Targeting cold-weather fish

When anglers have to dress in layers and pack an extra cup of hot coffee, does the fishing change when the temperatures dip?

With temperatures dipping into the 20s in the beginning of December, Texas bass fishermen could be in for a cold winter. Do fish react much differently when an Arctic blast descends for a day or two?

Not necessarily, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologist and District Supervisor, Rafe Brock.

According to Brock, typically when a cold front moves across a region, it takes a sustained period of frigid temperatures to begin to alter fish behavior.

“The peak temperature for bait fish to be affected really is around the 42 degree mark,” Brock said. “This last cold front just didn’t last very long and wasn’t as harsh on fish as it may have seemed.”

Brock said cooler temperatures actually have a more positive impact on bait and fish populations than the typical 90- to 100-degree temperatures common in Texas.

Jason Hoffman, who guides on Lake Fork, reiterated that statement saying when a short front moves through and temps cool, most fishing isn’t always negatively impacted.

“It really is (a positive), it hasn’t hurt those big fish at all,” Hoffman said.

Although the physical condition of fish may not have been impacted, their holding spots and patterns do change. This is especially the case with schools of bait.

Hoffman said the norm of late has been targeting larger schools, as opposed to smaller, more prevalent bait balls.

Despite large schools of fish, their feeding activity may slow, so Hoffman suggested a few tactics in order to be successful.

According to him, fishing your bait slower and less aggressively may produce more bites. Fish may be lethargic with temp changes, so Hoffman said thoroughly and slowly working through an area is key. This should also force anglers to present baits from multiple angles.

Finding isolated cover is another key that Hoffman focuses on this time of year.

“From what I have seen the last few days, the really deep fish are starting to show up and we are starting to see a lot of fish that have pulled out (from the creeks) and have been congregating on some of the main lake structure,” Hoffman said.

Square-billed crankbaits and even spinnerbaits around structure can help illicit more strikes, Hoffman said, if fish seem particularly sluggish.

“Generally, those shallow fish are going to get real tight to cover,” he said. “You will have to really slow down and fish tight to that cover. Sometimes you have to try and fish something to really make them react, and draw them off of that cover.”

The final key to fishing in this transition period is persistence. Both Hoffman and Brock said lake levels and temperature changes will congregate schools of bait and fish, and success will just come down to finding them.

“With the lake levels being lower and cooler, there are fewer schools of fish,” Hoffman said. “You may look at ten spots, but you may only find two spots with fish on them, but when you find them, they are usually loaded with quality fish.”