Winter is a time of deep fishing…nothing new for us but for other fishermen, this can be quite an adjustment. When it comes to fishing winter, we have to think of what catfish need the most. Its kind of like cooking a meal for the family. If you get most of the ingredients right, then the meal might still be okay, but get them all right and you have a happy family.
When it comes to other seasonals, those “ingredients” can be pretty complicated or diverse. In winter, they can be very defined. Number one on my list is shad. Catfish want to winter where the food is. Sure they don’t have to eat but a few times each month but they still don’t want to have to work for it. Trust me, I’d love to have a McDonalds in my house instead of 3 miles away.
Now the shad this year are looking for the most stable water and none or limited current. In lakes, you can expect them to move deeper in order to reach the water that is unaffected by surface temperatures.
This might be a new concept to some of you guys so let me take just a second to explain. The surface temperature is just one surface that affects the temperature of the water. Below, the ground places a temperature on the water. The ground stays a consistently in the low 60s. This comes in handy for keeping lakes from completely freezing. Thinks of lakes that freeze in the winter. They typically freeze in the top few foot but the fish live comfortable on bottom, where the temperature is greatly affected by the ground temperature around that area.
So we all know that shad are pretty fragile. Temperatures that get in the 40s will kill shad. Those temperatures are common in just about every state…maybe not florida. So shad are better suited to find more stable water than won’t get that cold. So deep they go.
In rivers, the water is constantly mixing but the ground temperature will still make the water warmer than air temps. The kicker is that pockets of nonmoving water will become warmer that the rest of the area. I like to think of it like the winter wind. In the wind, the air is frigid. Yes, cold. But if you can get out of the wind, the sun has a chance to warm that non moving air up and it feels great. Water works the same way. The moving water is colder. It is constantly mixing with colder surface water.
In holes and current breaks though, this mixing isn’t as heavy. Thus allowing the water to warm and cool in layers: the top layer is cold while the bottom layer is warmer. So I think we have covered why you should be fishing current breaks with shad.
But why does everyone talk about fishing large, very deep holes?
Thats simple. Larger areas of non moving water mean that there is more area of warmer water to live in. This means that you have a higher possibility of finding more fish in that given area: shad, bass, catfish, etc. In winter that is a huge plus. Those cats aren’t aggressive so if we can find a few tons of them then we can probably catch a few dozens. I like those odds.
But what about the deeper part?
Well do you remember when I was talking earlier about lakes and how the deepest water is the warmest. Well rivers are the same but just with a little more mixing of layers. The warmest or most stable water will still be the deepest places in the river. You can probably find a biologist that can tell you that after a certain depth the temperature is a nice 55 degrees or something like that but for me, I just want to find those few holes that are larger and deeper than the rest with shad in them. Nice and simple.