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Cold Water Kayak Catches

In geographic locations where air and water temperatures dip below fifty degrees fishing can be a challenge. Along with tough fishing conditions some fishing AND kayaking adjustments may well be necessary. With safety being a major concern, any time of the year colder water temperatures present the distinct possibility of hypothermia. With a few simple precautions can ease the mind of the kayaker. Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature dips to less than 95 degrees and is caused by exposure to cold water or cold weather below 50°F. Some of the signs of hypothermia are sleepiness, weakness, pale skin, shivering uncontrollably, confusion, slow breathing, slurred speech and slow heart beating. The term hypothermia means “low heat” treatment Mild hypothermia includes moving the victim to a warm area, stay active, remove wet clothes and quickly replace with dry clothes or blankets and drink warm drinks sugar sports type drinks with no drink warm (not hot) sugary drinks such as sports drinks no caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

Wool and water wicking clothing are your friend during the colder conditions. As far as footwear we rely on the NRS boundary boots and wool clothing with a waterproof wicking shell. Fingerless gloves like those offered by Frogg Toggs are another option. A wool hat keeps you warm and comfortable.

Cold Water Kayak Catches
Most gamefish are still active in cool and even cold water. The fish I classify as the “skinned fish” are seemingly unaffected by cold. That group includes trout, walleye, catfish, musky and others. Other species still “eat” through the wintery months. Bass, crappie and bluegill can be caught with some adjustments. Downsizing a few normal artificial baits usually pays off with at least a few bites. We’re always fans of soft plastics in the clear water that natural comes with cold weather. A seasonal tackle box is handy from late fall through the late winter. An assortment of leadheads ranging in size from 1/16th ounce up to a 1/4th ounce are good as well smaller tubes, finesse worms and curlytail grubs. Cold water colors: pearl tops the list, pumpkin pepper, chartreuse and neutral colors (some with glitter) are fish producers throughout the season. Undersized bass baits like tiny cranks, mini-spinners (safety pin and in-line styles) are effective also. Jigs both rubber legged, and hair models are classic cold water lures for moat gamefish.

Patience and persistence pay off with a few fish for fun or food. Harvest of crappie and the smaller legal bass make for memories and meals. The majority of are casting chores are done with open face spinning combos. A six- and half-foot medium action rod and a spinning reel with 80 to 100 foot of line capacity will get the job done. We opt for a base layer of monofilament line on the spinning reel, then a blood knot is used to attach braided line to just about fill the spool, Next another blood knot is used to secure a six foot section of fluorocarbon line to the braid. Fluorocarbon excels because it’s virtually invisible (a plus in gin clear water) is sensitive and strong. My choice for fluorocarbon is K9line.
We always wear our NRS life jackets regardless of season. Carrying an inexpensive collapsible paddle for insurance is recommended. Wit a limited need for tackle storage space we carry high energy food and a thermos of chicken broth.

A nice crappie

The bites you get in colder water can be subtle. The soft plastic and feel type baits require a degree of concentration and as is always the case, if you feel anything different, set the hook. We keep each other in sight or close proximity and keep our kayaking trips timed as to avoid fatigue. With the leave off the trees you see and abundance of wildlife as you travel from spot to spot. While fish are experiencing a metabolism slow down, they still have to eat. They strike zone of a chilly water fish may be shortened but a properly presented bait will convince then to open wide. Another option is live bait in the form of minnows or shiners. Commercially raised minnows are readily available and fool the wariest bass, crappie or walleye. The live minnow swims, looks and exhibits the natural fear and flight behavior making fish chase the meal that appears to be an easy catch. Cast or drifted on light line with a small pinch on lead split shot weight again the clear water gives the winter fish an unobstructed view of the bait fish.

bait size

A large bait is hard for fish to resist this time of the year. As a rule, I use the smallest artificial and the largest live bait I can find. Often, I use a circle hook on a leader and run under a natural cork float. When that minnow, shad or shiner gets “nervous” it’s an indication it’s being tracked by a big fish. This will make you quickly forget the cold! There are lots of presentation options with artificial or live bait.
Weather or not, we paddle / pedal, fish and enjoy the solitude often found during the cold weather months.