No need to abandon fishing during the winter

No need to abandon fishing during the winter

One week it’s snowing, and the next temperatures are in the upper 60 degrees.

Lower temperatures in Texas doesn’t always mean a day fishing has to be put on hold, though enjoying the sport during the winter requires a few different reminders. Winter months may even mean fewer distractions to the fish as those who normally take to the water to swim, jet ski or float are hibernating their summer activities. 

But that’s above water. What’s happening below the surface is what matters to those ready to cast a line.

BRA GM/CEO David Collinsworth, left

“Fish are cold-blooded, exothermic, so their internal body temperature very much resembles the temperatures of their environment. For that reason, fish in the winter can become lethargic and hard to catch. But, they still feed and can certainly be caught,” said David Collinsworth, Brazos River Authority General Manager/CEO and avid fisherman. “The other challenge to wintertime fishing is the seasonal change in water quality. Beginning in late spring and ending in late fall, the deeper waters in Texas reservoirs start to experience reduced dissolved oxygen, so fish populations become limited to the more oxygenated waters (usually less than 30-ft deep by late summer). But in the winters, the colder waters mix oxygen throughout the reservoir, making those deep areas more accessible. So, in the winter, fish have more room to roam and ultimately spread out.”

Takeaway? Slow down and be more patient. 

“Many anglers simply stop fishing in the winter,” Collinsworth said. “My next bit of advice: Go fishing. Many of the largest fish, bass, catfish, and striped bass are caught during the winter months.”

Lake Limestone

While summer crowds are gone, take advantage of less-crowded parks by visiting an unfamiliar waterway. Take a kid, too, Collinsworth said. 

“It’s critical to the further of sport,” he said.

Lake Limestone, located on the upper Navasota River in Limestone, Robertson and Leon counties, offers some of the best fishing of any central Texas lake, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Located 15 miles southeast of Groesbeck, this off-the-beaten-path reservoir presents anglers a chance at largemouth bass between February and April.

According to the Jan. 6 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Fishing Report, at Lake Limestone largemouth bass are slow on plastic finesse worms, crankbaits, and skirted jigs along ledges, creek channels, and off rocky shorelines. Meanwhile, White bass are fair with jigging spoons and slabs, crappie are slow on minnows around ledges, brush piles, and submerged timber and catfish are slow on punch bait and cut bait.

When choosing a location at the reservoir, know there are man-made fish homes, or habitats, popular to fish near. Placed in late 2019, these habitats were set with hopes they will attract fish to a particular area. Twenty-five of these structures were added in five areas of the Brazos River Authority’s Lake Limestone as part of a joint project between the BRA and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. 

When a reservoir sees a decrease in water levels, fish habitats are stranded out of water. To help prevent that loss during future droughts, habitats were placed in deeper areas of each reservoir to help preserve them when lake levels drop. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries Division Waco District Team constructed the habitats placed in Lake Limestone. And you can find the coordinates of those locations here so you know exactly where to enjoy a day fishing. 

Lake Limestone’s flooded timber and abundance of aquatic vegetation offer cover for largemouth and white bass as well as crappie and catfish. The reservoir offers four parks with primitive camping and picnic facilities and four boat ramps for lake access. No matter what’s caught at a BRA reservoir, all species are currently managed under statewide regulations.

Lake Limestone

Don’t forget to pick up after yourself as well. 

“With the pandemic, more people than ever before are using our lakes. It shows,” Collinsworth said. “Please, do all you can to not leave fishing line or any trash behind for Mother Nature to deal with.”

Something new, something old

The winter is also a good time in Texas to try to catch something new. 

Rainbow trout for a limited time have been stocked throughout the Brazos River Basin.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is in the middle of its annual release of rainbow trout. These fish prefer cooler water and are not believed to reproduce in the wild in most of the state, so they are released each winter. Locations are still being stocked through March. There’s no minimum length limit to catch these rainbow trout and a daily bag limit of five. 

Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s stocking schedule here, along with tips on catching these fish. 

One of the most important things to remember about fishing during the winter months is the temperature.

“Realize it’s always colder on the lake than in your garage,” Collinsworth said. “Always have extra clothes in case you get wet. Mother Nature can be ruthless, so be sure to understand the weather you will be experiencing. With weather updates at the touch of a smartphone button, cold fronts with high winds should no longer be a surprise.”

Accidents do happen, and it’s vital to be prepared prior to leaving for a trip. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends anyone on the water during cold months remember the 1-10-1 rule.

•    1 – You have one minute after being submerged in water to get your breathing under control and realize what has happened. If breathing isn’t controlled immediately, the possibility of drowning drastically increases. This is often referred to as the body’s response to “cold water shock.”

•    10 – After gaining your awareness, there are 10 minutes of meaningful movement to help someone self-recover. After ten minutes, it’s likely the cold-water temperatures will cause a loss of dexterity in fingers and arms, lessening the ability to recover yourself.

•    1 – There is approximately one hour until hypothermia will set in, and someone could become unconscious.

Safety tips during the summer continue during the winter months.

On any adventure, always file a float plan so someone knows where you are. Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Always maintain situational awareness.

And never, ever boat under the influence. 

The safety of everyone depends on advanced and basic safety measures.

For a free physical map of any BRA reservoir, email information@brazos.org with your physical mailing address.