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Fishing is a year-round obsession. Spring, summer, and fall offer opportunities to catch a wide variety of species in both freshwater and saltwater. Winter is no different for anglers in much of the country and throughout the more tropical parts of our planet. For fishermen in the Southern States of the U.S., wintertime fishing can produce the biggest catches of the year.

Montauk Striped Bass with Captain Tom

Main Advantages of Winter Fishing

Fishing during the winter has several advantages over fishing during the peak spring and summer seasons. The crowds of boaters enjoying the warm weather are typically gone. This makes finding a good fishing spot a lot easier. Also, most lodging is more affordable in the winter than during the peak warm weather season. Of course, the opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime is the primary reason that most fishermen take to the water during the winter months.

(1. Bigger Fish

For many types of fishing, the numbers of fish available to catch during the winter does go down. For example, some inshore saltwater species may migrate offshore to deeper waters. In freshwater, the cooler water temperatures may make some species slow down and eat less frequently. However, whatever dips there may be in the number of fish during winter, the size of the fish that you can catch typically increases.

Two prime targets for winter fishermen include speckled trout along the Gulf Coast and largemouth bass in lakes across the southern half of the United States. For largemouth bass, the spawn and pre-spawn periods offer the opportunity to catch the heaviest bass of the year. In many Southern States, the spawn and pre-spawn months occur during the late winter months. The Lake Fork record largemouth bass weighed over 18 pounds and was caught in late January.

For anglers targeting trophy-sized speckled trout, November through March seems to be the time that the majority of specks weigh more than at any other time of the year. Somehow, the speckled trout also seem to grow in average length during the winter months as well. Several previous record-setting speckled trout have been caught in Baffin Bay in early February. In North Carolina, an angler set a new state record for speckled trout in February 2022.

Even with some offshore species, the chance to catch a big fish increases in winter. The biggest red snapper will stay far offshore in deeper Federal waters during the heat of summer, but these giant snappers will move into closer, shallower waters when the water temperatures get cool enough. At most fishing destinations along the Gulf Coast, the chances of catching the best fish of the year occur during the winter months.

(2. Less Boat Traffic

Some fishing destinations are more popular than others. During a warm weather holiday weekend, it may be difficult to find a fishing spot away from the crowds. In the winter, you and your fishing companions may have your favorite fishing spots all to yourselves. With more fishing spots available, your chances of finding a productive fishing hole will increase.

Boat traffic can cause other issues. Sometimes, the fish may stop biting for a while when a careless boater drives too close to where you are casting. That is less likely to happen in the winter. There are fewer boats in general, and the boats that are on the water are more likely to be professional fishing guides and other experienced boaters.

(3. Comfortable Weather

For many Southern States, winters are generally mild. Although there is always a chance of a cold front moving through the area, the chances are just as good that you could go fishing with comfortable temperatures in the 60s or higher. Because the weather is hit or miss in the winter, you should plan your fishing trip to last three or four days to increase your chances of being on the water during the best days of the week.

Even if you end up fishing on one of the colder days, the proper clothing can protect you from the elements. Anytime the temperatures are ten degrees or more above freezing, you should be able to stay warm with the proper gear and clothing. It is amazing how catching a few big fish will keep you warm and happy throughout the day regardless of the temperature outside.

(4. Discount Lodging

Hotels, motels, and rental properties at waterfront locations are almost always higher priced during the summer. These peak season prices can be twice as much or more than the discounted prices available during the winter. Availability is also increased, and you will have a much better chance of finding suitable lodging at an affordable rate if you fish during the winter.

The lower crowds also mean that other businesses will have more availability. Getting a table at the popular local restaurants can be nearly impossible during the summer months, but those same restaurants usually have plenty of tables for fishermen during the offseason of winter.

(5. Sleeping Late

The winter days are shorter, and the sun doesn’t come up until a little later in most areas. For anglers who feel compelled to be on the water at first light, winter may be your only chance to sleep a little later. More importantly, the fish may need a little time to warm up in the winter. Often the afternoons are the most productive time to fish during winter because the water has warmed and the fish are more active.

Bonus Reason: Cast and Blast

If you didn’t already have enough reasons to go fishing this winter, then one more reason to enjoy winter fishing is the chance to go on a combo fishing and hunting trip. Winter is also duck season, and this is the time of year when many outdoor adventurers enjoy a morning duck hunt combined with an afternoon of fishing.

Just because the temperature drops, it does not mean the fish quit biting. There are many advantages to winter fishing including smaller crowds and often bigger fish. With the proper winter clothes, it is possible to remain comfortable outdoors in many locations even on colder days. Winter is a great time to enjoy some time on the water, and at Captain Experiences we offer access to a number of professional fishing guides who want to help you have a successful winter fishing excursion.