Trout Fishing in the Winter
When winter comes and the temperature drops and white stuff covers the ground, many animals have become inactive and are hiding out until spring. But trout are not one of those animals! Water cools slower than air, so the water may still be warm enough for trout to be active - and since trout are cold-water fish, they just might be active all winter!
Your first consideration for winter fishing is whether the season is open. For the state of Pennsylvania, open season for trout ends on September 3 - except in "approved trout waters," so Pennsylvania residents need to refer to the list of approved trout waters on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's web site.
The next biggest concern is avoiding hypothermia. You can get cold very quickly standing in waist-deep water, so you'll want to make sure you're dressed appropriately. This starts with a quality pair of neoprene waders. Neoprene insulates better than hip boots or rubber waders, keeping the chilling effect of the cold water away. Underneath the waders you will also want something insulating, so you may find long underwear or even sweatpants more comfortable than jeans.
For optimal protection, consider spending some extra money on a moisture-wicking baselayer. They look like high-tech pajamas, with both tops and bottoms. The moisture-wicking technology in these clothes will help keep you warm if you manage to break a sweat hiking to the stream.
Of course, you'll need a warm winter jacket - or better yet, several insulating layers that can be shed if the weather warms up while you're on the water. Your fishing vest should fit over top of all of these layers.
The biggest challenge of winter fishing is keeping your hands warm. Waterproof gloves are an absolute necessity. There are several brands that make neoprene gloves which keep a nice tactile feel while insulating your digits from the cold. Many also have small slits on the index finger and/or thumb that can be used to briefly expose your skin for extra dexterity. These slits do affect the glove's waterproofing, but the small amount of water you get in your glove will quickly warm up and you'll be glad to be able to get your thumb and forefinger free to tie on a new lure.
You'll also want to keep your head an ears warm. You can go with either an earflap hat or a beanie. The beanie might be more stylish, but you'll have to adjust it a lot more than a earflap hat. Besides, you're not headed to the stream to pick up girls! (...Are you?)
Just because it's January, doesn't mean that the fish aren't biting. Find a legal body of water, bundle up and have a great time! While others are swapping fish stories at the bait shop, you can be out there actually catching trout!
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