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What do fish do during the winter? Hibernate?

SahaganBetaSahaganBeta Member Posts: 291 ✭✭✭
edited January 2008 in The Fishing Hole!
So, it's 36 degrees outside, and since we don't have cold enough weather here in Kentucky to make ice thick enough to stand on, there is no ice fishing to be found.

Anyhow, I figure some fish ought to still be in the river, right? And don't fish get hungry even in the winter?

So I dressed up in thermals, thick socks, waders and so forth, grabbed a fly rod, and headed on down to the river. I've never had any luck fishing in the winter, but figured I'd keep trying.

I decided to fish one of my favorite warm weather stretches of river, where I've always had mighty good fishing. However, the water is up, and it's the first time I ever realized there's such a thing as quick gravel....but the gravel bottom of the river, even as much as a couple of feet up the bank, could just about suck a guy under for good. Wading was a real chore, feeling like you're going up and out of the water, but actually pretty much standing in place, maybe even sinking a bit. Overall, it was a bit alarming!

And my word! The river had moved what appeared to be hundreds of tons of gravel from one place to another. I mean, the face of the river was totally changed by such a degree that had I not known where I was, I wouldn't have known where I was by the looks of everything.

Anyhow, an hour or so with lots of casts in fairly fast water, but generally shooting for the calmer edges around the rocks and trees, and nary a strike.

Now, I know there isn't any real deep water in this river, maybe at best five or six feet. I mean, I waded every inch of it this past summer. It isn't like a lake where the fish can head on out to deeper and I suppose warmer water. So where'd they go?

What does a body do to bring 'em to the bank in winter? Sure could use some help here....



  • shoff14shoff14 Member Posts: 11,994 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I think the problem you will see is that most river fish that occupy rivers in your area are not good winter fish. Winter fish include salmon, trout, walleye, and saugeye for example. I can tell you though that I have never caught a saugeye or walleye in a river in winter.

    I also believe in the fact that fish hate high water. High water means faster current, the harder they have to work the more calories they burn on limited food supply. This means they will go find some large structures to hold on or someplace with lots of bait fish.

    With that said, I have had a lot of luck fishing for fish in the winter. Most fish still eat, they won't eat as much, but they do eat. This is mostly in lakes fishing from a boat or ice in Ohio. Fish do go to deep water, some what, but I think you still will see fish in the shallows, it all depends on where the bait fish go. One key to winter fishing that I have found, is go slow. Fish half as slow as you normally would.
  • iwannausernameiwannausername Member Posts: 7,131
    edited November -1
    Fish are cold blooded, and activity drops with temperature.

    See if you can find inlets from places that would have warmer water like power plants, etc - the fish activity (and feeding) will pick up in wamer water (relative to whats around). Or possibly natural springs, since the water from those will be at a constant temp year 'round, so cooler in summer (maybe) and warmer in winter (again, maybe).
  • SahaganBetaSahaganBeta Member Posts: 291 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thanks guys. I can understand what you say.

    The sad thing though, is that I'd just as well hang up my waders and fly rods until April or May come around. Drat it!

  • ljwrenchljwrench Member Posts: 5,053
    edited November -1
    SahaganBeta-What part of Ky are you fishing? I know they have done well on the Cumberland river down around Burksville fishing for browns and rainbows. Not sure how the lake drawdown has affected it recently. I've only fished it in the summer. Go to and go to the Ky discussion boards or fishing reports. Both have good suggestions. I don't fish much in the winter but I will go out if we get a warm spell. The trick to winter fishing is slow everything way down. Fish still have to eat but not as much because they're metabolism is slowed down. They won't go after a fast moving lure but will sometimes hit it if it lands on their nose. Go up to the Louisville area and fish the falls on my side of the river. Sauger were hitting it pretty hard until the water went up.
  • fishkiller41fishkiller41 Member Posts: 50,608
    edited November -1
    Fish slow way down, not just their metabolism, but they actually MOVE slower too.Even with low or average water height, and even slightly warmer water, you will still need to slow your fly/lures down as well.
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