Don’t put the ’yak up for the winter
While many anglers across the country are forced to put their kayaks in storage to wait out months of icy weather, Louisiana anglers have no such problem.
In fact, judging by the record high temperatures in late October and early November, sun tan lotion might be more of a necessity than a warm hat and a pair of gloves.
But Louisiana’s version of winter fishing is sure to arrive at some point. The good news is that with no closed fishing seasons and only a few icy days occurring each year, there’s no need to put away the kayaks. With proper preparation and a few changes in tactics, anglers can have some great days on the water during the coldest months of the year.
The foremost factor for winter fishing is safety. Cold temperatures and water can be a recipe for disaster. Kayaks offer no protection from brutally cold winter winds and, by the boats’ nature, you will get wet.
Being exposed to cold wind and water are the two main causes of hypothermia, which can cause serious health risks, including death. Select clothing that provides protection from both the wind and the water. Simple things like the drip of a paddle can wet your legs and make fishing uncomfortable, if not unhealthy.
Extra clothing carried in a dry bag literally can be a life saver if you get really wet. Gloves, hats, socks and footwear should also be waterproof.
Staying dry means staying warm.
Depth finders for most coastal fishing during warm weather are really unnecessary. Most kayakers are fishing areas where they can tell the depth by either seeing the bottom or sticking their paddle a couple of feet under the water.
However, electronics can be extremely useful when water temperatures drop enough to send fish into deep holes and along drop-offs. So learn to read your unit and you can find concentrations of fish holding in these areas.
When water temperatures drop, fish congregate in deeper areas, and limits can often be caught without moving from spot to spot. In these conditions, slowly work live, Carolina-rigged cocahoes or tight-lined plastics up from the middle of deep bayous or dead-end canals.
Other methods, such as drift fishing, are productive and easily accomplished in a kayak. Light winds are all that is needed to move the kayak along.
Try tight-lining a plastic tail on a jighead as you slowly drift across a lagoon or bay. Downsize the jighead to just enough weight to keep it bouncing on the bottom, but not so heavy as to continually hang up.
You will often pick up a few fish on each drift, and you can quietly paddle back to where you started and do it over and over again.
If the wind is moving you too quickly, a small drift sock or bucket with some holes in it will slow you down.
Trolling is quite similar to drifting, but it can be used on days when there is no wind to keep you moving. Vary your paddling/pedaling speed in conjunction with the water depth and lure weight to keep the baits slowly bouncing along.
In larger bodies of water, the fish might be located just outside of your travel path. While trolling or drifting with one or two rods set in holders, additional hook-ups can be had by casting a popping cork from side to side of the kayak.
You can then adjust your route to drag baits through areas where fish are holding.
Don’t work the lure as aggressively as you would in the summer. Oftentimes, the fish will hit a plastic tail under a popping cork while it’s sitting dead still in the water. Adjusting the depth of the cork so the bait sits near the bottom keeps it in the strike zone and helps avoid snags.
Drifting and trolling are productive because they bring the bait to the fish. Wintertime fish won’t expend too much energy chasing down a meal, but if one is dragged past their noses, they often cannot resist.
So remember to keep your speed extremely slow.
Winter bites are often subtle. Set the hook anytime your line feels a bit different. If it feels heavy, what you think might be grass or a snag could be a fish.
When covering an area, make controlled passes so you can repeat a successful path or eliminate unproductive tracks. An area that seems barren of fish could be holding the mother lode just a few yards over one way or the other.
Dress right and change your techniques, and cold winter days can provide some hot kayak fishing.