published Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Winter prizes


by Dan Cook
  • photo
    Photo by Dan Cook A bait that Troy Hindman makes himself and calls the "Cross-eyed Rabbit" works well when trolling for Tims Ford Lake stripers, even in winter.

Winter is when many sportsmen climb into tree stands looking for deer. But the season can be a great time for bass, crappie and striper fishing as well.

That’s especially true when the angler prepares well for cold-weather fishing. Using layered clothing and always fishing with a partner are basics.

Jason Tucker, who guides on Weiss Lake and co-owns JR’s Marina at Cedar Bluff, Ala., is among those enjoying year-round fishing. The same is true for Troy Hindman, a guide on Tims Ford Reservoir near Winchester, Tenn.

“This time of year finds 90 percent of the fish in 10 percent of the water,” Tucker said. “Crappies move into the shallows where the sunlight warms the water. Bays are the places to look for them.”

Larger crappies such as the 4-pounders Weiss has been known to produce aren’t common in the colder months, but anglers laud the available 1- to 1 1⁄2-pounders as having better texture for tablefare.

Business was slow at Weiss marinas as winter approached, largely because of the cold rains, but for the angler with cabin fever, it’s a good lake to visit as the water clears. It has had recent good spawns and is stocked heavily during the year. The Weiss Lake Improvement Association annually has a state fish-producing firm place 90,000 crappies in it.

A number of larger bass likewise are caught year-round at Weiss. The same is true at Tims Ford, which has a natural supply of lots of fish.

Veteran angler Hindman finds crappies hitting jigs early and late in the day this time of year. Top crappie catches are occurring around boat docks.

The Tims Lake water was lowered about 14 feet in anticipation of the winter rains. The lower water, as in the case of Weiss and other reservoirs, makes the fish easier to find.

Bass are hitting any bait resembling a crawfish, and some stripers are being caught as well.

Winter fishing is safe only with proper precautions, of course. U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that January and February offer the greatest fatality risk.

The Boat Owners Association of the United States, which likewise has boating safety as one of its prime goals, notes that fewer anglers in winter also mean fewer rescuers around in case of an emergency.

So the advice is to never fish alone and to always leave a float plan with a spouse, other family member or a friend. In case the angler hasn’t arrived home in a reasonable time, someone can call 911 and advise water patrols where to search.

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