A Few Adjustments Can Help Anglers In Louisiana Enjoy Fishing During The Colder Months Of The Year
story by Alex Perret, LDWF Fisheries & Jeff Sibley, LDWF Fisheries
In many parts of the south, and especially in Louisiana, the fall and winter months can be a great time to get out on the water. Not only can the weather make for enjoyable outings but many outdoorsmen have fled to the woods for hunting season.
This can make for enjoyable, relaxing fishing excursions with lots of productive areas available for those who choose to get out on the water.
Bass fishing this time of year can be rewarding though more so with the quality of fish than the number. As water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, fish metabolism slows considerably. Bass are less likely to travel very far to capture prey at this time and they maximize the return on their energy usage by focusing on big bait.
They need to get the most bang for their buck, so to speak. Big, bulky baits like jigs and Texas-rigged soft plastics can be excellent choices because they mimic crawfish, which are a preferred food item of bass this time of year.
This is not a situation where you want to burn down the bank and cover a lot of water. Presentations should be slow and methodical. Fish areas that will warm up the quickest on sunny days. Those typically include dead end canals and pockets that are sheltered from cold north winds.
These are also the areas where bass will likely spawn in early spring as water temperatures climb above 60 degrees. Within those areas, target large woody cover, matted vegetation and rocks. These items will hold heat, as well as provide bass an opportunity to ambush bait without expending too much energy.
When you get into a pocket or canal where you get a few bites, slow down and pick apart all of the available cover. Don’t be afraid to pitch to the same target five times or more before moving on.
Sometimes winter bass need a little more coaxing. You may have to put it right in front of them before they will eat. On sunny afternoons when the water temperature warms up several degrees, vibrating jigs and spinnerbaits can be used, with a slow-medium retrieve, to target the more active bass in these areas.
Whether you call them a white perch or a sac-a-lait, crappie fishing can be hot during the winter in Louisiana as well. When the temperature drops, many crappie anglers get their gear ready and head to the lake when others would rather stay in the deer stand or inside where it is warm.
Crappie tend to seek deep water refuge in the winter months and feed on lethargic baitfish to fatten up prior to spawning. Deep water is a relative term. In south Louisiana, that may mean fishing shiners or jigs under a cork in dense willow top laydowns in 6-8 feet of water.
Like bass, crappie will gather in the more stable waters of canals and small coves in this part of the state. Popular jig colors are blue/white or black/chartreuse combinations.
In the reservoirs of central and north Louisiana, crappie will seek the deepest water in the lake during the winter. When the crappie are biting, boats can be seen gathered together near the dams of the reservoirs or along channel bends on lakes like Bistineau and D’Arbonne.
Anglers often use multiple rods and “spider-rig” troll these deep haunts with jigs set at multiple depths or even tip the jigs with live shiners or minnows. The best jigs are usually shad colors or even bright colors like the popular electric chicken. Crappie anglers are taking full advantage of modern technology such as sidescan and live sonar. This technology has features to find schools of shad or submerged brush tops to pinpoint exactly where the fish might be.
Crappie are one of the first species in Louisiana to move shallow for spawning. Late in the winter, some fish will begin to move to shallow flats in anticipation of warmer days.
Yo-yo fishing is popular for targeting late winter crappie especially in the many cypress tree-filled reservoirs of the state. Some of the largest crappie of the year are caught this way. Most anglers bait yo-yo’s late in the evening with live shiners suspended near the top of the water.
The anticipation builds while waiting on the fish to bite sitting by a warm campfire or in the heated camp. Anglers usually run the yo-yo’s after a few hours and again at daylight. Yo-yo fishing can be a family tradition with parents and grandparents taking kids along and is a great way to get young anglers interested in fishing.
story by Rebecca Hillebrandt, LDWF Fisheries & Jason Adriance, LDWF Fisheries
Louisiana is one of those rare places where you can plan to hunt waterfowl and fish on the same trip. Of course, it has to be done in the winter and during duck season. Once you’ve taken your limit of duck, or they’re just not buying into your decoy spread, you can then leave the blind and head into Louisiana’s productive marshes to fish.
This, too, can make for enjoyable, relaxing fishing excursions with many productive areas available for those who choose to get out on the water.
There is plenty of action in the saltwater marshes along the coast of the Sportsman’s Paradise in the winter. Popular fish species such as red drum and spotted seatrout can aggregate in the winter allowing for good hauls and plenty of fish with slight changes in an angler’s approach to fishing compared to earlier in the year.
Usually the only live bait available during the winter is cocahoe minnows. However, successful fishing can be done in the winter using soft plastics on a lead head or under a cork. Pieces of dead shrimp also work in low visibility waters. Focus on fishing near the bottom for spotted seatrout and red drum on colder days and in the early morning. As the day warms up, start fishing further from the bottom as prey fish move toward the surface.
When water temperatures start to drop, red drum and spotted seatrout, along with other species, will seek a thermal refuge, or water that is warmer and less likely to experience larger temperature swings. The deeper channels of bayous, pipeline canals or deeper areas of the marsh will be sought after locations by fish attempting to escape cooler waters or waters that experience rapid temperature swings.
Just because fish are seeking stable warmer water that does not mean they can’t be shallow in the winter. As the water warms during the day under the winter sun, fish will move to shallower flats and feed on prey that has also moved and become more active. This has an added benefit for anglers. Unless you plan on fishing a popular fishing hole, no need for those pre-dawn runs since the winter bite picks ups with the sun.
Cooler temperatures mean less active and aggressive coastal species looking to maximize their feeding and comfort. Anglers should look to move off the banks and instead look for areas that combine deeper pockets and canals with nearby under water structure.
The loss of white shrimp in the marshes lead red drum and spotted seatrout to congregate around rock piles and oyster reefs where small prey fish seek shelter. Red drum and spotted seatrout will be looking to reduce energy expansion so fish the deep pocket edges where large fish will wait for the current and tides to bring smaller bait fish by. While red drum hit hard all year, spotted seatrout will be less likely to make hard strikes in the winter. Choose line and gear with enough sensitivity to feel their light taps.
As you plan your trips to the coast, make sure to check the weather forecast. Cold fronts effect red drum and spotted seatrout differently and you’ll need to adjust your plan accordingly.
Spotted seatrout tend to be more sensitive to temperature changes and the reduced water clarity brought on by strong cold front winds. It’s best to wait a few days after the front passes to try spotted seatrout. Red drum on the other hand will bite before, during and immediately after a cold front and are less likely to move out as low water levels result in salinity shifts.
When weather allows, anglers venturing offshore can find great action for tuna and wahoo along with a selection of reef fish available over natural bottom and around artificial reefs and standing structures such as oil and gas platforms.
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