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Tips on pond fishing during the winter

Posted: January 29th, 2014 by Bill Dance

Q. Can you give me some tips on fishing ponds in winter?

Bill: Sure. There are jillions of small farm ponds located all across America and the majority receive the heaviest fishin’ pressure from mid-spring to early fall. These times of the year are more pleasant, not only to the fish, but the angler as well. Perhaps the most important reason for the decline in pond fishing activity during the winter is that many fishermen are confused about how to go about it. They know it’s not a favorable time, simply because fish become very inactive during this season.

At this time of year, most anglers lose their desire and confidence and decide to wait ’til spring. However, those who know how fish, like the bass, react can have some fantastic fishing during the long, cold winter months.

Fish in a pond, regardless of size, are by no means at the fisherman’s mercy. Sure, they may be more confined and have less room to move about, but they can be stubborn about striking and winter weather conditions seem to bring out more of their funny nature. Understanding the relationship of the bass to its tiny ice-water habitat is the first consideration.

Bass in ponds must make do with the available space and conditions. They didn’t build the pond, nor did they choose these places to live. If the pond water gets muddy and they want clear water, well, they’ll just have to wait for the water to clear. If the water gets too hot or cold, they must acclimate. In a pond, choices are limited because space is limited.

Weather is the real key that dictates pond fishing success during the winter, and this alone has a major influence on water temperature! Farm ponds differ much in shape and size, but this is normally not an important fact because water temp during the winter in an 8-acre pond won’t vary much from a 2-acre pond as long as the water clarity is the same. The reason is that most ponds are not deep. Most average 6 to 12 feet. Furthermore, you won’t find deeper water in all areas.

In many ponds the water will be about the same depth, graduating very little from the shoreline on out to a moderate, deeper center. If the pond is formed by a dam, you’ll normally find the deepest water there. Here, dirt was removed to construct the dam. Naturally, if the pond has a submerged channel or ditch, you’ll find deeper water there than in the surrounding area.

Speaking of weather having a major influence on a pond, air temp has a more drastic effect on a pond than on a large reservoir. This is why small bodies of water cool quicker and warm faster. You may locate shallow fish one day after several warm nights and days, but let a cold front blow in with strong cold north winds, and the party is over quickly.

During the winter, you have from three to four more low-light or dark hours than you have bright hours. Therefore, the cooling time is greater. This is why warm nights are so critical in warming the shallows. The greatest warming effect occurs normally from noon to mid-afternoon, then begins cooling down again only if the weather is stable.

Let me tell you, when water temperatures drop into the low 40s, all comfort diminishes … food intake is less, feeding times are briefer and less often and they prefer to strike smaller lures than larger ones. Like I said earlier, bass that live in our larger lakes with deeper water have choices.

But in a small pond, choices are far more limited. They’ve gotta accept what’s available, but they will bite if presented the right lure with the correct presentation.

During the winter, a farm pond can turn on big time. All it takes are a couple of warm days and nights warming the shallow areas only a few degrees above the general volume of the pond. Two or three degrees will bring small minnows and baitfish floating to the surface and to the shallows to take advantage of the warmer layers of water. Naturally predator fish, like the bass, follow.

There are, of course, differences in pond types that influence where bass will be. A large run-off pond with a big dam may have an exceptionally large trough from where dirt was removed to construct the dam. This trough can hold the largest concentrations of fish during the coldest weather. Now, run-off ponds that are scooped out will naturally have deep water only in the middle of the basin and are very difficult to fish without a boat. Often, deep areas of a pond will remain a bit warmer than the surface when it’s extremely cold and fish will bunch up there.

As always, catch one for me!

Bill Dance



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