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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
To understand the cold water period it is important to have some idea of the physics of water and the habits of bass, or what bass are besides being a fish.
First a bass is a cold blooded animal that can't control its core body temperature The water temperature that surrounds the bass will be the basses core temperature. The bass metabolic rate decreases with body temperature and will cease to eat, the fish will die at 40 degrees for all bass,  except Florida LMB cease to eat at 45 degrees. Bass are sunfish and require warm water to be active. Therefor during the cold water period bass will seek the warmest water available that contains sufficient dissolved oxygen levels (DO) and prey.
The dynamics of water is interesting and the one factor we need to remember is water gets heavier, more dense, as it get colder until it reaches 39.4 degrees, then water gets lighter, less dense, until it freezes at 32. Why is this important? It prevents lakes from freezing bottom to top! The outside air temperature regulates the surface water temperature, as the air cools the surface water cools and begins to sink down though the warmer water below. The deeper the water is during the summer warm water periods the colder the water became, now the upper warmer layers are being cooled by cold air and the heavier surface water is pushing down on and through the upper warmer layers. The temperature zone between the deep cold water and upper warm water is known as the thermocline. Bass and baitfish are now forced to seek warmer deeper water and move down towards the thermocline. The deeper cold water fish like trout and bottom dwelling bait fish like sculpin and suckers move up through the water column to seek higher level of DO and the cooler upper layer water. The active ecosystem is changing and coming together around the thermocline, the life zone. As the days become shorter the air is cooling to near freezing temperatures, however life below the surface continues. Bass will be less active when the core water temperature in the warmest zone goes below 50 degrees. Shad start to die off and crawdads go into hibernation at 55 degrees, so cold water bait fish become the targeted prey in lakes where the core water temperature drops into the 40's.
Presentations need to target slower moving less active bass and resemble the prey sources available. Vertical spooning, drop shot, jigs and small plastic worms and slow moving spinner baits work well. Remember bass can take about 1 atmosphere pressure change or 15 feet easily and 2 atmosphere before having air bladder expansion problems. A bass neutralized to 30 foot depth can and will go to the surface to catch a meal and return. Late afternoon warming periods can activate a bass to move up to feed, slower moving surface lures like dog walking top water baits and jerk baits can and will produce strikes, if the bass are active. Bass can also move down to feed, so that why I target the 30 to 40 foot zone during the cold water periods. You will need to read sonar to determine where the bass are and where the life zone is by metering the bait fish, thermocline and actual fish echos. Active bass are usually near structure, within 5 feet, not suspended off it in deep water. Watch fish eating diving birds like grebes or comerants to determine bait fish school locations and direction the schools are moving. Outside structure like under water islands or humps, long major deep points, river or creek channels and saddles are primary winter period locations. Deep grass that survives cold water is a good location, however the heavier leaf weeds should have died off in cold water, if there is still a weed line give it try. Good luck.
Tom
ps; please feel free to ask questions about the calendar periods. When there is few responses than I can only assume there is little interest in this type of information or I have made too difficult to understand.
 

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Read all the time about crayfish hibernating.. We catch fish all winter here ice fishing and they have crayfish in their bellies. Makes one wonder!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
JohnPorter said:
Read all  the time about crayfish hibernating.. We catch fish all winter here ice fishing and they have crayfish in their bellies. Makes one wonder!!!
Just because the lake is frozen over does not necessarily mean the water is colder than 55 or so where the crawdads may be still out and about. Some spring water never gets below 60 degrees in small isolated spots. Then again there are lots of crawdad varieties and they do adapt to their environment. I once caught a big rainbow trout in 150 feet of water at lake Tahoe that spit up a live crawdad. Tahoe never gets above 60 degrees during the mid summer and 150 feet down it must be in the low 40's and I didn't know crawdads went that deep! I do know that crawdads in our western highland, hill land and canyon type reservoirs the crawdads do hibernate, however our deep lakes usually have water in the mid 50's at 30 to 40 foot depths. You need to look at this as guidelines and apply them where they fit.
Tom
ps; do the shad survive where you fish?
 

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I just have to ask...has there ever been a study done on the species of crawfish, location, seasonal behavior, etc. Especially the different species region by region. I believe this would be a highly educational bit of information. Trout fishermen know exactly which insects are in the stream, what stages they are in, what times they are active through the day, etc. It seems to me that "match the hatch" would work well in craw fishing as well. I'm sure our great government has found money to waste on this, like everything else. :p
 

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That would be a very educational read. Just like when I trap live bait through the ice to sell. I catch a lot of tadpoles and one would think they would be frogs by winter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
If you look around on Goggle there are some study reports available, example:
http://www.mde.mo.gov/about/research/fish/crayfish/index.htm
http://www.naturenorth.com/fall/crayfish/cray2.htm
http://basingstokecanalaa.co.uk/thecrays.htm
From a quick look at various studies I will need to change my thoughts about crawdads hibernating, the over whelming opinion is they do not hibernate.They just go deeper to locate warmer water, burrow into mud or hide after moulting for protection. Makes sense, jigs work all year!
Tom
 

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There are lots of web resources where you can find out which crayfish you might have in your lakes. Knowing their colors is likely to help refine your color picks. I believe it's much easier to fool a mature bass if they see the natural colors they've been stalking.

This site lists of crayfish species by state:
http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/index.htm

Or go directly to the USA map and click on your sate: http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/cray...e.htm

Click on each species. Some have photos but you can try copy/pasting the species into Google. When you find a photo print it or save it on the computer. If you have a really good printer print them out at high resolution then cut the images out and put in a page saver or however you prefer to make a little book to keep in the boat. I lay skirt strands on the photo to try getting it just right.

I go at night a lot, and while at the ramp I'll shine a flashlight hoping to spot those ruby red eyes. Use a little dip net to catch one and take it home. In a jar of water in the sunlight you can see which species was active and what stage it is in, whether molting or not, and compare the live colors to the photo colors. Their color in water is different from colors in the air. You might have to lift a few flat rocks or a sunken board to uncover one. You can then look that species up and learn it's habits, what it feeds on, how big it gets, etc.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thought I would revive this thread as fall is coming up quickly and winter to follow.
The fall to winter transition; see High Land /Hill-Land fall to winter post. It appears that the majority of the active members are either in Low Land coastal reservoirs or High Land/Hill-Land classification bodies of water. My experience is with the deeper High Land lakes, so thats my bias.
Winter along the coastal low lands and river deltas is similar to the deeper reservoirs in one major factor; water temperature. At the end of the day water temperature is the one consistant factor that bass everywhere must deal with. If the lake is 150 feet deep or 15 feet deep, the bass will seek the warmest water available during the winter cold water period. If we except the fact that LMB must find water over 40 degrees F and FLMB over 45 degrees F to survive, that should be helpful to know. The only water temperature that is important is at the depth the bass are located. The surface water or air temperature is meaningless to the bass, unless it's warming the core water temperature.The two methods to determine what the water temperature; sonar and actual thermometer reading. Sonar can tell you where the water changes density and return singals of both fish and baitfish to indicate the depth of the life zone. Lowering a temperature probe via an underwater camera or digital thermometer can give you an accurate reading. Before sensitive sonar units, I used the thermometer method.
It's the same story, find the prey the bass are targeting and fish where the bass are located. Avoid the colder water, because the bass won't be there.
The shallow water lakes you need to locate springs, power generating out flows, current breaks and sun exposed structure. If the water is all the same temperature, look for areas that have prey consentrated. Look for birds feeding on schooled baitfish. Soil breaks that have clay and rock are good for crayfish. Bird watching and changes is shoreline soil are key elements when looking for winter bass. Studing satellite over head maps can give you insights to soil breaks, so take time to study them. Learn to rely on your electronics, because the bass are not going to be setting or holding on the shoreline ambush spots that you may be relying on.
Tom
 

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My winter time Crawdad Theory

The theory I have in regard to winter time crawdads is two fold.

The craws will go into migration, however typcially this is also the time of the year resivoirs will begin to empty the lakes as to catch the spring time snowmelt to last throughout the summer. I believe this forces crawdads to re-locate their hibernation holes usually in Mass and bass will be there to pick them apart.

The other item is that the Jig is a great silhouette bait (the reason why I love it so much) it represents so much and nothing at the same time. I believe the jig can appear to be a crawdad, bluegill, crappie,catfish,and sculpin\goby. The sculpin are really not thought of as forage for many bassers yet they thrive (at least in CA) and remain somewhat active throughout the year.

Of course in CA we have trout plants throughout the year that provide lots of protien for our big girls ALL WINTER LONG!
 

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oldschool said:
JohnPorter said:
Read all the time about crayfish hibernating.. We catch fish all winter here ice fishing and they have crayfish in their bellies. Makes one wonder!!!
Just because the lake is frozen over does not necessarily mean the water is colder than 55 or so where the crawdads may be still out and about. Some spring water never gets below 60 degrees in small isolated spots. Then again there are lots of crawdad varieties and they do adapt to their environment. I once caught a big rainbow trout in 150 feet of water at lake Tahoe that spit up a live crawdad. Tahoe never gets above 60 degrees during the mid summer and 150 feet down it must be in the low 40's and I didn't know crawdads went that deep! I do know that crawdads in our western highland, hill land and canyon type reservoirs the crawdads do hibernate, however our deep lakes usually have water in the mid 50's at 30 to 40 foot depths. You need to look at this as guidelines and apply them where they fit.
Tom
ps; do the shad survive where you fish?
I live about 20 minutes from lake tahoe i am going up there in december to go scubadiving for oceanography then were going to monaray baybut my teacher says even in december we will see huge crawdads i think they have adapted because like old school said that lake never gets really hot. me and my friends go up there in june and swim and the water is still freezing
 

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oh did you know there is also largemouth and smallmouth bass in lake tahoe i have caught a couple i was way suprised there is also goldfish in there too
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Crawdads don't hibernate. I thought they and have changed my mind in that issue. The crawdads definitely move down into deeper water during the cold period.
I once used a live crawdad to catch some big trout at Tahoe just outside Meeks bay on the first deep break. The water back then was so clear you could see pine trees laying on the bottom 75' down, then the break drops off to 440 to 500 feet and the big trout cruise that ledge. I used a 1 oz egg sinker in front of a Shyster in line spinner and tied a 12" leader behind that with the crawdad and caught trout between 5 to 20 lbs, both lake trout and rainbows.
The Tahoe crawdads were light cinnamon brown with blue specks and I caught those with bacon rind in the rocks along the shore line.
Didn't know that Tahoe had any bass!
Tom
 

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wow! You could see to the bottom in 75 foot of water? Amazing!

It makes sense to me that crawdads stay active even in cold water. They are related to lobster? Lobster and crabs are active and caught in some of the coldest waters there are.
 

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LakeCityYankee said:
wow! You could see to the bottom in 75 foot of water? Amazing!

It makes sense to me that crawdads stay active even in cold water. They are related to lobster? Lobster and crabs are active and caught in some of the coldest waters there are.
Yeah lake tahoe is probally the clearest lake in the us im going scubadiving there in december its gonna be freezing but tons of fun
 

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Fishing from the bank here in ohio get really frustrating this time of year. The ice is finally gone The water temps still below 50.Walking the banks i find some type of ducks diving but i do not see any baitfish yet. Not a single bite today.but i was doing more of the trying out new lures then actually tryin to catch anything.I did spend an hour throwing a suspending jerkbait.Might need to tery to just take a spinning reel and drop shot a small worm for this early in the year?Maybe ,I just don't know.

When it gets closer to pre spawn i can tear em up on this bodie of water with just a Speed craw,I have tried jigs at this resivoir but most of the bottom is kinda mucky if you cast away from the bank more then 10 or 15 feet. your just draggin decayed vegitation back with every cast,so i usually use the ultravibe speed craw with a very light sinker. This resivoir is VERY clear,with lots of weeds.Maybe i should be looking for the deepest part of this resivoir? HMMMMMM This is a water supply resivoir for Galion and there are no gas motors allowed on this lake so i have never been out in a boat here.

Rich
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thought I would bump this topic up since it's winter and transtioning to pre spawn in some of the warmer climates.
Tom
 

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Interesting article Tom. It didn't suprise me that the study showed a significant higher amount of crayfish consumed by Smallmouth than Largemouth.
Yet a jig and chunk trailer is a highly effective Largemouth bait, simulating a crayfish. I rarely get Smallies on a Jig n Pig type lure??
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Smallmouth rarely locate in the same area as largemouth, prefer grapefruit size rock and gravel on steeper banks with stumps if possible. Try down sizing to 1/4 or 3/8 oz jigs and the trailer to 1" - 1 1/2" in brown/green. Let the smallmouth peck at the jig until it hits it hard.
Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thought I would bump this thread up as the frost is on the pumpkin.
One subject we didn't hit on during the cold water period was suspended bass that relate to open water verses structure elements. These bass follow large schools of baitfish or any type of fish that could be considered prey.
The water column is cold and generally speaking the DO levels are good from top to 90 feet or more deep, a large area of the main lake basin.
Suspended bass can be difficult to find as they relate to slight temperature breaks and deep bait fish that you can't see unless diving birds are feeding.
Slow trolling with weighted line; lead line, bead chain keel weight or 3 way swivel with dropper weight to keep the lure running at the depth you have metered bait, is one technique. The hollow bodied swimbait, like the Basstrix or similar paddle tail minnow shaped swimbait is ideally suited for this presentation.
When you can't find those baitfish schools to spoon fish or any bass holding on deep structure to jig or drop shot, try bird watching and give a few passes with a slow deep trolled swimbait a try. Good way to eat your lunch and possibly catch a few bass.
Tom
 
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