Winter fishing is something not too many people would consider an appealing day out. This may be due to cold, wind swept seas that come to the imagination when one thinks about the winter months. Some days this is true, but on rare occasions, the skies open up to reveal the hidden sun on a backdrop of blue skies.
The immediate warmth that can be felt on cold hands is the most welcome feeling when it has been missing for a while. When these days come about I grab the opportunity with an extended anticipation to have the fishing rod in my hands targeting the colder water species that present themselves at this time of the year. There are a number of species that can be caught and not only variety, but quality fish can be thrown into the mix.
As the water temperature drops many of the more favored species of fish targeted head out to deeper water or carry on with their migratory patterns which they follow each year. This does not mean that I pack my rods away and wait till next year to fish in the sea. The colder water brings with it a variety of fish that can be targeted. Some quality fishing can be had if the effort is put in place and the right tactics are applied.
I generally fish the deeper water marks in the colder months of the year and it is really a mixed bag of fish that can be caught. Codling are present over rough ground which are accompanied by other species such as Ling, Coalfish and Pouting. This is not to say that associated summer species cannot be caught. I catch good numbers of Wrasse in the winter. I have also come across Mackeral all through the winter. So it is really a day of general fishing and sticking to simplified rigs. This is what I choose to do and it allows me to cover all the various species that are about. There is a good number of flatfish such as Dab that can be caught over a sandy bottom which are often accompanied by Gurnards.
For tackle at this time of year, I try to fish as light as I can. I find it more enjoyable and sporting. I always carry a spinning rod with a fixed spool loaded with braid. I catch quite a few bigger fish like this and catching small fish with this set up is a bit of fun. I also carry a light 20lb class boat rod with a multiplier. I use this rod for bigger baits but it's more about the bait and rigs when fishing this time of year.
Bait is of a high priority for me. I will always try to have the freshest bait with me and it is yet to prove me wrong. I like to have fresh Lugworm with me as this bait will attract most species that lurk down deep. Codling love them and wrasse devour them. Flatfish are always willing to take a Lugworm bait. If I don't have Lugworm with me I will try use any fresh fish bait that is available. I also buy bait from my local tackle store as strips of frozen Mackeral will catch any smaller fish and also tempt bigger fish that may be in the area. Razorfish is another good all round bait that has produced some good fish for me.
When fishing deeper water marks in the colder months I like to keep my rigs as simple as possible. Most of the time I will fish over rough ground marks so using a rig where my weight is at the bottom is a must. Baited feathers will always work but I like to tie up a simple double hook rig. This can be seen in the photo. The hooks I use will generally be chosen on what I am targeting. But if I am out for anything that is around I choose the Cox and Rawle Uptide Extra hook in a size 2/0. This hook allows me to use worm or fish baits without the deterrent of a long shank. If I am fishing for flatfish over a sandy bottom I use a simple single hook ledger rig with a long shank hook in the form of the Cox and Rawle Aberdeen hook. It allows easy removal of the hook when releasing fish. Of course the rigs can be flashed up with beads and sequins but this really comes down to the anglers personal preference. Weights are generally determined on the speed of the drift. I try to fish the lightest weight I can get away with.
These tactics have caught me fish and I still use them all the time. It has to be said that buying ready made rigs will catch fish, but I tend to tie my own up using quality rig accessories. Fishing in the winter can be enjoyable and very productive when the right days present themselves. The most important thing I take into account when I head out fishing in the colder months is to think safety and be safe. This is key to having many more enjoyable days out fishing.