The Types of Fish to Go After in the Winter

Ice fishing rod and reel

The experienced angler knows full well that changing your fishing style can sometimes be the only option when it comes to landing fish consistently. And, in colder weather, that becomes even more important.

All species of fish can be stubborn, elusive, and sometimes outright sneaky. We can’t be too mad, that’s their job. However, it’s OUR job to catch ‘em anyway. Here are a few of the fish that become better targets throughout the colder, winter months.

The Classic Perch

Perch, while smaller in size, remain active and aggressive during the cold season. These fish are popular panfish, and catching multiples is always a plus. Focusing your efforts on deeper areas with a soft floor is key.

If on hard-water, fishing through ice is also a fine approach! Try using small, live bait such as worms while jigging for the best results.

The Elusive Northern Pike

Winter fishing concept. Pike fish on ice hole on snow.
Image from Getty

Contrary to the tendencies of cold-blooded fish, Northern Pike are typically just as aggressive during even the coldest of months. These fish are always on the hunt and can be found in just about all of North America’s river systems and lakes.

When selecting what style of bait to use, remember that live bait emits more attractants for the fish to pick up on, which can be especially helpful when their system has slowed down a bit. That said, pike won’t often turn down artificial bait either! 

Time for Trout

Winter Outdoor Trout Canada Cold Lake Ice Fishing

Don’t make it too hard on yourself! Trout of all kinds tend to actually prefer colder water, and operate at full capacity.

Their metabolism helps, as it slows down in the cold, which helps keep them highly active as hunters. Traditional trout methods are perfectly fine here; they are still their tenacious selves! 

Wiley Walleye

Go Angling Episode 3

The king of the winter, though, has to be the Walleye. Found across all of the waterways of the midwest, this fish is the most aggressive in the cold. With such a widespread population, walleye can be fished for a number of effective ways.

Anglers can slow-drag a jig and plastic combo through unfrozen water, and even set lines during hard-water excursions which work well. Fortunately, there are options. Unfortunately, the walleye is still a walleye, and you may end up working a few methods to land your trophy.

General Tips

Fishing reel in very cold weather.
Image from Getty

Remember, fish are generally a bit lazy in the cold. When selecting bait, focus on smaller, slow-moving lures, even for your larger targets. A fish’s metabolism changes with the temperature and even the largest fish prefer smaller meals during the cold.

Live bait is best, as the fish are able to smell this despite the cold, but lures can still maintain their effectiveness when chosen with purpose. Select lures which feature attachments like hair or feathers, which maintain action in low temperatures, and use something that has the potential to attract a variety of fish.

Fish are known to feed just before cold fronts come in, so plan accordingly. If you are on the lake ahead of the front, you’ll be on the fish!

Have a need for a new lure, rod, or reel? Gander has you covered. Check out all of our fishing gear on sale now! We have some great markdowns on all sorts of fishing equipment whether you’re going after fish during these colder months or plan to wait until spring.

The types of fish to go after in the winter


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