four-wheeler is a given. Chances are snow or ice won’t inhibit your backcountry trip. Up north however you’ve got to plot your way through all that nature dishes out.
First check regulations regarding ATV or Side-by-Side access. Next, investigate special angling seasons — and winter stocking schedules — to find action now you might typically wait for later.
If both four-wheeler access and fishing is now legal, hatch a plan to target open water you might only fish in spring and summer. Winter trout need to eat too.
Mild weather winter trends insist on safety as ice fishing goes. Ride your four-wheeler to the frozen lake or pond you want to fish. Park your rig on the shoreline where designated spots are often available. It’ll be waiting there for you when you’re done fishing.
Ice sleds afford the opportunity to transport gear across the frozen water easily on foot. The exercise will do you good as well during this couch-sitting indoor season. Why join a gym when you can get your workout while ice angling?
When done, gather your gear — plus the fish you’ve caught if you’ve kept some — and cart it all back to your waiting rig. Load up and make the ride home safely.
Fly fish with a slower presentation now, using nymph patterns and even streamers for winter trout — especially in snow-covered states. Work your presentation just off the bottom. Cast near structure where fish hold. Live bait will work now, as always and small baitfish-imitating spinners are a good move for spin-casting outfits. Keep it simple.
Heavy-duty chest waders (and even a wading staff) are musts right now when fishing open winter water. Take a buddy or two along for safety’s sake. Tell friends and family where you’re going.
On the ice, keep it simple too. Jig live baits or set tip-ups for a less active approach. Ice thickness will vary on a body of water. Check with other anglers to get a good sense of the conditions. Check yourself as well before you walk out on the ice.
Be safe, have fun and enjoy the times outdoors fishing and riding now with far less pressure than in spring.