Snow is blowing across much of Kentucky right now, and forecasters predict we won’t crest the freezing mark for a while.
While this week’s Arctic winds are making life more difficult now, our current conditions should make for better fishing in the future.
“This cold snap will help the float-and-fly pattern for smallmouth bass,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Once water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, shad — especially threadfin shad — get stressed and start to die. The float-and-fly presentation perfectly mimics a shad or other baitfish in distress.”
The float-and-fly technique requires an 8- to 11- foot fishing rod, and a small craft hair jig or duck feather jig suspended 8 to 14 feet beneath a bobber. This presentation is one of the most effective ways to catch winter smallmouth bass since the advent of the vibrating blade bait.
Smallmouth bass in reservoirs learn to suspend near schools of shad so they can pick off those baitfish struggling to survive the winter. With help from waves on the water or manipulation by the angler, the small jig twitches and quivers almost in place, just like those besieged shad.
The cold-water stress on shad will also improve the fishing in the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland.
“All of those distressed shad and alewives coming through the dam and into the Cumberland River will help the trout, walleye and sauger,” Buynak said. “The fishing below Wolf Creek Dam should be really good over the next couple of months.”
Mother Nature thinning the numbers of shad with this recent cold blast holds another benefit for fishing later this year.
When shad numbers contract after a cold winter, the survivors respond with strong reproduction in the spring. “Shad are very fertile,” said Ron Brooks, director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They respond and reproduce well after a cold winter.”
This means food for predator fish such as bass, walleye, white bass and crappie will be not only be abundant, but also a beneficial size for fish.
“The shad will be smaller because there will be many more young ones,” Brooks said. “They are more vulnerable to being eaten when smaller. The predator fish should be in a better condition.”
Bass, crappie or other predator fish feed with abandon when they sense conditions are in their favor. That is a good situation for an angler. This may be a good year to pare down the size of your lures in general. Try throwing lures that imitate small shad, such as spoons, smaller lipless crankbaits and in-line spinners.
Don’t despair because of the cold. Once nature takes its course, it should make for better fishing later in the year.