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Old 03-22-2013, 09:32 PM
al_a al_a is offline
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Default Re: Winter Smallmouth

Location is the most important thing in the winter, unlike in the warm weather months when the fish are just about everywhere in Ozark streams. In the winter, the fish are found in certain specific pools that have all the things they need for winter. In smaller, wadeable type streams, they are either not in them anymore, having migrated to larger, deeper waters for the winter (they'll be starting to move back into them, or getting ready to, about now), or they find places where they can get totally out of sight and pretty much go dormant for much of the winter. You almost have to fish the larger streams, those that require a boat or canoe, in the winter to do well.

Like somebody else on here, I don't fly fish for them in the winter, I use casting tackle. But you can use fly tackle, it's just a little easier to use the other stuff. The key, once you find them, is to fish slowly and SOMEWHAT deep. Don't make the mistake of fishing the very deepest parts of the deepest pools. Any fish in those areas are going to be so inactive they will be almost impossible to catch. They still eat in the winter, and they go to where they can find some food, while still feeling safe and secure from overhead predators. So if your river has 4 feet of visibility, look for fish in slow water areas that are just deep enough that you can't see the bottom, out to about 7 or 8 feet, seldom deeper. Cover, especially big rocks, is nice, but for some reason the fish sometimes move to sand bottom areas just off the main current.

Use something that will get down fairly quickly and fish it slowly on the bottom. Alternatively, use a streamer about 2.5-3.5 inches long that will sink slowly, and fish it very slowly, with long pauses and short twitches. The fish will come up to about the 4 or 5 foot level to take a minnow-imitating streamer, especially when the water is clear.

Oh, and about finding wintering pools...look for pools with large areas of fairly deep water, rocky or loggy cover that they can get UNDER, and areas with very, very slow current. Also, imagine what the pool would look like in flood. There have to be spots where a backwater, entering creek, or rock outcrop will give the fish somewhere to get out of the current during winter floods, even if that spot is above the water during normal levels. It's tough for a fish to survive in a 33 degree water temperature winter flood.
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