The change of the season is upon us. The deep freeze has begun strengthening its grip on the landscape. With the change in weather comes the need to adjust and change with the season. The days of 85 degree weather are in the past. Here in Upstate New York the cold has set in earlier than normal, the 30 degree high came as early as October. I was not expecting to have my rod guides or waders be frozen so soon, but I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. For everyone else getting closed in on the winter weather, don’t let it keep you from getting out on the water. I have some winter tips for you that will help you have fun and stay safe on the water this winter.
- Wear wool. Especially wool socks. In the event of you getting wet, wool will keep you warm even if you are soaking wet. Given the event your feet get wet the wool socks will keep your feet warm and keep you on the water for a couple more casts.
- Wear layers. The weather can change fast and it’s nice to be able to adjust your clothing for the temperatures. Also, after a nice bushwhack to your favorite spot, it’s nice to take off a layer or two to prevent yourself from sweating and eventually getting cold.
- Put some Chapstick on the guides of your rod. Putting Chapstick on the guides will prevent them from freezing after a couple of casts. The Chapstick won’t keep your guides unfrozen the whole day, but it will give you a little time without having to de-ice your rod after every other cast.
- Bring a wading staff. The wading staff should be used to probe the snow at the banks of the water. Snow can sometimes curl over the water or be supported by thin ice. This snow and ice should be checked before being walked out on. Falling in and getting wet in the winter can be deadly.
- Don’t wade if you don’t have to. Along with falling in due to unstable banks and ice, a little slip on a rock while wading could be deadly. Hypothermia can take hold in minutes. Refer to tip one because wearing wool could save your life. Examine the river carefully before going in. Bring a wading staff to help keep your balance and check the water ahead for obstacles. A good rule of thumb is to never wade somewhere that you have not already waded in the summer. Additionally, it doesn’t matter how good your waders are, or how many layers you are wearing- you will get cold standing in 45 degree water eventually. Fishing from the bank is safer and warmer. Being warmer means you be able to stay out longer.
- The sun is your friend. A cold day is a lot warmer when you are standing in the sunshine. On cold days avoid the shady spots if you can help it, or wait to go fishing when you know your spot will be in the sun.
- Use a plastic or rubber net. After netting your first fish of the day with a fabric net it will freeze solid while it’s on your back. If and when you land your second fish, you will have a hell of a time netting it because your net is frozen together. A plastic or rubber net will keep its shape all the time and will be ready to use when you have a fish on. Be sure to wet the net and bang off any ice that maybe on the net to prevent the fish’s protective slime or scales from being removed.
- Don’t handle a fish while wearing gloves. I know it’s winter and the water is cold but handling a fish with gloves on will remove its protective slim which will bruise and scar the fish. So before you handle a fish remove just remove your gloves to protect the fish.
- Know your local fishing restrictions. Be sure to check your local fishing regulations before you go out for the day. Many lakes, rivers and streams close fishing for the winter but some allow for fishing all year. Double check the restrictions before you go out to prevent getting a ticket from the DEC and to help conserve the local waters. Those restrictions are in place to protect and preserve the fishing in that area.
The winter can deliver just as good of fishing as the summer, however the winter provides its challenges. Follow these steps and I’m sure you will have fun and be safe on the water this winter. Have fun out there.
By: Austin Benincasa