When winter arrives and brings the cold and snowy weather, there is no reason to stop fishing the rivers until spring arrives. The kayak still floats and the smallmouth are biting; you just have to have the proper mindset to face the tougher conditions. Here are a few things that you can expect to encounter when chasing winter smallies on your local river.
Cold Air Temps
Depending on your location, winter air temps could be anywhere from 50 degrees down to 20 degrees depending on the day. Adding in wind, and you will face a cold day on the river. That means wearing the proper clothing & wearing layers. There is a phrase that says: “Cotton kills”. Cotton will absorb the cold water & allow for hypothermia to set in quicker in case of a kayak flip. I recommend fleece base layers, heavier fleece pants/shirts, dry tops, semi-dry tops, and breathable waders. Some kayak anglers also wear full dry suits to ensure proper kayak safety. NRS, Simms, Columbia, and Kokatat are a few brands that offer quality cold water fishing gear.
Cold Water Temps
You will face water temps down into the low 40’s or even under 40 depending the severity of the winter and geographic location. If you are using braid, often you will have water freezing on the braid itself. Flourocarbon, monofilament, and a braid/fluorocarbon combination like YoZuri will often eliminate the ice build-up. Line conditioner sprays will also eliminate ice build-up on braid during any winter outings. Ice may build up on the line guides themselves also. The cold water adds an element of danger to winter trips in the event of a kayak flip, which is why the proper clothing is so important.
Slow Fishing Action
The fishing action will often slow down greatly during the winter months. The quantity of fish often goes down while the quality of fish is often improved. Shorter single access trips of 3-4 hours may only result in a few fish. An all day outing may only result in 10 fish, at most. It seems only the bigger smallmouth eat during the winter months, as most of my smallmouth caught in winter are 14” and above. The best techniques usually entail slowly dragging and pausing plastic lures in deeper winter pools.
There you have it, a few things you can expect during those few winter months on the river. But if you overcome the tough conditions, you can expect to catch some very nice river smallmouth. Be safe and enjoy what is often a less populated river.