In the coldest fishing months, cold weather gear is always needed on the water. High tech gear can be lightweight and warm. Anglers need to experiment on different clothing to maximize warmth, mobility, and comfort. Here’s a checklist I follow.
Head wear is an absolute must. We lose up to ten percent of our body heat from our head. This is a large amount of energy to lose. We can really feel how tired we are after a long day in the cold. The loss of heat takes a tremendous amount of energy from our bodies to replace. This can impair judgment, slow reflexes, and lead to hypothermic situations. Wearing a billed cap for fishing is mandatory apparel. The use of a sun care head gear like a Simms Sungaiter can double as a very lightweight head cover to block the sun’s harmful rays and it’s a heat insulator. The Sungaiter will hold heat as it is lost from our head. It will also cover our ears and face from cold north winds or spray from waves while running in the boat.
Cold hands and fingers are a quick way to miss that lunker bass that just inhaled your jig! Fishing with gloves can be quite a cumbersome activity. The weather conditions may dictate that fishing without hand coving is a brutal way to spend your time.
Several different types of gloves (and spares in case the first pair gets wet) may be necessary for different activities – making a long boat run versus tying a knot for instance.
Most gloves that are designed for sun protection are tip-less. The fingertips are exposed. This can be helpful with tactile tasks like the use of a spinning reel or tying a knot in the cold. They will do a good job keeping the wind and cold off the angler’s hands once an angler has arrived at their chosen fishing area.
Leather gloves are also good choices for cold weather angling. Leather will still insulate if the anglers glove hand was to get wet. A great choice is to utilize baseball or softball batting gloves. These hand covers will be made of very soft and pliable leather. Black gloves will hold more heat and keep hands warmer during the day. This setup will use the angler’s dexterity to the max! At the end of the day’s fishing with batting gloves, the continuing care of the gloves is crucial for the gloves’ longevity. Anglers will need to lay the glove out flat on a smooth surface. The fingertips of these leather gloves must be manipulated back into shape. It is a must situation if they have gotten wet. This will assure a comfortable fit for the next trip.
Keeping the core of the body comfy is a must to staying warm. Cold and wet days in the late season are among the most productive angling days of the year.
Insulating rain gear is an absolute for peak performance. GORE-TEX garments keep moisture out from the elements. They also move moisture away from the body. There are several factors to keep in mind with rain gear. Rain gear needs to be large enough to handle additional clothing of the angler. It must be loose but not bulky. Check the hood and neckline for comfort. The most comfortable styles will have a fleece or soft material around the neck of face area. This will eliminate a cold wind chilling the angler.
Layering of clothing is a must for keeping warm during cold weather outings. Layering must be done with thin and flexible materials. Fishing with an overburden of clothing will be a dangerous and miserable experience.
Long underwear will keep the chill out for the angler. Tech fabrics and Merino woolen fabrics will keep an angler toasty on a north wind. Both styles will keep moisture away from the body. Wool fabrics will retain heat even when submersed into water. Long underwear is very light and efficient for the layering process.
Taking care of one’s feet is a must at this time. Technical foot wear may be the best money spent by an angler. Its value will be duly noted while on the water.
Muck Boots are very comfortable and warm. They come in traditional knee high styles and mid-height boots. These boots are 100 percent waterproof. An Xpresscool lining wicks and pulls moisture away from the angler’s foot to drier parts of the boot. This enhances the drying of the boot and warmer feet. A major advantage to the mid-height boot is that it may be more easily kicked off if an angler enters the water. Boots can fill with water and act as a weight for someone struggling in the water.
GORE-TEX material is a breathable and durable waterproof protection. Shoes made of this fabric are very light eight and pliable foot wear. Many styles of hiking and active wear shoes are available with this fabric for late season angling adventures.
A personal floatation device (PFD) by law must be in the boat at all times. Cold water angling mandates the wearing of a PFD while on the water. It can be used to shield an angler from the cold and spray of a wet boat ride. It will also help an angler retain heat to the body.
Savvy winter anglers have turned to a “Float Coat” style. This is outer wear that is also a PFD. Mustang Survival Wear has this style of coat in its lineup. The Mustang Survival Catalyst Jacket is a USCG approved Type III PFD jacket. The jacket is highly flexible for ease of movement. It also repels water from wind and waves. An interlining wicks moisture away from an angler’s body keeping them dry and warm. The jacket also sports a D-ring for your outboard’s kill switch.
Spare clothing could be a life saver in the late season. Always carry a complete change of clothes, jacket, spare gloves, foot wear and head gear while on the water. They may be stored on a waterproof container or even in a large size Ziploc bag in your boats rod locker.
Leave a Destination Location
It is a prudent idea to let a loved one know the general location you plan to be fishing. Don’t stray from this general area without letting someone know. A quick call on a cellular phone as to a location change could prevent a tragedy. It is always a good idea to fish with another angler this time of year. There is truth in “safety in numbers.”
Carry extra food and beverages on your winter excursion. The body will need extra calories to provide the needed energy to keep an angler warm and alert. A thermos filled with a warm beverage such as coffee of tomato soup can provide warmth in a matter of a few moments.
Cold weather angling can be a very memorable experience. Don’t allow the lack of preparation ruin the trip. The fish are bunched in great numbers at this time and action can be fast. A prepared angler (and buddy) will be in the mix on an uncrowded lake making great fishing memories.
Author Mark Menendez is a Bassmaster Elite Series angler sponsored by Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Strike King, Tacklewarehouse.com, Lew’s, Seaguar, Linerite, Lowrance, Power Pole, Navionics, and Stay-N-Charge.