Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Waterford

Wintering River Smallmouth

Recommended Posts

I have a question about wintering Smallmouth. I know they move out of the current and such. Do they still like to winter where there is a rocky bottom or a muddy softer bottom?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They don't move out of current, although they are often positioned just outside

of the fastest water breaking around any type of structure. Smallmouth seem to

have a strong preference for hard bottom, rocks and ridges. During pre-spawn and

spawn, gravel flats rule! You will tend to catch buck bass building nests shallow,

the big girls waiting off in deeper water.

B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a little farther north than you in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin area. I am being told by some people that the fish will stay completely out of the current. The example used to explain this to me is to imagine yourself all wet outside and your standing in the wind. The wind represents the current in a river. Your colder standing in the wind so you seek shelter. The two rivers I fish have some areas with a rocky bottom and some with mud and muck. So you think that the fish will stay in the rocky bottom areas for the winter?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Try it both ways and report your findings. One thing is for sure, no matter where

you fish, pools hold fish. Sometimes ALL the smallmouth will school up and suspend.

Maybe someone else can comment on what they use when they have this opportunity,

but jigging spoons is a sure fire way to get bites!

B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a little farther north than you in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin area. I am being told by some people that the fish will stay completely out of the current. The example used to explain this to me is to imagine yourself all wet outside and your standing in the wind. The wind represents the current in a river. Your colder standing in the wind so you seek shelter. The two rivers I fish have some areas with a rocky bottom and some with mud and muck. So you think that the fish will stay in the rocky bottom areas for the winter?

You're right about them seeking slack water, but not for the reasons you mentioned.

Slow current isn't any warmer then fast current, not the fish cares one way or another: they're ectotherms, or "cold-blooded." In other words, a smallie is whatever temperature the water is, it has no way of self-regulating its body tempertaure.

To that end, cold-water isn't uncomfortable to a smallie. But what it does do, is slow the fish down. The temperature-dependant, metabolic chemical reactions that occur within a fish are slowed down when the temperature decreases. Digestion slows, reflexes slow, muscle movement becomes less effecient/effective.

This is when river smallies move into slow, to no-current areas. Keeping position in fast current (or any current for that matter) becomes a real chore when you are sluggish. The energy needed to keep position stays the same (or may even increase as the density of water increses with decresing temp), but the ability to create that enegy within the muscles decreases as metabolism drops. Add to the fact that the amount of forage needed to fuel the fish becomes more and more scarce as the fall wears on, and you have a recipe for over-winter migration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Up here the rivers freeze over and you won't find me ice fishing moving water or dodging icebergs in my boat, haha. Before the ice covers the water (right now!) and right after it moves out I fish deep vertical structure. I look for places where the main river channel is against a rocky bluff or man made riprap (this actually works 365 days a year). If you can find such a spot where the river is making a turn up against the rocky bluff even better. There will be spots in there where the current is slack, within inches or casting distance of the full current. I'll throw a deep diving crank right at the shore and let it bang all the way down the vertical rocky structure to its maximum depth. Even on Thanksgiving Day some fish were caught a foot or two off the bank, some down deep. Deep cranks are a great way to search in cold water. You can cover large vertical cliff areas fast. Once I have found a spot that holds fish I'll grab a jerkbait and pick the spot apart a little more. I'll use a husky jerk and a deep x-rap. The bites are a little lighter and the fish will often just mouth the crankbait, give the rod a snap if you feel anything. I have also had luck with jigs, plastic, drop shot, etc. once I find the fish. Another good option is to grind a spinnerbait all the way down a rocky bluff. A trailer hook is a really good idea right now. I was doing that a couple days ago and I couldn't get my darn spinnerbait down because the pike kept grabbing it. I like having that kind of problem. That's what works for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As far as bottom substrate is concerned, the areas that i have succes in are mixed, but the best all have depth and ample wood cover.6 - 10 foot deep current breaks at the mouths of coves, or backwater areas are good. The downstream sides of islands and gravel bars, etc.

I fish these areas right untill ice-up. I've even put on my waders and pushed ice off of shore line eddies to catch fish. Smallies eat all winter long.

Take advantage of the rare warm-ups that may occur in the winter. A few sunny 40 degree days up here in NY can be great if there isn't any ice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all of the info. That helps. I usually call it quits about this time of year but I figure what the heck. I am going to give it a go until the rivers are covered with ice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have caught some of my best brown fish dead winter time. Below Pickwick dam in water about 16ft to 22ft deep. They are not where you always think smallmouth bass are going to be hanging out. But along sandy bottom with few rocks or structure. But more near the river channel. I have had 5 over 6 lbs fishing this way in the dead of winter time. Water temps around 38 degrees or so.

Also have had a few days throwing a jig and pig in 15ft of water around bigger rocks. And had a field day on smallmouth if you can keep the big drum off the bait long enough.

Pete

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I live in Northern Illinois and tomorrow will be 29 degrees and I plan on hitting the DuPage River for winter smallies. The DuPage River is mainly a shallow river that is overrun by rocks. I am not quite sure what their pattern is on this river in the winter, but I plan on going tomorrow and throwing a bladed swim jig, rapalas, and a rebel craw crankbait.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Look for rocky points just outside of deeper, slower moving water whenever possible. There you can cover three bases in one location. If they have moved up a little due to a warm up, then you can pick them off along the shorline. If they are relating to rocks or drop-offs into deeper water, you will know in short order. Try jigs and drop shot rigs worked painfully slow when your water is 40 degrees or less. Just remember that smallies WILL still eat, you just gotta match their level of activity, and you might catch some of your biggest smallies of the year. I know I do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you think smallies stay in rivers that are only 5ft or migrate to the lake at the end of the river. During spring, summer and fall I catch em but never tried in the winter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

fish in the juniata river will travel over 5 miles to find deep slow spots in the dead of winter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're right about them seeking slack water, but not for the reasons you mentioned.

Slow current isn't any warmer then fast current, not the fish cares one way or another: they're ectotherms, or "cold-blooded." In other words, a smallie is whatever temperature the water is, it has no way of self-regulating its body tempertaure.

To that end, cold-water isn't uncomfortable to a smallie. But what it does do, is slow the fish down. The temperature-dependant, metabolic chemical reactions that occur within a fish are slowed down when the temperature decreases. Digestion slows, reflexes slow, muscle movement becomes less effecient/effective.

This is when river smallies move into slow, to no-current areas. Keeping position in fast current (or any current for that matter) becomes a real chore when you are sluggish. The energy needed to keep position stays the same (or may even increase as the density of water increses with decresing temp), but the ability to create that enegy within the muscles decreases as metabolism drops. Add to the fact that the amount of forage needed to fuel the fish becomes more and more scarce as the fall wears on, and you have a recipe for over-winter migration.

great point..... there is about a 1.5 mile stretch of the juniata river.. i wont give away its exact location but between lewistown and mifflintown... that is very slow deep water.... down to about 25 ft which for this river is extremely deep, and fish stack up in it every winter.. i know they come from miles away to overwinter in this spot.. i've fished the river since i was a small child and during the winter i can float for 6 or 7 miles without a bite and all of the sudden in this stretch there are smallies stacked thick its the craziest thing i've ever witnessed... i discovered it for the first time about 4 years ago with a friend we only caught about 5 fish that day but all were over 3 lbs with 2 of them around 5. its deep slow and for the most part a mixture of mud and the occosional large boulder. i know fish can be caught elsewhere in the river during the winter but in my opinion if there is access to slow and deep water in the river it is without a doubt what a smallie prefers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your findings reflect what mine have been over the past 30 years of chasing smallies in Ozark streams in winter. Deep holes with slack current are best. I usually prefer rock but occasionally sandy areas can be good. Locastion also depends on where the beast food is awaiting the bass. I prefer water temps above 40 for sustained activity, and 90% of my smallies are caught on small homemade hair jigs and trailers. Even though I like to fish holes from 19-20 feet deep, nearly all smallies come from the 3-10 foot depths esp. on the deeper dropping banks. It's a blessing to find these fish stacked up, and I been blessed with some truly spectacular days when most folks laugh at me for dragging my boat out in the cold.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • fishing forum

    fishing

    fishing rods

    fishing reels

    fishing forum

    fishing

    bass fish

    fish for bass
    fish

×