Photos by Harrison Sutcliffe

Winter Smallmouth Fishing

It’s hard to imagine fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kings River when temperatures read 33 degrees with a light snow falling. It’s only for the super patient, knowledgeable and well equipped angler to maybe get one to two strikes during a fishing expedition. In winter, most anglers prefer the warmth of a warm fire next to their fly tying gear while dreaming of a summertime of wading in shorts and wearing t-shirts. However, if you have the fever and you are a hardcore fisherman and must brave the elements, here are a few Riverman tips for winter fishing. 

Tip #1- Fish don’t eat in the winter is a myth! They still get hungry just like you and I. Their heart rate slows and they conserve energy by being as still as possible but they still eat. 

Tip#2- Throw them something worth while. A meal not a snack. A hairy jig and pig or soft plastic lizard placed in front of their nose will make them pay attention. They are living off of fat reserves from the fall, but I promise they will not resist their favorite river taunts from the summer. (It’s similar to walking past the taffy machine at the candy store in Eureka Springs. Put it in front of my face and I’m gonna eventually have to have a piece.)

Tip#3- Be patient. You may only get one or two strikes the whole trip. (Ugh. That’s when you remind yourself it’s not about catching fish right?) Sometimes you might not get any bites whatsoever. Don’t be discouraged even if the river looks like a “ghost river” with no movement of fish as far as the eyes can see. They are there. I promise. 

Tip#4- Find slow moving deeper pools of water with structure. They will be hiding deep and usually under a rock or log for their long winter nap. You will not see them patrolling the shallows like they do in the summer. 

Tip#5- Winter fish for the beauty and experience. There is a good chance you won’t catch anything but the calmness and beauty of the winter surroundings and the sound of water is peaceful and tranquil. 

Tip#6- Dress appropriately. Hypothermia is no joke. Take precautions by packing dry gear in case you get wet. Know your exit strategy and always let someone know where you will be and what time to expect you back. 

The Kings River is beautiful all year around whether you are catching fish or not. Winter time makes it a little tougher to be on the river, but imagine a float down the beautiful Kings with snow on the ground and covering the trees with icicles hanging from the bluffs. We are so lucky to have this beautiful extraordinary water resource in our own back yard no matter what the season. Tight lines! 

We all live downstream…