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BuzzHudson19c

River Smallmouth in Sub 40 Degree Water

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How do you guys usually approach fishing for river smallies in the winter? The season is pretty much over for me but I decided I will go out on the kayak thanksgiving morning and give it a whirl. Any tips besides the "slow it down?" Kind of looking for ideas on finding fish more than anything. Just head for big deep pools?

 

I was thinking work the channel drop offs with a jerkbait or jig.

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I don't even try in cold water. The danger that comes with being in a kayak in water that cold is not something I'd want to risk. For your safety, please be extremely careful. Dumping the yak even with a life jacket on could still cause serious trouble. Fish in the deep pools are inactive. You can poke them and they won't even move let alone bite a lure. Feeding fish will be in a place where food is present. I don't know what kind of river you're going to fish, but I'd put a float n' fly in any eddies you might find that are near the deep slow pools that are the wintering areas.

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When the water gets that cold the fishing is far better in a lake. I think there a guy named Jeff little, check out his online articles. He fishes exactly the conditions you are describing, cold water river smallmouth. Small tube jigs or shakey heads and suspending plugs sitting still seem to be most effective but I get way more bites on the lakes when it's super cold. The main channel is still almost 60 degrees here in gods country............

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if you can find the fish in a river in those conditions you can have a killer day.  I usually don't catch as many fish but the fish i do catch are usually high quality.  Look for wintering holes just don't share them if you find them :)  Normally i am all about sharing spots but sharing a wintering hole can be bad news as they are used year after year and are stacked with fish.  Slow fishing is the norm but be prepared to swim because like others stated, dumping in the summer is a PITA and you can laugh about it, dumping in the winter yo can be in a dire situation fast.  Don't go to areas you aren't familiar with on exploratory missions for sure.

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Well in my case for my. Local moving waters, hard to beat suspending jerkbaits. I let them. Drift after I get them to the depth I want. Also a tried and true classic black and blue tube when I say Slowly dragged, it takes me minutes to retrieve it. Like others said the number of fish won't be there but quality is. Also depending on your area sometimes you'll catch monster trout on bass tackle. 

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Well I fished the Susquehanna the other day with Mike from Mikes Guide Service and we SLAYED them.......fished nothing but tubes in moving water and between the three of us we put over 70 fish in the boat

20171116_1402271.jpg

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@TnRiver46  Jeff Little's instructionals are awesome!  Very few guys crush river smallmouth like he does consistently, and he's a kayak OG. His approach to finesse fishing is awesome. I just wish I had more patience to deadstick. 

 

The advice about being careful is huge.  Cold water is no joke.  This is becoming the season I switch primarily to fly fishing for trout since they're so much more active in colder water. 

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Well I didn't make it out on Thanksgiving day. River was just too fast to manage safely on a kayak. They have been keeping the dam open and it's dicey. I did however do some light tackle jigging in the entrance point of a few locks and squeaked out a couple medium smallies and a bunch of perch.

 

Thanks for all the advice guys.

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2 hours ago, BuzzHudson19c said:

Well I didn't make it out on Thanksgiving day. River was just too fast to manage safely on a kayak. They have been keeping the dam open and it's dicey. I did however do some light tackle jigging in the entrance point of a few locks and squeaked out a couple medium smallies and a bunch of perch.

 

Thanks for all the advice guys.

Smart play, nice job catching fish from the safety of dry land 

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I'm just a tad too old to be doing the extreme cold anymore, but not that many years ago, I use to regularly fish the Ct. River system for smallmouth & walleye, prior to ice up. I'd be out there today if I could take it, but the arthritis wins every time!

 

Find deeper water structures and target each one with on/off bottom blade bait presentations, and/or tubes. Both will catch them, but I prefer the blades because of the "feel" I have with them as opposed to tubes. And during this cold water period, I break from my gospel goal of finding structures with bait. River structures can/do hold smallies without the presence of bait fish - for whatever reason. Which makes it simpler actually. Just hit all shelves, inlets, drop offs that you find on your sonar and you'll pick 'em up. Remember, catch one and you'll catch many. Cold water smallies in rivers bunch up. Mark those structures well on your GPS. They will repeatedly produce for you, year after year.

 

 

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I've been crushing a ton of smallies in the river where I live. The water temp is 38-41 degrees. I caught 44 this past Saturday. I'm targeting rocky bottom 20-25 feet deep. Two baits that have been getting me a lot of action is a 1/10 ned rig dead sticked in these holes and a 1/4 ounce binsky blade bait. 

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A big thing in winter is finding water with little current and protection from predators like osprey, eagles, etc. This is why slow, deep stretches can be good.  Still, don't overlook points and oxbows that will maintain depth, even if water levels drop.  These spots can hold tons, and tons of fish and a wide variety of species. 

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The locations are easy to find, as others mentioned, look for slow moving or slack water but I have some other places as well. Look behind islands, those are natural current breaks and there is usually an eddy on one side other the other that funnels food into the pool so the fish tend to group up there. Another spot that gets overlooked are transition banks, you see the area go from dirt and clay to chunk rock and pea gravel, those are killer spots to hit if you have a sunny day. I use suspending jerkbaits, tubes, dead sticking swim baits, and of course, hair jigs.

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Past Chrisrmas weekend I went out manage to pull one in on a baby d bomb. Just texas rigged and 1/4 weight. Just dragging the bottom.  Bait you can try out in cold water. 

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