3 Cold Weather Bites You Should Be Chasing | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A man in winter clothes fishing from a kayak. Photo by Bill Lindner

Keep fishing all winter with these cold weather trophies.

Leaves on the ground, frost on the windshield and pumpkin spice lattes on the menu signal northern anglers that fishing is about to freeze up for the winter. Late fall sees a feeding frenzy for tautog, muskie and mountain trout, and a fishing frenzy for anglers.

Photo by Wink Weary


“In late fall, muskie become killing machines, “ says Wink Weary, a Wisconsin kayak fishing guide. Weary is in the middle of the mayhem targeting muskie in northern lakes and rivers. “The best time is right before the water freezes,” he says. When the lake water turns over and starts to solidify, Weary moves to rivers to chase muskie for a few more weeks. As aquatic grasses die off, baitfish scatter to other structures. “Look for timber in larger pools and back eddies,” Weary suggests. He gets excited when he sees a warming trend in the forecast. “If this coincides with a full moon, south wind and cloud cover, it’s time to call in sick to work.” Weary grabs a St. Croix Legend Elite 10wt rod and Larson Guru reel spooled with Scientific Angler Wet Tip Express 350 gram sinking line. For a leader, he chooses three feet of 40 pound monofilament connected to a two-foot section of 30-pound wire. “I like to throw natural flies, that imitate various species of suckers," he says.


Photo by Shawn Barham


New England anglers covet blackfish or tautog as their last hurrah before descending into cold and ice. Hobie pro Shawn Barham calls late season blackfishing amazing. “The fish are feeding heavily before migrating offshore for the winter,” he explains, adding that they move deeper as the thermometer drops. Barham looks for blackfish on rock jetties and shipwrecks. “I try to anchor so I’m out of the current,” he says. He recommends fishing with friends. “Blackfish can be focused on one small spot,” he says. “It helps to have baits spread out over the structure.” It takes a heavy-action, seven-foot rod and heavy-duty reel to pull a tog out of its home. Barham uses 40-pound braided line, a five-foot leader of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader and a one- to two-ounce Joebaggs tog jig baited with a piece of Asian or green crab. “I can get the jig deeper into the structure without snagging the line.” Barham’s secret for trophy tog? Fish the first 45 minutes of the outgoing tide and at dawn. “Blackfish wake up hungry,” he laughs.

Photo by John Rounds


For mountain trout anglers, late summer and early fall mean warm water and cool air. To find browns, rainbows and brookies, SUPonthefly.com pro Damon Newpher finds hot fishing in the coolest water. Find streams, bays and springs to find trout escaping the summer heat. Newpher adds, “Look for cooler, oxygenated water.” He fishes early and late, even all night. Newpher reminds anglers that cold water fish will suffer stress in warm water. “In hot water, I use the heaviest rod and tippet to make quick work of the fish.” That includes 2X fluorocarbon tippet for deep fish and 4X for nymphs and dry flies. To target fish holding deep, he uses streamers and crayfish imitations. He packs caddis, mayflies, midges and terrestrials to match the day’s hatch. “After a heavy rain, try fishing a big streamer for meat-eating brown trout.” Newpher wraps it up with this advice: “Focus on water temperature and you’ll find the fish.”

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