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What About Winter Kayak Fishing?

Winter looks different geographically. In the extreme areas like the frozen north the water is hard (ice) and in Florida a cold front drops the surface water temperatures into the 70’s. Somewhere in between water temperatures may vary from 45 degrees to the low sixties. For many kayakers winter (by the calendar) fishing from December through March can be tough. Here’s a few ideas to make your winter weather adventures safe and successful.

  • Winter Wardrobe – From my head to my toes staying warm is important. I rely on boundary boots from NRS for me footwear. I use a small lightweight sock inside the boot and have found in cold water and weather conditions my feet stay warm and dry. Wool and wicking are the key words for my paddling apparel. To retain your body heat wool undies and waterproof pants, tops are excellent and worth the cost. I have an Immersion Research dry suit that’s incredible for my cold weather kayaking. If you can tolerate gloves there are fingerless models that work, I personally feel like they “dampen” the feel I depend on to sense strikes on my “feel” type baits.
  • Life Jackets – Regardless of the season I wear a life jacket. I have an Astral V-eight for summer and another Astral Ronnie Fisher for winter wear. Freedom of movement for paddling and pitching is important. I chose orange for summer and lime green for winter, both are visible to other boaters on the water. I’m a fan of function over form, lots of pocket space and comfort.
  • Kayak Choices – At the top of my list is always safety, my normal ride is an old school Jackson Big Rig, next the MayFly. My reasons: stability, wide kayaks allow me to stand and fish easily. Open decks and lots of foot space in each is more than adequate. On my list next are the next generation of Big Rigs, the HD model and FD, both are a mammoth 40 inches wide! Maximum stability comes with additional width. In pedal boats I still pack a paddle, mine is the Bending Branches Pro Angler Carbon Fiber ( www.bendongbranches ) weighing in at a mere 26 ounces. *Each of my non-pedal kayaks is equipped with the custom casting brace.
  • Bring on the Baits – Bait choices vary according to the species you target. My next criteria for choosing artificial baits are surface water temperature, water color, sky and wind speed. Each of these is a factor in the feeding mood of the fish. Bass, crappie, walleye and others are equipped naturally with super senses in the eyesight category. Appealing to their sight gets the bite. Hearing and picking up vibration are good and a minimal sense of smell complete the list. Each freshwater species is somewhat the same and still in ways different. Catfish will confound you if you use bass baits and techniques. Any bait that is still and stinky gets the nod for winter whiskered fish. Some of the most successful winter walleye fishermen will use jigging spoons (not a fan) while other drift live minnows and night crawlers. For bass, finesse jigs (1/8 to ¼ ounce) trailed with soft plastic craws are great. For winter jigging spinning rods and reels spooled with eight pound test braided line in conjunction with a four foot fluorocarbon leader is perfect. Flat sided or lipless crankbaits and small selection of spinnerbaits are also likely to draw a few hits. Jerkbaits excel in winter water. Cold and clear finds a jerkbait tied to a bass type baitcasting outfit. A baitcasting reel geared at 6.3:1 and 12 pound test monofilament line, a seven foot medium action rod all make of a great set up.
  • Fish with a partner, be aware of hypothermia, carry a thermos of chicken broth and go with the mindset you may be fishing for five bites all day. Safety, safety, safety.