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Pondering how recent cold weather affected area fishing

Published 10:56pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So, what will all this cold weather do to the fishing? That’s a good question.

If I could know the answers to such a question with a surety, I could make a hefty paycheck. That being said, you can still make some educated guesses of what may or may not happen.

A big factor in predicting fish habits is predicting what their prey will do.

The most common prey of fish of any species is baitfish. The most predominate baitfish in our local lakes is Gizzard shad, followed by Threadfin shad, Blueback Herring and sunfish.

Gizzard shad are native to most of the eastern half of the country. They are a fast growing baitfish and reach an average of 8-12 inches. They are easily identified when they reach full size by the forked tail. You will many times see them swimming around in circles with other Gizzard shad.

Gizzard shad are a little better suited to handle cold winters, but even at that they still can die off from severe cold fronts and low water temps.

Threadfin shad are in the same family as Gizzard shad, but do not grow as fast. These tasty morsels for fish don’t handle cold snaps as good and die off in larger numbers.

The Town of Lake Lure stocked a large number of Threadfin in 2013, and while this helped the fishing, its likely many of them will die off during this cold winter.

Blueback herring are present in many larger reservoirs in the area like Lake Hartwell and many others. This saltwater baitfish must be high in protein since most lakes they are present in have good concentrations of bigger fish.

Herring have a downside in that they seem to have something in them that make male Walleye sterile. Many an uneducated, know-it-all angler have illegally introduced them into lakes to “help” the spotted bass population, and have ruined the Walleye population probably for good. Lake Fontana is a prime example of this.

The trusty ole sunfish are a favorite of fish in the warmer months.

Bream and Bluegill fry are high on the menu when the water warms. These fish seem to handle cold snaps very well and are not overly affected by harsh winters.

So what does this all add up to?

More than likely the fish will be foraging wider to make up for the shad die off. This “could” make for better fishing in late February and March when fish creep up shallower and food is less abundant.

Fish will be deeper until then, feeding on the baitfish that are holding in the depths to withstand the cold. Bass may be feeding more on crawfish and bluegill to make up for the missing shad.

Don’t fret too much, there should still be plenty of shad, die offs from cold fronts happen very often, even a mild cold front causes a die off. One of the best springs I can remember was after a very cold winter, so I guess we’ll see.

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