Threadfin Shad Kill

As temperatures continue to plummet in the Southeast many lakes are reaching unheard of temperatures. Most fish will hunker down in the deepest portion of the lake and ride out the storm. However, some fish are more susceptible than others.

A key food source that becomes vulnerable in extreme cold is Threadfin shad. Around forty-five degrees is all threadfin can take before they start to die. They will search the depths trying to find suitable water. It’s common for threadfin to suspend in a certain portion of the water column. Whenever visible ice forms on the surface of the lake a shad kill becomes a real possibility. If your lake is small you can make a quick visible inspection to look for dead shad. If your lake is large you can also make a visual inspection but also be on the look out for seagulls or vultures picking off the dying shad.

If a shad kill is seen call our office and place your order for restocking. Shad stockings occur in April and early May. There is a limited amount of shad from suppliers so it’s critical to place your order early. Getting the lake electroshocked to inventory the shad population will show us how your population fared. Some luck out and have a partial kill while others loose the whole population.

Winter Pond Bass Fishing

So far in the Southeast this winter is stacking up to be a dozy. Atlanta has already had 8 inches of panic dropped on her and it’s not even New Years. Many pond owners take this same icy attitude toward their ponds this time of year. However winter pond fishing can be phenomenal if you have a solid game plan. The point of this article is to serve as a general approach to enjoying your pond in the cold months.

The first aspect of bass fishing in winter is all about timing. The days are shorter and colder. Bass know this and adjust their movements accordingly. There is no need to get up at the crack of dawn like we have to do in the summer months. The best times to fish are between 10am to 3pm. These will be the warmest parts of the day making sluggish bass a little less sluggish. An often overlooked time to fish in the winter is during rain or fronts. In Georgia it’s common for the weather to be 10 degrees warmer before and during a front. Pond temps in the high 40s will revieve runoff in the 60s.  The warm runoff draws bass in like magnets. Fishing areas where runoff enters the pond will be key.

Basic Tackle

Tackle this time of year doesn’t have to be super fancy. A 6’6” to 7′ medium heavy bait casting set up will be good for jigs and heavier soft plastic rigs. A 7′ medium spinning rod will handle smaller soft plastics and drop shotting well.

I love jigs!

On to baits and lures! I’m a minimalist at heart and don’t want to lug around four tackle boxes. I carry a small backpack with the essential baits and terminal tackle. Bass will hug the bottom this time of year. Some will suspend as well. Jigs are my favorite lure because you can do many things with them. Bouncing them slowly off the bottom mimicking crayfish is my go to technique. However during those rainy events with warm runoff swimming a jig is a good technique to try. Swimming a jig simply means slowly reeling in the jig similar to a spinner bait. Below are several jig and trailer combinations that are proven.

Brown colored jigs excel in clear water situations
Black and blue is the classic jig color. Does great in dirty or clear water.

The next category of baits that do good in cold water are soft plastics. There are so many options on the soft plastic market today. Similar to jigs I like to keep stuff simple. With the water being cold I don’t fish plastics with lots of movement. I prefer smaller plastics that move very little so no curly tail worms or crazy twin tail trailers.

If you don’t like jigs, soft plastic craws are a great alternative.
Worms should always be near the top. Notice all these have little to no movement. The colors are very translucent because often times the water in winter is very clear. Black should be saved for muddy water. Texas rig these to bounce off the bottom.
More crayfish imitations. The Sweet Beaver is a simple yet effective bait to have in your arsenal. Texas rig these to bounce off the bottom.
Senko is an all time favorite. Like shad colors such as pictured. However blacks and watermelons are also solid choices. Many people over fish these. Simply cast out and let slowly sink. Then lift your rod up slightly. The natural wobble these have do all the work for you.
Some ponds have threadfin shad in them. Threadfin are delicate and sensitive to extreme cold. They will die off if it gets to cold which is unfortunate due to their price. The one upside is bass key in on the dying shad and will gorge themselves. Flukes are great mimics. No weight required. A white trickworm can be useful to show them something they haven’t seen.
Basic rigging for all soft plastics. This keeps hook weedless since point is buried into the soft plastic.

Hooks and weights are simple. A 1/0 to 3/0 hook is all you will need. A small built weight that weighs around 3/16oz is plenty for Texas rigging . So now you know what to fish and when to fish. The last piece of the puzzle is where to fish.

Yes it’s basic.

Most ponds are one to three acres so that means you can cover them very quickly and easily. The red “x’s” are winter time hot spots. Lets start at the dam. The corners of a dam are great fish holding locations because there is a change in bottom contour which allows bass to pin forage.  The standpipe is a structure suspending bass will hold to. Most ponds have a few fallen trees. Fish the trees in deep water and pass on the shallow trees. The row of “x’s” is located on the western side of the lake. The western side will receive the most afternoon sun thus warming quickly. Lastly the inflow pipe will be worth fishing after a warm rain. The warm water draws fish in and also food from the watershed gets funneled into a small area.

Follow these simple tips to put more winter time bass on the end of your line!

 

Winterize your lake or pond

With winter fast approaching, many of our managed lake see a dramatic change in weed density and water clarity.  Just like your Bermuda lawn, most aquatic weeds will turn brown and go dormant for the winter.  Most weeds will seem to be completely gone, but we know from experience that the roots and seeds are quietly biding their time until the sunlight increases and the water temperatures rise. And just like your lawn, treating the young shoots of the aquatic weeds is the easiest way to control them as opposed to letting the weeds become deeply rooted again.

Lake owners will also see the clarity of their lakes increase, sometimes dramatically, during the winter.  Why is that? As the water cools, the natural cycle of phytoplankton is halted, thus clearing the water or its summertime green or brownish color. With this cooling comes slower growth for all animals in the lake, as their bodies try to conserve energy through the winter.   As fishes metabolism slows, you should slow down the rate at which you provide supplemental feeding with your fish feeders to bluegill and/or catfish.

Fish feeders this time of year need to be set for a mid-afternoon feeding and shut down by the time the water temps are consistently in the low 50’s. Now if you feeding cool water fish such as trout, then keep them running.  Just keep in mind you want the fish to consume all of the food in around five minutes. Once turned off. Break down the components of the feeder and clean them well.  Apply lubrication to moving parts.  Thoroughly clean the solar panel.  Put your batteries on a load tester to make sure they are ready for next spring.  Never leave a feeder shutdown for the winter with food in it. Fish food sitting in a feeder that is shut down will lead to corrosion problems.

Winter is also the best time of the year to place fish habitat.  In our work, it is common to find lakes with a lack of protective cover.  This is critical to promote bluegill recruitment which will improve the growth rates of your largemouth bass. You can cut trees and sink them near spawning beds.   Next month, collect all the Christmas trees from your neighbors and sink them in less than 4 feet of water where small fish spend their time.  Also, increase fishing hot spots with placement of trees out in deeper water.

Old ponds that may have sediment buildup can use some dredging.  A silted in pond is not good habitat for spawning and may lead to a muddy lake.  It facilitates aquatic weed and algae growth. Dredging it out means draining the lake and there is no better time to drain the lake for the fish than when cool.

What else could I do this winter for my lake? If you experienced aquatic weeds in the warmer months, stocking grass carp this winter will give your lake a jump-start on the spring growth.

  • The best long-term control of the submersed weeds is stocking grass carp.
  • Grass carp are very effective in controlling submersed grasses and can eat up to 5 times their body weight in one day.

Installing a bottom diffused aeration system can prevent winter turnover fish kills and add beneficial oxygen to the water body.  Aeration systems have also been proven to reduce nutrient levels in the water, stunting weed growth.  Although not a aesthetically pleasing as a fountain, bottom diffused aeration adds more oxygen and actually takes less electricity to operate.

Just because winter is here and normal fishing slows down, you can add rainbow trout to your lake for added action in the winter months.  Trout are cold water fish and are very aggressive in the colder months, and are good tasting and easy to catch.  Supplemental feeding with a fish feeder is recommended for trout.

So don’t give your lake the cold shoulder this winter,  pick a project that will increase your enjoyment of the lake!