Brad Laabs: Make adjustments when cold fronts come through
This past week was a reminder about the need for adjustments in cold front conditions. I know some would have appreciated some of these reminders before this week. This was the most major front we have had this summer.
These fronts change the fishing. Usually, you will catch fewer fish, and the size will also be more of the small fish of the species you are fishing. Fish will become very neutral to negative in feeding behavior during these major fronts.
If you are fortunate enough to be fishing before the system arrives (referred to as pre-frontal conditions), you will experience a very aggressive bite and numbers and size can create the kind of fishing that will get you back on the water to experience again.
As the front arrives, the fishing slows, and the longer the front lingers, the longer the bite “lays down”.
The cold fronts are followed by “bluebird” days. “Bluebird” days on the back side of the cold front are made up of bright skies, lighter winds, pleasant temperatures, low dew point, and lower humidity. These “bluebird” days make for great days to be out and enjoying nature, but experienced fisherman also know these can be difficult days to get bites and catch fish also.
Once the front passes and the weather stabilizes, the fishing will pick up again.
Many anglers will fish in the cold front or during the “bluebird” period because that is when they can due to vacation time, weekends, or evening of the week you may have available.
When you are forced to spend your time fishing in these conditions, here are some considerations. Slow your presentations down. Jig fisherman may need to adjust. Jig pitchers could benefit from lightening jigs, fishing slower, adding pauses, and going to smaller bait or plastics. Jig “rippers” may need to go from ripping jigs to twitching jigs and slowing the speed of the boat, vertical jiggers may need to go from hopping and popping jigs to lifting, pausing, and slowly dropping the jig or even just dragging the jig. Live bait riggers (also known as “Lindy” or “Roach” rigging) may need to slow down, shorten the length of leaders, and downsize bait. Crank bait pitchers and trollers may need to downsize the crank bait, go to a slower, wobbling bait and slow the speed of the retrieve or troll. Those that like to cast the big baits for big fish may need to adjust with smaller offerings and slowing down retrieval speed and more thoroughly covering areas fished.
Many times the fish during these fronts will retreat to deeper water or hunker down in thicker weed cover. When you graph them, you will notice that they are tighter to the bottom or almost burrowed into the bottom. The willingness to chase baits, or their “zone of aggression for feeding” will be smaller.
When you do find a few active fish, you may not catch as many in the area as you may have pulled the aggressive fish. Move on to similar areas and try to find a few more willing biters. We call this grinding out the bite. These conditions can cause you to work much harder and concentrate even more. You may need to fish twice as many locations as you typically will fish.
These conditions can also get us to experiment when we otherwise wouldn’t. The way fish bite will even change. They may not hold the bait as long, drop the bait at the first sense of any pressure or resistance, or only nip at the bait and not grab the whole offering.
Figuring out the adjustments to get a hook in the fish during these challenging conditions is part of the fun. Fishing in all kinds of varying weather conditions will, in the long run, make us better anglers. Getting a few fish in challenging conditions will many times, prove to yourself that you are an improving angler. Catching fish on the days everyone is catching them only proves you were out fishing the right conditions. If you want to improve, get out and practice when the conditions are such that you or others might not otherwise go fishing.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)