Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Cold Water - Part Seven
I didn't learn much from my several aquariums with bass, except it turned into a much more
expensive and time consuming ordeal than I thought. The large aquariums weren't exactly
cheap and the project required a lot of work.. What I did learn turned out to be very valuable,
not only with bass tournament fishing but in all other types of fishing I did over the next thirty
years, including trout.
My idea of testing the reactions of the bass to various different water temperatures came from
Tom Mann. I meet Tom at the first bass tournament I fished and we were good friends for
many years. We were still making videos about fishing as late as a week prior to February 11,
2005, the day the great fishing legend passed away. I still host a website that sells the first of
what was to be a series of instructional bass DVD featuring Tom - The School of Bass
Fishing. I also produced a DVD featuring the two of us fishing for speckled trout. Tom and his
brother Don Mann, who was also a close friend of mine, designed the famous Mann's Bait
"Sting Ray Grub" that became a popular inshore saltwater fishing lure. This is getting off the
subject a little but here's a UTube clip of that DVD.
In 1969, Tom build "Fish World", an inside forty foot long aquarium the size of a small house.
It was full of huge, largemouth bass. The aquarium gave Johnny Morris the idea of putting
large aquariums in Bass Pro Shops later on. I was able to fish in the aquarium a few times and
I assisted Tom in feeding the huge bass several times over the years he had it. The problem
with it as relates to water temperature, was the water in the aquarium stayed an almost
constant temperature. It wasn't of any use in trying to understand how bass reacted in cold
The water in my outdoor aquariums, approximately fifteen or them, would get cold during the
winter and as mentioned yesterday, some were broken during hard freezes. I played with the
bass during the cool months and of course, I had a difficult time keeping the water aerated
enough to keep the bass alive most of the warm months of the year. Adding ice was the trick
to it. I could get the water any temperature I wanted and keep it within a degree or two of
where I wanted it.
One of the few things I learned was that when the water temperature got down to as low or
below 35 degrees F, and stayed there for any length of time, the bass would usually die. They
wouldn't eat anything at that temperature but that wasn't what killed them. It was due to the
cold water, whatever the technical reason for it was. At 37, 38, and 39 degrees they would
In the larger three or four foot long aquariums, they wouldn't make much effort to get minnows
in the opposite end of the tank, and of course, that's where the minnows would go try to hide
and get away from the bass. Within two to four hour time span, they would usually eat
everything I put in the aquarium. Keep in mind, these bass are expending little energy. There
was obviously a huge difference in their reaction to the minnows (and by the way,
the minnows themselves reacted differently) between 35 to 39 degrees. At 39
degrees, and down to about 37 degrees. I was easily able to get the bass to take a small lure
or jig as long as I blocked their view of me by a sheet of plywood I used for that purpose.
This big difference in 35 and 39 degree water actually makes a lot of common sense. At 35
the water is almost at the freezing point. At 32, it will freeze. Since the blood of the cold
blooded bass gets virtually the same temperature of the water, it too would freeze. Between
39 degrees and 45 degrees there is still a big difference but not near the difference as it is
between 35 and 39. I'm referring to the difference in how the bass reacted to everything,
including my own presence as well as the minnows and other food I put in the tanks. The
changes that take place as the water temperature decreases aren't linear. The
changes are exponential. In other words, if you were to plot the changes in the bass eating
habits as compared to the declining water temperature, it would be on a very sharp curve, not
a straight line.
I would not feed them for days in the cold water during winter, and I would feed them far more
than they could eat at times. I varied the food and the temperature of the water. I had kelp
many pages of written records of all of this for years and somewhere along the way I lost
them. I have regretted it ever since because I put a lot of effort and work into it. What I did was
not very scientific, of course, but I was learning more than anyone else in that respect. To my
knowledge, no one had done that before but, of course, I have no way of being certain about
When you relate this to fishing, the thing that confuses many anglers is this. They read or
hear that in cold water, the metabolism of the fish slows down and the fish won't eat
as much. While this statement and many others that are similar to this are generally true, it
shouldn't indicate that you can't catch the fish.
I'll put it like this. Although it may be difficult to get a trout to eat thirty
or forty of your nymph imitations (flies), catching it only requires
getting the trout to eat one of your flies.
The fact that the trout don't eat the same amount in cold water as
they do in warmer water is completely irrelevant.
Finding the trout and presenting flies to them in the right manner is more difficult,
but after all, it's the challenge of catching trout that makes it the sport it is. Otherwise, you
should be happy to just follow and fish behind the hatchery trucks or in a trout pond..
The most important thing I learned from the aquariums was that if you put a lure or bait close
to the fish, when the water was ranging from 45 degrees down to as low as about 37 degrees,
the fish would eat it. I really should have already known that, otherwise, the people catching a
lot of bass in tournaments I referred to previously, and a lot more I haven't mentioned, found
warm water. At first I thought that may have been the case, but when I was actually able to see
an angler catching fish in cold water and catching lots of them, I knew different. Such was the
case with Don Mann in a BASS tournament on Toledo Bend Texas. I watched Don catch bass
from water in the low forties that weighted in over thirty pounds. When the water temperature
was only forty degrees, I watched a local angler catch and cull bass in water not three feet
deep on Guntersville Lake, not over fifty yards away from me. He weighed in an unbelievable
(if I hadn't see it with my own eyes) ten fish bass limit of 47 pounds that one day. Keep in
mind, largemouth bass prefer water temperatures higher than trout.
As mentioned in yesterdays article, after realizing I couldn't choose the time the national BASS
tournaments were held much less choose the temperature of the water and that I had to learn
to catch bass from cold water, I began to fish when conditions were at their worst. Tomorrow, I
will write about some things I learned on the water doing just that.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh
I'm not trying to write an autobiography. It's my way of explaining how water temperature affects gamefish and
in the end, how it relates to trout. I think it's a greatly misunderstood subject by many, if not most anglers, and
my intent is to try to give those interested a better understanding of the subject.