WV Wildlife: Wintertime Fishing can yield Big Catches

With water temperatures only in the 30s--which can quickly lead to hypothermia if you fall in--it's a good idea to fish with a buddy during the winter months, or to have a personal flotation device available. (WCHS/WVAH)

In the heart of winter, most of our days are chilly and gray here in West Virginia.

If you love the outdoors, cabin fever may be at an all-time high now--but don't just assume you can't enjoy your hobby anymore.

In fact, fishing this time of the year can be pretty good—even beyond our cold water-loving members of the salmon family.

"Everybody ties winter fishing to trout fishing, but really--that's just a part of it. Winter fishing, to me, is big fish time. It's slower fishing, but it's a time you catch the big fish. The biggest smallmouth of the year is usually caught from now until April. Big Walleye, big Muskie--this is the time to do that", says Mark Scott—a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist.

As for where to fish in the Winter? Scott says places with stronger flow are usually the best.

Like Kanawha Falls in Fayette County for example.

"The Walleye and the Muskie are all running upstream towards spawning grounds, so usually you can get them around locks and dams, falls--places where they congregate", said Scott.

Since the water is cold this time of the year, though, the fish may not be as aggressive--so you will have to change your tactics some to have success. Scott says fishing deep is a good option since the fish are a little more sluggish.

"Weighted worm hooks that don't hang up near as much, and you can fish them slow and crawl them over the bottom. Sometimes you may want a faster retrieve, but typically in the colder water you’ve got to slow it down for them".

Scott says that water temperatures may come up a little bit near creek inlets and also after a few days of sunshine near darker banks; this may allow the fish to become more active, but just be careful for yourself.

"It's cold, and it can be dangerous. I mean, I recommend you always have a buddy to go with. You know, if you fall in this water--it's 32, 34, 36 degrees, whatever it is--that's cold and you're going to get hypothermia really quickly", said Scott.

As long as you put safety first and read through the fishing regulations by our West Virginia DNR, you should have a good day. The fishing pressure this time of the year is lesser, too--so the water should be mostly yours!

"You stand a better chance of catching a bigger fish this time of the year. You know, about all of my personal bests for big fish are caught this time of the year through April", said Scott.

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