The Wintertime Blues!

I could never understand how so many people with so many boats could merely just, "put them to bed" over the winter.  At least, that was one of my first thoughts when we originally moved to Sicamous, B.C..  It wasn't until spending a couple of winters here that I finally came to the realization that, there just were that many fanatical anglers in the area!!  It would appear that the majority of anglers, in this area anyways, are what you'd call fair weather fisherman, don't want to be bothered with frozen line guides and motors that don't run properly, or having to clean snow off the boat, blah blah blah!  If they only knew what they were missing!!

I don't think there could be a more pristine time to be on a lake than in the winter, especially when you frequent a lake such as Shuswap Lake that is invaded by............lets just call them tourists for now, all summer long.  To actually go to the boat launch and be the only one there in itself is a treat, but get out onto the lake and your favourite spots, and the time becomes even more special!  No houseboats trying to run you over, no jet skis running over lines, no power boats racing by you at 50 mph within 30' of your boat, its just you and what you love to do, fish!  In winter, there is more than just trying to catch fish that's challenging, and it is all a part of fishing.  Sure, sweeping the snow off your boat every day (as it was this year for a while!) can be a pain, things frozen that need thawing out, a boat launch that isn't kept plowed, maybe having to put chains on the truck to use the boat launch that isn't plowed, all these things add up to the impending adventure out onto the lake.

Once out on the lake I have found that the fishing itself also becomes a big adventure, as the fish have changed depths and feeding attitudes, right along with the water temperature change.  Its not uncommon for the surface temp to get below freezing on some days, and I have to admit that even I shy away from fishing activities on such days.  When your line guides have to be constantly cleaned to allow just reeling in, or when the downrigger pulleys continually seize up from ice, there comes a point when enough is enough.  However, for you whiners out there, these kinds of days in the Southern Interior are in fact few and far between, so your excursions out can be planned ahead of time.  If you frequent some of the fishing Forums (FishBC) like I do, you'll quickly find who are the whiners and who are the real fisherman.  Guys constantly saying "I can't wait until spring!" and, "I'm so bored having to sit around, I can't wait for summer!", for God's sake, its only December, break out a rod and hit a river or do some shore fishing for whitefish or something!  Mind you, if everyone were as fanatical about fishing as I am, my pristine lake would no longer be pristine in the winter, would it!

For those of you that do fish year round, read on to find out what I do to get into a few fish during my time of year, the whiners, well, go warm up that couch again and watch some re-runs of summer fishing shows!  Although I  primarily guide on Shuswap Lake I do guide on a few of the other "big lakes" and manage to fish them as well during the winter, road conditions and launch conditions permitting.  I do have in fact a few other fishing fanatics just south of me that also fish year round, so we keep in touch with reports and even try to get together for a few mini derbies if possible.  On Shuswap Lake, I still stick to the same favourite fishing areas as I would in the summer, the only difference on this lake is that the fish tend to move closer to the surface as the temperatures drop.  I'm not going to get into fishology or biology on what fish think and eat and all that scientific stuff, I'll leave that to the appropriately educated persons that have been schooled in such things, of which I am not one!  What I do know about fish though is this, they do in fact eat all winter long!  That's right, they do have to eat, so just because you got skunked a few times out doesn't mean they've gone the Jenny Craig route and are holding back on the grits, they will have a feed on.  The problem I have found in winter is that their eating times tend to be more sporadic  than in summer, so its the old adage "right place right time" that will assist you in getting the fish.  What this means is simply, where you caught fish in summer, you'll probably get them in the winter too, it just may take more time on the lake to do so.  On a lake such as Shuswap there is another hurdle that befuddles some anglers as well, the fact that it is a single barbless no bait lake, tends to keep anglers away, and that's good for me!

 Trolling the same areas as I do in summer, I look for fish marking, and then will fish that depth.  If I don't pick up fish at any depths in areas that normally would show fish, I go closer to the surface with my gear.  Winter time can be prime time for pulling "hair" as they call it, also known as bucktails, right on the surface and at speeds as fast as 4-6 mph!  What I have seen though, is that anglers tend to stick to this one type of fishing "just because", and do nothing else, and then wonder why they never even got a bite.  I'll tell you why, lack of variety!  Although fish do eat in these frigid waters, their eating habits do change and I think they get lazy in how they attack their food fish.  Therefore, sometimes a slower troll is better than the warp 9.9 factor, simply because the fish does not want to expend more energy than it has to.  While there are times I do try the "hair", I don't stick to that and in fact for myself have had better luck on spoons pulled right on the surface than the bucktails.  I'd even go further with that and say that in winter, spoons probably take more than 50% of the fish I catch, that includes rainbows, Lakers and bull trout.  Every lake is of course different though, as with Okanagan, which does not have the char in it, the primary catch is in fact rainbows.  The size of the spoon can vary greatly as well, especially in a lake system that holds lake trout, which although maybe not as spunky as the rainbow, can hold their own in a fight when it comes to the bigger sizes.  These fish have no problem gobbling down the largest Canoe spoon you can throw at them, whether the fish is 3 lbs or 30 lbs, they are voracious eaters!  The rainbow on the other hand, can be much fussier, some days taking that huge spoon or, targeting a little 2" Kroc, variety is the key.

Different spoons have different actions, so I keep a good selection of them and change them up at least every half hour, no bites, time to change.  The best speed for the spoon depends on its action, so check it beside the boat before letting out 300yds of line and then wonder why your not getting any bites.  Some spoons such as the Len Thompson are excellent at just about any speed, while the thinner spoons such as a Coyote lose their action and just go in a straight line and don't do anything, which sometimes works as well! 

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