Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Cold Water - Part Two
I can't really remember the next time I caught fish from cold water after the "frozen bass" trip. I
just know I continued to fish during the winter, probably just as much as I did during the other
seasons of the year. Most of the fishing I did at a very early age, i did with my father and/or
grandfather Marsh. Both were avid fisherman and although they enjoyed the sport of catching
them as much as anyone, they didn't think about throwing any back unless they were too
small to eat. This was during the fifties and catch and release wasn't heard of yet.
One of the winter, cold weather types of fishing we did was below Guntersville Dam in North
Alabama. The dam was about eight miles from our home. One of the species they went after
they called "Jack Salmon". It's interesting to me that when I looked that common name up on
the web, I discovered two year old Chinook Salmon and Coho Salmon are called Jack Salmon.
The "Jack Salmon" of North Alabama are really a Sauger, which are very similar to the
I can't remember any specific trip with them, but I can remember going often. When I was very
young, maybe 5 or 6, they often didn't take me during the extremely cold weather. I guess
mother was afraid I would get sick but I can remember going when they wouldn't let me fish.
The reason for that is it was a little dangerous, as I will explain.
Sauger love the cold water and of course the water I'm referring to is the tailwater that's below
Guntersville Lake. When the turbines were running, and that was the only time they would
fish, the water was swift and if you happen to fall in, your chances of getting out wouldn't be
good at all. Often they made me sit up high on the large rocks below the dam and just watch
them. Sometimes it was both of them and sometimes just dad.
I don't know what the water temperature averages there during the winter because I haven't
fished there in years, but I know it was warmer than the lake surface water temperature. My
guess is somewhere in the forties or low fifties. I can remember getting ice in the guides was a
common thing for us. All I remember well, is the sauger fishing was at its best when
the weather was at its worst. They used live minnows and weighted the line with heavy
sinkers to get it down on the bottom in the strong current. Later, when I was maybe ten or
twelve years old, they would let me fish. I remember it wasn't easy to catch one. It was difficult
to tell when you were getting a bite in the swift current.
As soon as we got home, they cleaned the fish and usually we had some of them for dinner
that night. I can remember the fish were a real treat to eat. They were delicious.
I'm writing about this, not that it has any direct bearing on fishing for trout in cold water, but
just to point out that, in the South, it's one fish that prefers cold water. I'm also doing it to
explain my background in fishing cold water. It will make much more sense when you continue
reading the series. A few years later, water temperature became a very important
thing to me. I'll get to that in the series in the near future.
There was another species we caught in cold water below the dam. We called them Striped
Bass. They are actually "White Bass". At that time there were not any landlocked striped bass
or hybrids below Guntersville Dam. There were plenty of white bass and it was another fish
dad and granddad went after in the cold weather. They used a completely different technique
for them. They used "Shyster spinners", an old in-line spinnerbait that has been around a
long time. They went when the "stripers were running", as they put it.
I can remember becoming really frustrated trying to cast the spinners for the white bass. We
fished further downstream below the dam for them but still within the fast tailrace and only
when the turbines were running. You had to make a long cast slightly up and across and let
the spinner get to the bottom before beginning to retrieve it. Casting reels were not like they
are today and backlashes were common unless everything was done just right. I spent a lot of
time learning not only to cast well, but to determine when a stripe took the spinner. The
spinnerbait had to bump along the rocky bottom and it wasn't easy to tell what was happening.
I can remember them catching heavy stringers of white bass they called "Stripes" as
long as I was tall. They always caught huge stringers of them and it took a long time to clean
the fish. I can also remember the cold weather. I fished below the dam with them until I turned
16 and was old enough to drive. After that, I fished more frequently and with them part of the
time, but I was able to go often after school. We fished year-round, all over North Alabama
and always a few trips to Florida each year for deep sea fishing. I'm just writing about cold
weather trips I remember well. Later on in the years, fishing professional BASS tournaments,
cold weather fishing became a very important thing. Understanding how fish react in cold
water became critical. Not understanding it as well as I should, cost me several thousand
dollars and lots of disappointment.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh