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Winter river smallie help


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#1 CoBass

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Posted December 14 2010 - 12:18 AM

The river I'm fishing is directly below a dam and has a decent population of smallies in it. Now that winter has set in and the dam is in winter storage mode the flow in the river has been greatly diminished. To make things worse, this is Colorado, so the water temps are in the lower 40's.

With the river being so low, there are very few deeper pools available and the further downstream you go, the shallower it gets (less than 1 ft in many areas).

Anybody have any advice on fishing river smallies in very cold water? I've worked all of the deeper water I can find with pretty much everything in the box with no success. It's almost like they've disappeared. I know they are there because there's nowhere for them to go downstream and there is a dam blocking them from going upstream. Any cold water river suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Tight Lines...CoBass.

#2 River Rat316

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Posted December 14 2010 - 06:38 AM

Deep slow water, the dam area sounds like your best bet. Fish as slow as possible, I have found that in water temps below 37-38 degrees the fish really slow down.... I mean really slow down. They might have a 15-20 minute feeding window per day! So it becomes very tough! I have always done best with hair jigs fished super slow, others might have some other lure selections to suggest

#3 roadwarrior

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Posted December 14 2010 - 08:40 AM

I like the jig suggestion. I'll add the Swarming Hornet/ LFT
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#4 CoBass

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Posted December 14 2010 - 10:33 AM

Thanks for the tips guys. I have been focusing on the area near the dam since it has the deepest water. Looks like I'll just have to keep at it and hope I'm there when they decide it's time to eat. At least the trout are active so it's not a total loss. Tight Lines...CoBass

#5 riverfisher

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Posted December 14 2010 - 10:41 AM

Fish creek mouths, eddys and especially below the dam. Read the current and look for area's where the current is doing something different and try and work those areas. Sometimes they want the bait slow sometimes at a medium pace just give baits different presentations jerk/jig/drag till the fish tell you what they like. Once deer season is over here t I start pounding the banks till everything freezes over or I would go through withdrawl walking past my boat in my garage every day. Good luck man the fun is trying to figure them out in cold tuff conditions.

I never leave the house without these

1.Jig heads and curly tails
2.Storm wild eye shiners
3.Tubes
4.Suspending jerk baits
5.Swedish Pimple or jiggin spoon

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#6 Nick

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Posted December 14 2010 - 12:57 PM

While not familiar with your patricular situation, I fish for winter smallies in the Ozarks streams, and I have determined through 25 years of doing it, there are some absolute truths to catching smallies when the water temps are below 50 degrees. In a nutshell, the bite stays good down to about 41 or 42 degrees.  By the time it hits 39 or lower, get a new hobby. If we have from 2-4 feet visibility, we can catch them good, but by the time the vis. is over 6-7 feet, it gets really tough. We can go miles and never see a fish then. I think they go under rocks and rootwads and just don't feed.
For catching, we use two groups of lures, the suspending jerkbaits (smaller is better), and hair jigs (smaller is better). All presentations are slow.  We glide amd stop the small jig occasionally, and the jerkbait may sit still for 5-10 seconds.
Last, the location is always the same (not counting for the spring holes), Fish the deepest and slowest pools in your fishery. Good luck, and maybe some of my learning can transfer to your situation.

#7 CoBass

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Posted December 14 2010 - 08:07 PM

Thanks for the info Riverfisher and Nick. I haven't tried the hair jigs yet but RF's list is almost a carbon copy of what I've been throwing. The low water temps are definitely a big problem. They've been hovering right in the 40-42 degree range.

I've been giving it some more thought, and I think part of the problem could be competition from other species. I'm catching plenty of trout (rainbows and browns) and the occasional walleye as well. These fish are much more active in the lower temps and I think they might be getting to the baits before the smallies have a chance to even look at it. Oh well, at least I'm catching fish. Can't complain about that. Tight Lines...CoBass

#8 Nick

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Posted December 15 2010 - 02:43 PM

You're lucky to have that kind of fishery with all those species close by!

#9 NateFollmer

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Posted December 15 2010 - 08:26 PM

Find current breaks and the deepest water you can. Current is like wind, it only makes then colder and they stay out of it when it's cold.

can't believe no one mentioned tubes yet! Keep your colors dull. Fish tend to lose their color the colder it gets, so make your lures do the same.

#10 CoBass

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Posted December 16 2010 - 12:50 AM

Nate...I have tried tubes, they work really well on the walleye and trout but the smallies don't seem to be interested. Thanks for the tip on the current, makes sense.

Nick...Yes, I'm very lucky to have access to a river with so many species in it. In the summer it's not unusual to get a few large mouth, spots, and wiper as well. There's some nice channel cats in there too. It's a pretty unique fishery, strong populations of both warm and cold water species. Rainbows and browns over 20" are pretty common when the water temps are down. Tight Lines...CoBass

#11 georgiaken

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Posted January 27 2011 - 05:12 PM

I've only had one season of cold water smallie fishing, but we had success with the small version of Cabin Creek spider jigs, and really small finesse tubes (1.5 to 2.5 inches).

I have heard that the hair jig is very productive, and smaller leech type lures work well, but I've never used either.

Like everyone else said...find the deeper pools and fish slow...real slow. Use the lightest line you can get away with and the lightest tube jig you can stand.

A well balanced rod helps you out a lot as well. I tend to use braid, with a fluoro leader for increased sensitivity.

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