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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my first year where I've really focused on river fishing (in the Piedmont). Would be interested to hear any pearls of wisdom from you guys that have been doing it a while as far as how you change up your strategy as the weather cools. Does late afternoon-to-dusk replace dawn as the best time to fish? Do topwaters become less effective? Which species remain active, that kind of stuff would be much appreciated.
 

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Fish still feed.....just slower with colder conditions. Lots of folks downsize baits/lures. I think warmth plays a role. Areas where heat is held longer. Shallower areas close to the depths. Rocks hold heat. Slower presentations. Real slow if it's really cold.

Most of all be safe. Wear warm things. Waterproof. Have a plan if something goes wrong. I've got my own plans for some insane winter fishing in rivers as well....


Sent from my kayak...
 

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Go when the ambient temps are warm and pleasant. Leave the top water lures at home. Below ~50 F water temp, I tend to dangle hair jigs for crappie while casting lipless cranks, dead sticking hard suspending jerk baits, or slowly rolling a spinnerbait. Alternative is to troll those cranks. Trolling allows wearing gloves and keeps your hands warmer too.

I've caught nice riverbass in upper 30 deg water with a normal retrieve with a Cordell spot. Sunny bank around noon.

Fish are still there and the bigger ones have to keep eating.

BTW, winter is the best time to catch a really nice chain pickerel in our Piedmont flows. Same lures as mentioned above will catch those too.

The triangle area flows can be very good in the winter under the right conditions. Go when it's low.

Another comment on cold weather/water safety, read up and be prepared. It can kill.



-Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks guys, I really appreciate the advice. Not getting on the water at least once every couple of weeks is not an option so I've been pulling together the gear to be safe.

Are spotted bass are much more active than largemouths in cold water?
 

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the best times i find for river fishing in the late fall around here is when it hasn't rained hard for a while, the dryer falls we usually have around here are a great time for river fishing since lower water levels usually force them to congregate in the deeper pools. I have gone to the ENO in November and early december when we hadn't had much rain and hit pools where I was just pulling in one fish after another of all different species from lmb to greensunfish, to roanoke bass, to creek chubs all in the same pool. Unfortunatley this has been a wetter then normal and cooler then normal november so it will be a little trickier this year.
 

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One thing I like about most of our local choices is that there is usually a road, bike path or rail road track up one bank or the other that leads back to the launch. Sometimes the bank is muddy, but in an urgent situation I like my odds of getting out and back to the truck better than some alternatives.

I am curious about which part of the river seems to produce best for others in the cold.
  • Slow deep largely featureless areas
  • Lay downs near banks
  • Big eddies adjacent to or below fast water
  • Pools above rapids
  • other?
 

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If you're talking central/eastern Piedmont largemouth fishing, I can offer this ...

If you have a nice warm day or warming trend, I'd be targeting the sunny side of the river. Regardless of ambient conditions, I'm targeting the deepest and slowest moving water or shallow cover in areas adjacent to the deep water. A sunny flat next to a deep hole with some cover is a prime target on a warm day. Don't be afraid to cast into 12" of water in those conditions. Also remember that just because you can't see or map the bottom, doesn't mean that it's featureless. Most of the upper Cape Fear and Upper Neuse have great "deep" rock structure. Deep for these flows may only be 4-8'. Most of these areas will be in the main channel, but will also approach the bank on the outside bends above a shoal.

Pools below rapids and pushwater above rapids rarely ever produce for me in cold conditions. I think the flow is too swift and these fish are in energy conservation mode. Oxygen levels overall are great in winter, so they can go wherever they like. In my experience, they like the water to be slow and warm in winter. In spring/summer, aerated areas below rapids are prime targets for schooling baitfish and higher O2 levels.

If we're talking smallmouth flows, it's a little different.
 

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If you're talking central/eastern Piedmont largemouth fishing
Yes, mostly, sort of; I tend to go with small/light gear and catch lots of panfish and a few bass. I usually take a second rod with a heavier set up for targeting larger bass and use it in the "bassy looking" areas, which often aren't where the bass seem to come from. I tend to go with fluke-like plastic on that rod. I usually alternate between small plastic twisty tail grubs and small lipless cranks on my UL (primary rod).

EDIT - That is what has been working in warm weather; I haven't done as much cold weather but am starting too. Last outing was less than awesome...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
"Last outing was less than awesome..."
Yeah, but that was mostly down to my poor choice of location, I think. The lush, varied aquatic vegetation that I noted when I scouted it with my family was probably due to the remaining silt from when it was dammed...live and learn.
 

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I did want to see that stretch and while I don't think it is the best, I think there were fish to be caught. The local we spoke to knew enough specific details to indicate he has been where he was talking about catching several fish, though his credibility did take a little hit when he started talking about the bear breaking the cow's back... :rolleyes:

That local flow was so kind to me in previous outings on other stretches that I probably won't do that particular stretch again any time soon. But I am glad to have paddled it.
 

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The float and fly technique is popular for cold weather smallie hunting. Adjust the bait to the depth of the bottom so it will stay just off the bottom and move slowly through the deeper pools.
 

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Evan - I do believe there are some bears in the general area. It was his story about the ranger letting a bear go after it broke a cow's back that I have a hard time swallowing.

Jeff - about the warm water. I was questioning that the other day, looking at the way the water moves. Even the swirling eddies that have an upstream current are constantly mixing at the edge(s). The water in the sun was in the shade just seconds or minutes earlier and visa versa. I poked around a little and found stuff like this:
The temperature of headwater streams is variable, but as the downstream water volume increases and becomes more constant, the range of temperature variation decreases.
I wonder if maybe the fish like to sun themselves rather than seeking warmer water. OTOH, a decreasing range is still a range and sometimes a small change makes a big difference.
 

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The shallows of a sunny bank will be warmer than the channel or shady bank on a sunny winter day due to slower current or in some cases still water. Rocks hold heat as well, much better than a silty/muddy bank.

You're overthinking it. In a relative sense, you're simply looking for their most probable location for that specific set of conditions.

Be the fish ... nunnnnnnaaannnnnnnaaaannnnaaannnnaaaannaaaaaa ...


-Jeff
 

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Here's what I posted originally:

Fish still feed.....just slower with colder conditions. Lots of folks downsize baits/lures. I think warmth plays a role. Areas where heat is held longer. Shallower areas close to the depths. Rocks hold heat. Slower presentations. Real slow if it's really cold.


Sent from my kayak...
 
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