Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lures vs. Bait for Catching Freshwater Trout

One of the most common discussions among anglers involves techniques for catching rainbow trout and other trout species. Some anglers fish for rainbows with fly fishing gear only and consider conventional tackle or the use of bait to be taboo. Other anglers use spinning tackle or fish with natural baits when targeting trout. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages.

In some areas, fishing regulations dictate which types of gear may be used. On some streams, the use of live bait, cut baits, or even scented attractants is prohibited. In other areas, rainbow trout and other trout species are stocked specifically for harvesting with fewer restrictions.

Recently stocked trout are particularly susceptible to conventional artificial lures or live baits. Effective baits for catching stocked trout usually include nightcrawlers (earthworms), fish eggs, and a variety of insect larvae. Artificial lures are also popular for catching recently stocked trout, especially inline spinners or other flashy lures such as metallic colored spoons. In some cases, stocked trout seem to lack the inhibitions of wild fish and are easily fooled with almost any bright moving lure.

In coldwater streams and lakes, some stocked trout evade anglers and learn to survive in the wild, feeding on natural food sources such as aquatic insects and other small invertebrates. At this stage, semi-wild non-native trout can be much harder to catch than newly released fish. When targeting these trout, fly fishermen select fly patterns that closely resemble local insect populations.

Some rainbow trout continue to thrive in the wild for months or years after being released. As they grow larger, adult trout change their diet again and begin feeding on minnows, chub, shiners, sculpins, and other small fish. Anglers sometimes target large rainbows with crankbaits, inline spinners, or other artificial lures that resemble local forage fish.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What species of freshwater fish can be caught during the winter?

One of the most common questions concerning freshwater fishing is "What species of freshwater fish can be caught during the winter?" Surprisingly, a wide range of freshwater species are active during the winter season and can be caught using a few basic techniques.

Depending on regional conditions, anglers may fish for trout, salmon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish, yellow perch, white perch, chain pickerel, northern pike, musky, catfish, or other species during the winter season.

In lakes, ponds, and rivers, fish usually move into in deep water during cold weather. During the winter, fish sometimes congregate in areas where currents are present, such as along channel edges or near creek entrances. On warm days, some species of fish will move into nearby shallow areas to feed on baitfish. During cold spells, fish return to the bottom or form schools at mid-depth.

A variety of factors influence fish behavior during the winter season; among them are sunlight, precipitation, air temperature, water temperature, turbulence, barometric pressure, and others. Changes in weather tend to occur more quickly in winter and these sudden changes may trigger fish to feed or shut down fish that were active only a few moments before.

On lakes, ponds, and creeks that remain ice free, anglers use a variety of techniques for catching fish during the winter. Deep jigging techniques are effective in many areas, especially when targeting panfish. Live baits are also effective in winter and anglers sometimes disagree on the issue of lures vs. bait. A few anglers fish multiple setups, utilizing both lures and live baits, or even combining the two.

Perhaps the most famous winter lure-bait combination is the jig-minnow combo. This traditional rig catches walleye, sauger, white bass, crappie, perch, pickerel, and other species. Jig styles vary regionally, with shad darts and marabou jigs being two of the most common. Some anglers prefer specific colors for minnow-jig combos, especially red/white, pink/white, and chartreuse/white.

In addition to jig-type hooks, anglers use a variety of hook styles when fishing live minnows or other baits. Rigs and hook preferences are frequently based on tradition or local fishing conditions. Factors such as water depth, visibility, current, drift speed, and targeted species all influence the type of hook, leader, bait, weights, and other tackle.

For artificial lure purists, many of the same factors impact tackle during winter fishing. In many cases, depth is by far the biggest factor in lure selection. Most lures suitable for winter fishing fall into 3 basic categories; lures that are heavy enough to sink, rigs that combine lures with weights, or lures that have built-in lips which cause them to dive when retrieved.

Among the most effective winter lures are traditional lead head jigs, metal jigs and spoons, Texas rigged soft plastics, and deep running crankbaits. Dropshot leaders are also popular, as they allow anglers to fish plastic worms and other weightless lures at the depths where fish are located.

During winter, a few coldwater stream fishermen continue to fish, catching rainbows, browns, brookies, and other members of the freshwater trout family. Although these fish may not move into deep structure like pond inhabitants, they do sometimes change their behavior.

Winter season fly fishermen usually pay credence to the age old adage and "match the hatch" on the stream to be fished. Winter patterns are dominated by nymph-type wet flies, small streamers, and other flies that resemble winter food sources.