According to legend, it was a tired but perpetually happy angler who said, “A bad day of fishing is preferable to a good day at work.” It could have been that, or the guy could have simply been idle and had nothing better to do than go fishing with his portable fish finder. Visit some of the best winter fishing spots in the United States to make a happy angler even happier.
Check Out Our List of the Best Winter Fishing Spots
East South Central region
Despite the fact that the legal jurisdictions for this region for Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama are unclear, the angling opportunities are not. The Tennessee River is backed up by Pickwick Dam. Heavily forested in southwestern Tennessee, it serves as an artificial reservoir 50 miles long that stretches along the state border with Mississippi, passing through northwestern Alabama.
The International Game Fish Association has recognized Pickwick Lake as the site of four current smallmouth bass catch records (IGFA). Those records all exceed 8 pounds in weight on three occasions. Wilson Dam, which is geographically the headwaters of the Pickwick River, is a well-known hotspot near Florence, Alabama. Boat anglers simply rely on the current to drift them along while casting spinner baits or jigging small soft plastic grubs as they progress along the shoals and rock piles on the outer edges.
With each 4 to 5 foot drop in water level during the winter, more of the bottom structure is exposed, making it easier for the fish to find food. Because the currents can change direction very quickly, the danger level increases as well.
The remaining portion of the lake has a tremendous amount of fish-retention capability. If you have a large number of underwater humps, points, and the sub-aqueous edges of shoreline bluffs, the bass will be able to congregate in large groups. Because threadfin shad and crayfish are both common food sources for bass in this area, crank baits that resemble shad, as well as small jigs, can be used to catch these fish.
You will need a lot of patience, as well as a genuine willingness to experiment with different lures and different depths along the precipitous side of the bluff before simply wading to a new spot. Make the most of your light lure options by using a 6 or 4-pound test line. Additionally, it will assist you in pursuing fish that are easily spooked. Check out Tennessee Fishing Regulations.
South Atlantic region
Winter bass fishing is excellent in Florida, also known as the Sunshine State. The largemouths are actively engaged in the pre-spawning period by January, and you can target them.
Florida isn’t just for the snowbird in you who wants to take a relaxing one-day fishing break after a tour of the Walt Disney World Resort in this state. Also for the serious angler who wants to put in some serious fishing time by traveling south to the state’s tropical paradise, this book is for you.
Regardless of which type you fall into, the months of December and January are the best times to go sailfishing in southeast coastal Florida. In other words, if you don’t want to travel all the way to Costa Rica or Guatemala but would still like to have a fishing experience that is equally as enjoyable, you can do so in your own backyard.
It doesn’t matter if the only thing you’ve ever caught with a fishing rod is bluegills; Florida’s Sailfish Alley is still home to some of the world’s best fishing anywhere in the world. Beginning in Fort Pierce and extending southwards to Miami and the Florida Keys is this region. Anglers who are just starting out will find this location to be a gold mine. A standard charter includes everything you need for a successful day of fishing, except for your own camera and jacket.
You should make plenty of enthusiasm and a willingness to pay attention and learn as much as you can from the captain and his mate, who will assist you in locating where the fish are hiding out. Some people may even hook the fish for you if you are exceptionally nice.
It is important to note that you should not be short on lures, but this is not a negative aspect when considering the fact that you are able to live the ultimate dream of any angler.
Located in the southeastern section of the Santee-Cooper Reservoir complex in South Carolina are some excellent winter fishing lakes, which are part of the Santee-Cooper Reservoir complex. Known as Lakes Marion and Moultrie, this year-round hotspot is a great place to catch Channel, Blue, and Flathead Catfish, as well as other species.
The area is also home to the state record Blue Catfish, which weighs 109 pounds, as well as the world record Channel Catfish, which weighs 58 pounds and is caught in the same area. When the temperature drops even further, the Blue Catfish action becomes even more intense.
When the waters cool in the early winter, the open-water activity of vast Threadfin Shad schools slows down as they begin to congregate. When they congregate around underwater humps, lakeshore points, and other structures, the catfish have an easy time foraging for them.
Angling enthusiasts employ depth finders to search for schools of shad clumped together near or on bottom structure, and some of the smaller shad are used as bait by the fishermen. Big Blue Catfish are almost always found in close proximity to where the boat is docked.
When many guides are anchored over a hotspot, multiple rods are set up. There are a lot of blue catfish caught, with average weights ranging between 5 and 10 pounds. Also not uncommon is the capture of fish weighing 20-30 pounds. In fact, you might even catch some fish that are three times larger than you thought you would catch.
Come December, you can catch your share of Striped Bass from massive schools of wintering Striped Bass along the beaches of North Carolina’s outer banks, particularly in Hatteras.
Georgia has long been renowned for its aggressive stocking of the species in a number of its major lakes, and this has continued for many years today. Like most landlocked Striped Bass fisheries in the southeastern United States, the action picks up in the winter months. Stripers will undoubtedly feed on schools of Blueback herring and shad, which will be attracted to the surface by the cold.
The northern half of the state is where the majority of the action will take place. Not surprisingly, the action may extend as far south as Lake Seminole, which is a popular fishing destination. The Hartwell Lakes and Clarks Hill, located in the northeast, are part of the Savannah River system and are renowned for their excellent fishing conditions.
Lake Lanier, which is part of the Chattahoochee River system, and the Coosa River system, which are both in the northwest, are among the other reservoirs. Discover more of the Best Florida Salt Water Fishing Destinations.
The lower Niagara River’s waters can be dangerous at times because they are large, swift, and deeply enveloping. Because it serves as a tributary for the outflow of Lake Erie from Niagara Falls itself to its mouth on Lake Ontario, which is located in far western New York, this is significant. For steelhead in Lake Ontario, as well as Lake and Brown Trout in the area, this creates a natural magnet, especially during the winter months.
If you are serious about earning bragging rights for catching an average of 5 to 10 pounds of steelhead on a good fishing day, boat fishing is your best option.
West South Central region
Arkansas’s White River tailwater is a fantastic place to spend the winter months fishing for trout. Trout will be active throughout the winter as long as water temperatures remain in the 50s to the deep 60s.. In order to catch trophy fish, it is not a crazy-crazy idea to go fishing in February and March.
Water temperatures in the upstream reservoir have become lethal to schools of small shad as a result of the extreme temperature drop, and as a result, there will undoubtedly be dead and dying fish passing into the tailwater currents and through the dam because of this. You can easily catch brown trout weighing 5 pounds or more because the big trout will be in a feeding frenzy at that point.
It is true that Dallas’ Lake Fork isn’t the only bass lake in Texas, but it has a greater reputation for producing largemouth bass when compared to other lakes in the state. Fishing is also good at Falcon Reservoir, which is located on the Rio Grande near Zapata, Texas. Just take note of the Fishing Regulations in Arkansas and you are good to go.
East North Central
During the winter, large winter-run steelhead can be found in the Great Lakes tributaries that run along the eastern and western shorelines of Michigan. In the fall, throngs of anglers flock to the area to make advantage of the fall run of trout and salmon that pass through. When it comes to brown trout and steelhead fishing, lone anglers flock to the area in the winter months.
Steelhead spawning are the target of other anglers in the spring. Despite the fact that King Salmon and Chinook salmon are typically found in the Pacific Ocean, they have been stocked in Lake Michigan for the past 30 years. A number of tributary rivers and streams are currently experiencing significant natural reproduction as a result of this.
Largemouth bass records for 22 of the 25 largest largemouth bass have been set in Southern California’s small reservoirs, which have been written about in Bassmaster Magazine for setting 22 of the 25 largest largemouth bass records in history. Although surprising, given the high concentration of groundwater storage facilities in San Diego and Los Angeles, this isn’t entirely unexpected.
While not as heavily stocked as the Diamond Valley Reservoir in Riverside County, the reservoir has been stocked with Rainbow Trout and largemouth bass of the Florida strain. This is what makes bass fishing in Southern California so popular among anglers.
Steelhead have become the most heavily politicized fish on the planet in the Pacific Northwest. The fish are large, beautiful, and elusive, and their populations have declined as a result of overfishing and habitat loss. Even though freshwater trout make for excellent sport fishing, the steelhead is the only fish worth pursuing if you are serious about fishing. Check out our review of the best fishing line for trout fishing.
Steelhead are found in abundance on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, both wild and hatchery-reared.
Winter Rainbow Trout fishing can be had in the San Juan River tailwater below the Navajo Dam near Farmington, New Mexico, where the water temperature is cool enough.
With four-wheel drive vehicles and tire chains, trout anglers should travel to Colorado’s Aspen, Breckenridge, Steamboat, or Vail areas. If you scratch deeply enough, you might be able to find yourself in some sort of flowing water. Regardless of how cold it is outside, that will be where the trout will be consuming some food. Large Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout will gorge on Mysis shrimp that have been transported upstream from the Ruedi Reservoir to feed on the shrimp.