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Where do fish go in the winter?


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#1 jimv8673

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 10:28 AM

Well, Its cold in Indiana now, but since i really just got started in this hobby (Native)  Im still trying to squeeze a few more hours of collecting in during the afternoon if it warms up at least to high 40.  The last few days though ive found nothing in the creeks or ponds where i would normally catch a bunch.  The water has become extremely clear and there is no sign of life whatsoever.  It occured to me that they probably went to deeper water but i would think the little ones would all become an easy  target to all the big ones and therefore would want to find somewhere else to hide.  My question is where is that ? ? and how do you get em.

#2 dmarkley

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 10:30 AM

View Postjimv8673, on Nov 20 2008, 04:28 PM, said:

Well, Its cold in Indiana now, but since i really just got started in this hobby (Native)  Im still trying to squeeze a few more hours of collecting in during the afternoon if it warms up at least to high 40.  The last few days though ive found nothing in the creeks or ponds where i would normally catch a bunch.  The water has become extremely clear and there is no sign of life whatsoever.  It occured to me that they probably went to deeper water but i would think the little ones would all become an easy  target to all the big ones and therefore would want to find somewhere else to hide.  My question is where is that ? ? and how do you get em.
If they were smart, they all migrated south.  Actually, I've caught small sunnies tucked away in shallow water but right next to logs, rocks, banks etc.
Susquehanna River Drainage

#3 ashtonmj

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 11:13 AM

Generally speaking you're right Jim.  Fish have different habitats seasonally.  In the winter, metabolism slows down, food is less available, water becomes gin clear, so fish seek waters with little current (often deeper), with alot of shelter.
Matt Ashton
Chesapeake Bay
Baltimore, MD

#4 nativeplanter

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 02:39 PM

I learned from Michael Wolfe a couple years a go that there were shiners and chubs hiding deep in the leaf piles that collect in stream eddys.  Scoop up a pile of leaves, sift through, and voila!

#5 centrarchid

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:14 PM

I have had the awsome pleasure of snorkeling streams under the ice during winter.  The centrarchids tend to bunch up in pools in behind root wads along cut bank and beaver larders if present.  Some like to get under large rocks (i.e. green, warmouth and rock basses).  Minnows still up and about but in slow motion and in some really big schools that hang in larger deeper pools.
I want my kids to have nature at least as good as we have it.  They and us must have a better understanding of nature than we currently enjoy to make such a reality in our crowded world.

#6 nativeplanter

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:32 PM

Good gravy!  How does one snorkel under ice?   :shock:

#7 centrarchid

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 04:48 PM

View Postnativeplanter, on Nov 20 2008, 09:32 PM, said:

Good gravy!  How does one snorkel under ice?   :shock:

Crack a big piece of ice near edge slide it under the remaining sheet then enter hole.  I entered initally with the intention of using SCUBA tank but duration under ice was short enough to enable simply holding breath which was much less tourble than using tanks.  I must state the ice was thin enough that could break it from underneath with a little effort which I did when moving large rocks.  Water was clearer then that at any other time of the year and light was ample.  Did same in pond a couple times but I was not smart enough to wear gloves causing hands to really hurt.  In ponds the sunfish tended to just sit on bottom in open.
I want my kids to have nature at least as good as we have it.  They and us must have a better understanding of nature than we currently enjoy to make such a reality in our crowded world.

#8 mikez

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 05:10 PM

I have dip netted various sunfish, bullhead and pickeral by breaking thin ice near shore and scooping the fallen leaves, pond weeds etc. Also scooping under and around the base of larger boulders.
I also icefish extensively and have caught virtually all available gamefish all through the winter. This includes southern species such as largemouth bass.
As far as I can tell, no fish actually "go dormant" or hide in the mud during winter despite conventional wisdom. The exception seems to be, in my unscientific oppinion, in very shallow water which may chill to close to freezing all the way to the bottom. Even then, pickeral and yellow perch, among others, will still forage.
Some fish may move deeper or toward springs or into sun warmed dark bottomed coves to seek temps that may be only a degree or two warmer than surroundings. More cold tolerant fish follow food and forage even in the coldest water. Trout and smelt in particular come right up under the surface of the ice [the coldest part of the water] to feed on copepods and other critters. In fact, smelt are taken through frozen saltwater which is actually a couple degrees cooler than 32 F.
Mike Zaborowski
Although I like and respect NANFA, I am merely a guest on this forum and anything I say does not in any way reflect NANFA policies and are my own opinions only.

#9 centrarchid

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Posted 20 November 2008 - 07:08 PM

Some species such as darters apparently grow considerably during the winters months by taking advantage of the detritus based food chain started by shed decidous leaves.  They are doinf this even n the riffle areas where current has got to be an issues.

What gets me wandering is what do fishes do during the winter spates when water flow really picks up and water temperature is so low the fishes must be greatly reduced in their swimming abilities.
I want my kids to have nature at least as good as we have it.  They and us must have a better understanding of nature than we currently enjoy to make such a reality in our crowded world.

#10 smilingfrog

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 05:04 AM

I scuba dive beneath the ice in lakes here in Minnesota.  I have seen bluegill, crappie, bullhead, northern pike, sculpin, burbot, smallmouth bass, rock bass, walleye, yellow perch, johnny darters, a trout perch, and various minnows.  Plenty of crayfish and other inverts as well.  Darters seem to be just about as active as in the summer, while bullheads practically seem to hibernate.  They are very inactive and generally ignore divers even when touched.  I even wittnessed another diver pick one up and bring it to the surface to show everyone on the ice.  Interestingly frogs seem to do this too.  I had always been told that frogs and turtles, bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of ponds and lakes to hibernate.  I can't say that they don't do this, as I wouldn't have seen the ones that do, but I have seen several leopard and green frogs sitting on top of the mud head tucked between the front legs.  They are frequently next to a large rock, log, old tire, or other structure.  Haven't come across a turtle yet though.  
It is quite an experience.  Besides the frogs I have seen a few other surprises.  Juvenile sunfish less than half an inch long in February (holding up in weed beds).  Waterboatmen by the thousands actively swimming just milimeters from the bottom surprised me too.  I had thought they might spend the winter dormant beneath the ice but since they breathe air, I didn't think they would be active.

#11 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 12:51 PM

View Postnativeplanter, on Nov 20 2008, 02:39 PM, said:

I learned from Michael Wolfe a couple years a go that there were shiners and chubs hiding deep in the leaf piles that collect in stream eddys.  Scoop up a pile of leaves, sift through, and voila!

You beat me to my own answer... and just to add... in some of these cold clear streams the water was only knee deep and the leaf litter was only 6 inches deep or so, but the fish were in under... of course, this is in the sunny south where the streams don't freeze, they jsut get too cold for the fish to be very active...

Only their names and residence make one love fishes. I would know even the number of their fin-rays, and how many scales compose the lateral line. I am the wiser in respect to all knowledge, and the better qualified for all fortunes, for knowing that there is a minnow in the brook.
Henry David Thoreau, Excursions, 1863


#12 centrarchid

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 01:36 PM

Some of the distributions we are seeing maybe do to our mucking around and fishes looking for cover.  When cold many species may hide rather than swim away if disturbed.
I want my kids to have nature at least as good as we have it.  They and us must have a better understanding of nature than we currently enjoy to make such a reality in our crowded world.

#13 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 10:19 PM

View Postcentrarchid, on Nov 21 2008, 01:36 PM, said:

Some of the distributions we are seeing maybe do to our mucking around and fishes looking for cover.  When cold many species may hide rather than swim away if disturbed.

Maybe, but in the summer time when we go collecting, I often just look down from the overpass and see a lot of fish... usually not so in the winter... but yet they are there... and I seem to be abl eto find them under the leaf litter...

Only their names and residence make one love fishes. I would know even the number of their fin-rays, and how many scales compose the lateral line. I am the wiser in respect to all knowledge, and the better qualified for all fortunes, for knowing that there is a minnow in the brook.
Henry David Thoreau, Excursions, 1863


#14 BTDarters

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 01:56 AM

I'd have to say that my experience has been a collection of several of the previous responses.  It sure seems that the bulk of the fish have moved to deeper water as they're no longer in the shallows where they were found in abundance months before.  I do find some species still hiding-out in the leaf litter in the shallows, but never in the numbers that you'd find in the summer.  Someone needs to invent a GPS tag that you can put on a Johnny Darter and track it through the winter months.  Then we'll know for sure where they go!  :biggrin:
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#15 az9

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Posted 22 November 2008 - 06:26 PM

View PostBTDarters, on Nov 22 2008, 01:56 AM, said:

I'd have to say that my experience has been a collection of several of the previous responses.  It sure seems that the bulk of the fish have moved to deeper water as they're no longer in the shallows where they were found in abundance months before.  I do find some species still hiding-out in the leaf litter in the shallows, but never in the numbers that you'd find in the summer.  Someone needs to invent a GPS tag that you can put on a Johnny Darter and track it through the winter months.  Then we'll know for sure where they go!  :biggrin:

In my ponds on the property all the fish go to the deepest water possible where it's actually the warmest (up to 39 F.) Even the small fish do although presently even though my biggest pond is ice covered, I see massive schools of fatheads cruising in the shallow water. Although metabolism is greatly reduced in winter I have no doubt some of the smallest fish still get consumed when they intersect with the larger predator fish such as the larger yellow perch. I no longer have any bass species in the pond.  

I've also observed the fish on the bottom in my ice shanty as my water in my biggest pond is a clear as a swimming pool due it being filled with well water and has lots of Chara to filter it and catching any sediments coming in.

Edited by az9, 22 November 2008 - 06:28 PM.


#16 sunnyman97

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 04:07 PM

You should try near overhangs and drop offs.

#17 UncleWillie

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 07:56 PM

I will also add that last week when I ws searching for some more blacknose dace and some darters,   most of the dace were buried underneath rocks in the riffles, or in deeper flowing water, or sunk down in leafy bottoms.  I had a very good catch rate by flipping rocks and them drifting into the net, and by sweeping through leaves.  This just seconds (and thirds) that the best searching is in areas like this.
Will Pruitt
Upper Chattahoochee River, GA

#18 FirstChAoS

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 03:15 AM

View Postsmilingfrog, on 21 November 2008 - 05:04 AM, said:

, while bullheads practically seem to hibernate.  They are very inactive and generally ignore divers even when touched.  I even wittnessed another diver pick one up and bring it to the surface to show everyone on the ice.  Interestingly frogs seem to do this too.  I had always been told that frogs and turtles, bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of ponds and lakes to hibernate.  I can't say that they don't do this, as I wouldn't have seen the ones that do, but I have seen several leopard and green frogs sitting on top of the mud head tucked between the front legs.  They are frequently next to a large rock, log, old tire, or other structure.  Haven't come across a turtle yet though.  

I have heard about the bullhead hibernating too but seen a bullhead caught through the ice once.

As for the frogs I knew a baitshop owner who got 3 frogs in a minnow trap once from the ice.

So apparently their seems to be conditions where hibernating species may occasionally wake up under the ice. I wonder if anyone ever did studies on this. Also what keeps the bass and pickeral from eating those frogs who sleep in the open?

#19 fundulus

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 09:08 AM

There is a large literature on habitat shifts in the winter in temperate areas. And the bass and pickerel, being ectothermic ("cold-blooded"), have much lower metabolic rates at low temperatures so they don't eat very often.
Bruce Stallsmith, Huntsville, Alabama, US of A

#20 smilingfrog

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 02:56 PM

View PostFirstChAoS, on 30 December 2010 - 03:15 AM, said:

I have heard about the bullhead hibernating too but seen a bullhead caught through the ice once.

I had to eat my own words on this one after last winter.  I was icefishing and caught a bullhead, it was very lively.  I was quite suprised.  It was only about 4 inches though.  How big was the one you saw?  All the ones I encountered diving were about 10 to 12 inches.

View PostFirstChAoS, on 30 December 2010 - 03:15 AM, said:

As for the frogs I knew a baitshop owner who got 3 frogs in a minnow trap once from the ice.

So apparently their seems to be conditions where hibernating species may occasionally wake up under the ice. I wonder if anyone ever did studies on this. Also what keeps the bass and pickeral from eating those frogs who sleep in the open?

Interesting with the frogs in the minnow trap.  
I read an article awhile back where some guys were studying catfish in the winter in the Mississippi river.  They were going down through the ice and finding that the catfish would sit facing upstream with a large rock between them and the current.  They didn't know however whether the catfish sat there all winter or if they moved around occasionally.  I think that may be some of what they were trying to figure out.

I think just the lack of movement probably keeps the pike and bass from noticing the frogs also they were usually tucked up next to a rock or log which might help to break up their outline.

Edited by smilingfrog, 30 December 2010 - 02:58 PM.




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