Winter Fishing Tips

Fishin’ with Capt. Gus

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and

a full-time professional fishing guide.

Visit or call 704-617-6812 for more information or to book a trip.



Carefully choosing the days you fish during the winter months can make the difference in catching a few small ones or a boat load. For that reason, savvy anglers prefer to fish in advance of an approaching cold front, not the twenty-four to forty-eight hour period after it passes.


Those fishing the day before a predicted cold front find the skies cloudy, a southerly wind, and milder than normal temperatures, all of which are considered angler and fish friendly conditions. Conversely, the day or two after a frontal passage brings colder temperatures, clear skies and wind.


If you are like many, choosing the days you fish are not an option. And so it seems more times than not, extreme winter conditions are the norm, particularly if you are fishing in a tournament. If you must fish, regardless of weather conditions, consider the following:


• Assure that trolling motor batteries are fully charged.

• Fish the warmest water you can find, whether it’s deep, a hot water discharge or a sunny afternoon shoreline.

• Down-size baits and tackle

• Slow the retrieve.

• Make multiple casts to the same spot.

• Fish live bait when allowed.  It’s easier to feed them, than to trick them into biting.

• Spray lures with smell attractants. The best   scents are shad, shrimp and garlic.

• Use your electronics (Sonar/GPS) to locate fish in deep water.

• Fishing windy points and banks is difficult, but that is where most bait and predator fish will be.

• Dip your fishing rod in the water when ice forms on the guides.

• Spray reel lubricant on the spool to keep the line from icing.

• Stay warm and dry. Dress for the worst imaginable weather conditions. The weather seldom gets too cold, windy or wet with the proper clothing.

• Hand and foot warmer packs are inexpensive and help keep extremities warm.

• A portable catalytic propane heater, like the ones used on golf carts, can be mounted in a cup holder on the boat’s steering console.

• Wear a personal flotation device, particularly when fishing alone.

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