The Dog Days of Winter

It’s never been my favorite time to fish but I just can’t bring myself to find another interest to bide my time until warmer weather shows up again. The bottom line is that I don’t like the cold and I don’t like fishing in it, but I guess it could be worse and I could be drilling holes in thick ice to drop a line right now.

This week I’ve struggled to find something to write about. It’s amazing how much one year can change things. Every morning I get up at 4am and at some point, shortly thereafter I usually look at my memories on Facebook to see what fishing was like a year ago. All week this week I’ve looked at pictures that brought back memories of my fishing this time last year. I can’t believe how much of a void there is in the same locations as last year. Last year the numbers were more than twice what they are this year and I have to ask myself why? I can’t see pressure being the issue here because there is just so many bass in the lake. Several years ago, when I was fishing in the striper community there was a big concern over the number of stripers being caught and most assuredly killed during the summer months by me dragging leadcore. I used to troll leadcore a good bit in the summer and a small group of striper fisherman decided to start crying about the possibility of fish being killed. There were even fishermen from other lakes commenting about the carnage of trolling leadcore and they were clueless as to what leadcore even was at the time. It was all unwarranted and the “Karens” of the striper community were put at bay when the DNR release a study that showed that the effects of fishermen during the summer months and the mortality rate was around 2-3% of the total population. That was 15 years ago and now leadcore is commonly used, and probably by some of the people who used to whine about it. I’ve never forgotten the minority of folks involved and harassment I took just to show folks a different successful way of fishing.

Fast forward to now and I’m primarily a bass fisherman. During the winter months fish can be grouped up in a small area and catching these fish in the ditches is fun because of the numbers. Most fishermen know that sometimes releasing caught fish over the same area can kill the bite after a few fish releases. It’s a fact and it’s something I’ve seen for years. It’s because of that that I would put my fish in the livewell to continue the bite. I would put 5-10 fish in my livewells at the most and then move away from the area and release the fish. The whole process sometimes would be an hour or two at the most and the caught fish would be released. They would swim away with their lips and feelings hurt but unharmed. The biggest mistake I made was posting pictures of the fish in the livewell and that’s all it took for the bass “Karens” to move in and start making comments about putting fish in the livewell if you’re not tournament fishing. One of these goofballs even went as far as calling me a liar twice on a certain local Facebook fishing forum that went unchecked and I’m no longer a member of that group. This was even after explaining twice in the public comments that the fish were caught in one area and released unharmed within an hour. This harassment was ok because it was all in the name of conservation. I don’t think Ranger made those live wells just for the arrogant tournament anglers and their ill-informed ilk. Sometimes it’s necessary to use my livewell to put my fish in to enjoy my afternoon of fishing and I have every right to do so. Now, I see picture after picture of fishermen holding up 5-10 bass at one time and you know those fish came from a livewell but I’ll bet the ole bass Karens of Lake Lanier aren’t saying a word now because some are their buddies. Be sure and use your livewell in the ditches to continue the bite and release your fish when you’re done, just don’t take livewell pictures. That’s the obvious bass Karen trigger.

My livewell was damaged during the polar freeze last month and I can’t use it right now. Now every time I get into a big school of fish, the bite dies after the 2nd or third release so that’s one reason my numbers are down this year. Another reason is because of the stain in areas I frequently fish in the winter but the stain has been bad in these places which changes the bite. All in all my ditch bite has been lacking so I’ve been doing a lot more beating the bank this week. I know that the fish will be moving to the shallows in bigger numbers soon so I’m just biding my time and testing the staging areas for the impending process of pre-spawn staging. I can tell from the lack of big females in these places that it’s still a bit early. A lot of the fish I’m catching are less than 3lbs right now in these staging areas and most are just there foraging fish in the shallow rocks for a change of pace. I think the rocks and dock bite is going to continually get better over the next month and we should see some of these big females on the move.

This week I’ve also been able to catch a few stripers that came close to me while I was bass fishing. One of which was my biggest this year, a 16lber on a 2.8 Keitech. It was a lot of fun and that striper really gave me a workout. One of the things the bigger stripers like to do is dive to the bottom after being hooked and with light line it’s hard to force them to the boat. What you can do is keep a little distance between you and the fish and keep your rod tip high in the air to keep the fishes head up. Take your time and if the fish starts diving put a little extra pressure on him to turn him back up. Usually this works well, and stripers will stay on top most of the time if you keep their head up.

I had another 2023 personal best this week when I thought I was stalking a surfacing striper and it turned out to be a 4.11lb spot for my best this year. It was a nice surprise to see that it was a surfacing bass. I got the fish catch on video, but we’ll probably wait a while to release the video because the location is still active for me. It was a fun catch and it felt good to bring in something big for a change.

I made an “On the Cast Away Deck” video yesterday of what I’ve been using this week to catch my fish. Here’s the video and a few pictures from my week.

Water temps are hovering around 50 degrees right now and the lake level is dropping because of the constant generation from the corps yesterday. Lake level is just below full pool, and the corps is doing another big generation today.

One thought on “The Dog Days of Winter

  1. “I can’t believe how much of a void there is in the same locations as last year.”

    I experienced a similar phenomenon on my (much, much smaller lakes) this year as well. I’m north of you (IL) but everything seemed much “lighter” for some reason. Hope the pendulum swings back this season.

    Also, appreciate the heads up on the livewell Karens. Yuk. This was a good tip for not spooking the fish.

    Best, -AJ

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