Winter Fishing Can Be Productive
by Ron Presley
It may be cold but they still gotta’ eat.
Wintertime catfishing slows down for some anglers in some parts of the country. That’s true for Terry Rogers, but it doesn’t stop completely.
“I usually don’t get out as often when temps fall below freezing,” admitted Rogers. “It’s mainly due to the fact that I hate the cold weather more and more as I get older. However, here in far Western Kentucky, we are fortunate to have open water to fish year-round. Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake, the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers all remain open and fishable.”
“I don’t mind fishing in cold weather at all. In fact, I enjoy catfishing year-round, but when the temps fall below freezing the bite pretty much has to be on fire for me to venture out. Motivation for me to fish during freezing temps would be to know definitely that the fish are actively feeding. As I get older, cold weather is more and more not my friend. I just don’t fish as much in the winter,” joked Rogers. “But when I do, I slow the presentation down considerably and change my technique.”
The winter months and the accompanying cold weather change Roger’s preference for where to fish and how to fish. Rogers notes that it is important to slow the presentation down because of how fish behavior changes in the winter.
“I prefer fishing the larger rivers during the cold weather months,” stated Rogers. “For me that is the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers. The reason can be summed up in two words—current and structure. I mainly target larger blues, and in the winter time they will usually pile up in deeper areas and holes of the rivers where there is less current and, in some cases, warmer water closer to the bottom. Also, in the weaker current of the deeper holes they do not have to expel as much energy as they would in stronger current. Energy conservation in the winter time is a priority to these fish with lowered metabolisms due to the cold water. Given all of these conditions, it makes the cats easier to find and target.”
“In the winter months the cats aren’t as active as they are in warmer weather,” instructed Rogers. “Their metabolism slows down in the winter and they just don’t need to feed as often. By slowing down the presentation of your bait you are allowing the fish more time to find that bait and take it. If there are fish that are actively feeding near your bait, you’ll have a better chance of a hook up if you are fishing a slower presentation.”
During the spring and all the way through the fall months Rogers mostly suspend drifts, control drifts, and bumps the bottom for catfish. But come wintertime he will anchor 95% of the time due to the cats reduced activity and predictability.
“My technique also slows down during this time of year,” continued Rogers. “I will usually anchor over deeper holes, troughs, or under water channels during the cold weather months versus drifting, dragging, or bumping bottom like I would when it’s warmer.”
“The rigs I use also change during this time,” offered Rogers. “Normally I would use a Carolina rig while control drifting and a three-way rig for bumping. But for anchoring I will use what is refer to as a Kentucky rig. This rig is where your weight is on the bottom with the hook on a drop loop about 10 to 14 inches above your weight. Some anglers will add a second drop loop w/hook above the first. This one-hook rig just seems to work better for me in a stationary, anchored position.”
“Fresh cut skipjack is almost always my bait of choice,” added Rogers. “But in the wintertime, I will also use cut shad in addition to the skipjack. The reason I start using cut shad is because a lot of the lakes and rivers have a shad die off when the water temps fall. This creates a plentiful forage for the cats to feed on as they go into the cold winter months. So, by adding cut shad to a few of my lines, I feel it increases my chances of a hook up. As winter progresses and the rivers waters start warming, I will slowly start shifting my technique/presentation back to a more active, aggressive approach.”
“There is also the safety aspect of cold weather fishing,” reminded Rogers. “While running the rivers or lakes water spray will occur creating a very icy and slippery deck surface. Decks, floors, hand rails, and whatever else that comes in contact with the spray can quickly become an accident just waiting to happen. Special attention needs to be paid to those areas and use extra caution and common sense while fishing in below freezing conditions.”
Because winter weather conditions can be much harsher than any other time of the year, Rogers includes a few special things on his boat just to deal with the cold weather.
“Gloves, hats, coveralls, hand warmers, and a propane buddy heater, are gear that I include on my boat to deal with the cold temps,” revealed Rogers. “Frostbite is NOT an option! I always pack extra set of everything just in case something gets wet or lost. Also, next year there will be a full enclosure on my SeaArk to help better deal with the cold weather temps.”
“Icing can create several different problems and hazards,” advised Rogers. “I have been out during freezing temps and actually had my line freeze on my reel. It creates quite a casting problem. It’s also kind of hard to get a good grip on the rod when the whole thing is iced over. Ice encrusted gear is not a fun thing to deal with and can even be frustrating at times.”
If you take the time to prepare for a cold weather fishing outing, wintertime catfishing can be fun, rewarding and very productive,” concluded Rogers. It is also challenging but given the right equipment and using common sense regarding safety anglers can go out and expect to have just as good of time catfishing in the winter as they would in the middle of summer.”
Rogers is a Kentuckian from birth. He grew up in Lovelaceville, a small western Kentucky town about 10 miles from the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. He makes his home there today.
“I’ve been catfishing for as long as I can remember,” said Rogers. “When I was a little kid my whole family, grandparents and all, would load up and go catfishing on the banks of the Mississippi River almost every Sunday afternoon after church in the summer. Those were some of the best days of my life. My grandparents insured it was a fun and productive experience every time we went. That started my obsession with catfishing and I have been doing it ever since. Catfishing is in my blood, it’s a big part of who I am.”
Rogers has been driven by that obsession for catfishing to reach out to others through his YouTube channel where he offers up his catfishing adventures in a realistic, no nonsense way.
“I record my fishing trips as they happen with no staged or rehearsed scenes,” explained Rogers. “What you see is what you get. Along with some great catfishing action, I try to offer up tips, tricks, and instructional discussions on various catfishing subjects.”
You can follow Roger’s catfishing exploits on his YouTube channel, “Hooked on Cats-Rogers Catfishing.”