January and February is prime time

Published 12:02 am Sunday, January 12, 2014

We just thought our area lake water was cold. Prior to the cold front that passed earlier last week, surface water temperature was already below normal, ranging from 45 to 50 degrees. That is cold and below normal for early January.

After this recent cold front passed, the air temperature dropped below freezing for several days, which hammered the water temps down even more.

This is the coldest water we have fished in at least 25 years. Water temps dropped about five degrees last week, leaving us with 38- to 43-degree water. We did have warmer air temps Friday followed by a cold rain Friday night and a lot of sunshine on Saturday.

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The water will be very slow to warm up, but I expect we will see 50-plus degree water again soon if not now. We caught fish last weekend before the cold front, but it certainly was not easy. We were on Lake Bruin, which is well known for producing bass and white perch during the coldest conditions.

Strikes from the bass came from deep and were very light. I had eight hook-ups, but only boated four in eight hours of fishing.

When fishing water depths from 18- to 26-feet deep with bottom lures in cold water, you have to stay on point. Strikes are very light, but the strikes you get are usually from large fish.

On that day, I was using 11/16th ounce jigs, which are almost 3/4 ounce. A heavy lure allows you to stay in contact with the bottom and you can tell what’s going on as far as pulling over brush or dropping your lure off an underwater ledge.

Several of the bass struck when I lifted the jig and my rod bent over. Those strikes you get from bass when raising your rod tip are the hardest to catch. Instinct makes you set the hook when you are better off dropping your rod tip and “feeding” the jig to the fish on a slack line than setting the hook. That is easier said than done.

It is a strange day when the majority of strikes come on the lift and not the drop. I am not sure why the bass do that in cold water, but they will and you will have many fish pull off if you set the hook on a tight line and bent rod.

The white perch anglers have the same problem, but a perch’s mouth is not as tough as a bass, so the hook set is much easier. I can recall catching many white perch while raising the jig pole to move the small jig not knowing I even had a strike.

The light strikes from bass and perch are more pronounced during cold water, and we certainly have cold water right now. The long distance weather forecast shows we have a good chance of rain on Monday, followed by highs in the 60s and lows in the upper 30s. That is a lot more seasonal than this 19-degree weather we just had.

The bass and white perch are loaded with eggs. The spawn usually casts off in mid-February, but that is a hard prediction to make the way this winter is kicking off. If these brutal cold fronts keep sweeping down south, we will probably have a late spawn. That will be a wait and see deal.

It takes surface water temperatures of about 56 to 60 degrees to get the fish moving toward thin water. Both species of fish put on a lot of body fat along with the eggs, which makes this month and February prime time for catching big fish.

The best reports I heard from the fishermen and ladies over the past week are coming from the Black River/Horseshoe Complex. You will find better fishing and much better water clarity in Black River Lake.

If the wind is blowing, try fishing Workinger Bayou, the bayou that connects Horseshoe with Black River Lake. The narrow bayou with high banks is a great place to escape from the wind.