During spring, summer and early fall, fishing is a breeze. The weather is warm, the days are long, the boat ramps are open and the fish are (usually) eager to forage. Pack enough food and water, and you can easily spend an entire day on the water.
Winter fishing, on the other hand, is a different animal. The weather is cold, the days are shorter and darker, and a successful fishing trip requires a lot more effort. Even the best-laid plans can get snowed under, or washed out by an unexpected ice melt.
As tempting as it might be to keep your fishing gear stored away and watch Netflix all winter, there’s a lot of quality fishing to be had. From steelhead and trout in the rivers to fat rainbows and panfish through the ice, the rewards of cold-weather fishing can be well worth the extra effort. As you plan your next trip, here are some handy wintertime tools:
Waterproof gloves: One of the keys to staying comfortable in the cold is keeping your hands warm. Tying your knots and baiting your hooks almost always requires going barehanded for a minute, but waterproof gloves really help when it comes to handling wet fish. You can get a good pair for about $30.
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Ice cleats: If you’ve ever gone ice fishing, chances are you’ve taken a few spills. Ice cleats come in a variety of styles, but most can be strapped over any shoe or boot. The metal spikes will help you grip the ice and avoid bruising your elbows — or your ego — with awkward falls. They are useful on the river, too, especially if you are climbing steep banks covered with snow and ice. Decent pairs start around $20.
Rod holders: In the summer, I’m not a huge fan of leaving my fishing pole in a rod holder unless it’s a second pole loaded with catfish bait. But when it’s cold out, hands-free fishing helps keep your fingers warm. Holders come in most handy for ice fishing. They make it easier to detect a bite and keep your pole from getting frozen in the ice and slush around your fishing hole. Metal and plastic varieties start at just a few bucks.
Hand warmers: Winter outdoorsmen are familiar with these little life-savers. The standard shake-up packets are just a few bucks apiece and it’s money well spent. You can slip them into your gloves and boots or into your pockets. They even make stick-on versions for your feet. Never leave home without a handful.
I’m planning an ice fishing excursion for this weekend and our group will be well stocked with equipment to stave off the elements. If the fishing is good, we’ll be able to enjoy it for longer. If it’s slow, we’ll be prepared to stick it out until the bite picks up.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.