Select Page

what do fish do in the winter

ulua logo

what do fish do in the winter – During these frigid winter days, you may wonder where aquatic creatures go. They don’t make fires, they don’t curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, just as we would do to get away from the cold. In order to sustain seasonal temperature changes, the fish living in the streams of Kentucky are very well adapted. In winter, fish descend to the bottom of streams and lakes where the cooler water is. The density of hot water is higher, allowing it in winter to fall to the bottom. This is the same explanation for floating in a bowl of water with ice cubes. 

Fish are cold-blooded or poikilothermic, which means the temperature of their body varies with the temperature around them. Fish are less active during the cold of winter. They find little pockets where they can stand still and conserve energy from the way of fast flowing water. They eat less as their metabolism slows, and they wait until the coldest period of winter.

However, For anglers, if you’re wondering what do fish do in the winter. Winter offers the most critical opportunity. There are many types of fish that you can target during this time of the year. In comparison to the warm season, winter finds more fish searching for invertebrates and pinfish in the deeper grass at the shore. 

Here is an overview of the fish anglers can target during winter.

Saltwater Fish To Target During Winter

saltwater fish to target during winter

Here are a few saltwater fish that you can target during your fishing session in the winter.



The sheepshead is a relative of the bream family and can also be easily identified by the 5 to 6 black stripes running horizontally to the body in addition to its muzzle. This is how it gets its other name: the fish that is accused. Sheepshead can be found hanging around jetties, pilings, and other obstructions, and hobbyist anglers have captured many of them off piers. They live all over the U.S. East Coast, but in North Carolina and Florida, most commercial landings occur.



A number of sharks are searching for a meal during winter along the beaches on the coastlines. During this time, it is an excellent opportunity for anglers who can use it primarily as bait to target them.



Pompanos are marine fishes in the Carangidae family in the genus Trachinotus. Pompano can also refer to various other members of the Carangidae, or the order Perciformes, that are similarly shaped. They are deep-bodied, toothless in appearance, with a forked tail and a narrow base. They are normally silvery in color overall, often with dark or yellowish fins, and on the side of their body with one or a few black markings. They are relatively large fish, up to around 1.2 m (3.9 ft) long, but not more than half or two-thirds of that size is reached by most species. They are found in warmer seas worldwide, often entering brackish waters as well.

Red Drum

red drum fish

The red drum on the back is a dark red color that blends into white on the belly. Near the tail, the red drum has a distinctive eye spot and is somewhat streamlined. Currently, a three-year – old red drum weighs 6-8 lb. The largest red drum weighed just over 94 lb on record and was captured on Hatteras Island in 1984. By vibrating their swim bladders, the male red drum makes a knocking or drumming sound during spawning.

Adult red drums feed on crabs, shrimp, and mullet in the summer and fall; adults feed primarily on menhaden, mullet, pinfish, sea robin, lizardfish, spot, Atlantic croaker, and mudminnows in the spring and winter.

Striped bass

striped bass

The striped bass, also known as striped Atlantic bass, striper, linesider, rock or rockfish, is an anadromous perciform fish of the Moronidae family found primarily along North America’s Atlantic coast. It has also been widely introduced throughout the United States into freshwater recreational fisheries. A separate strain referred to as Gulf Coast striped bass is striped bass found in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The striped bass are the Maryland, Rhode Island, and South Carolina state fish, and the New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and New Hampshire state salt water (marine) fish. 

The history of the North American striped bass fishery dates back to the Colonial era. The immense abundance of striped bass, along with alewives, traveling and spawning most rivers in the coastal Northeast, is mentioned in many written accounts by some of the first European colonists.

bone fish


Bonefish weigh up to 8.6 kg (19 lb) and measure up to 41 in (105 cm ) long. From very silver sides and slight darker backs to olive green backs that blend to the silver side, the color of bonefish can range. Slight shading on the scales also leads to very soft subtle lines that run from the gills to the tail the flank of the fish. Sometimes the bases of the pectoral fins are yellow.



Snappers are a family of perciform fish, Lutjanidae, primarily aquatic, but feeding in fresh water, with some members inhabiting estuaries. Around 113 species are included in the family. Some are valuable fish for food. The red snapper is one of the best known. 

Snappers share all of the seas in tropical and subtropical areas. Some snappers grow up to a length of about 1 m (3.3 ft), but one particular snapper, the Cubera Snapper, grows up to 5 ft in length. Most of them are active carnivores, feeding on crustaceans or other fish, although a few feed on plankton. They can be kept in aquariums, but often develop too quickly to become common fish in aquariums. Most species live near coral reefs at depths exceeding 100 m (330 ft), although some species are found up to 500 m (1,600 ft) deep. 

Snappers harbor parasites, as most fish do. A detailed study conducted in New Caledonia found that snappers associated with coral reefs harbour approximately 9 species of parasites per species of fish.



The cobia has an elongated, fusiform (spindle-shaped) body and a large, flattened head, reaching a maximum length of 2 m (78 in) and a maximum weight of 78 kg (172 lb). The eyes are narrow and the lower jaw reaches far beyond the upper jaw. The jaws, the tongue and the roof of the mouth line the fibrous villiform teeth. And tiny scales, the body of the fish is smooth. With two deeper brown horizontal bands on the flanks, it is dark brown in tone, grading to white on the belly. During spawning, as they darken and the background color lightens, the stripes are more conspicuous.

Normally, the large pectoral fins are borne horizontally, perhaps helping the fish achieve a shark’s profile. There are six to nine distinct, small, stout, sharp spines of the first dorsal fin. These dorsal spines were inspired by the family name Rachycentridae, from the Greek terms rhachis (“spine”) and kentron (“sting”). There is a forked, slightly lunated tail in the mature cobia, which is normally dark brown. The fish lacks a bladder for swimming. The juvenile cobia is patterned with black and white prominent bands and has a rounded tail. The largest cobia came from Shark Bay, Australia, and weighed 60 kg (135 lb) on rod and reel.



A barracuda is a huge, ray-finned, predatory fish known for its frightening appearance and vicious behavior. The barracuda is a saltwater fish of the Sphyraena genus, the only genus of the Sphyraenidae family that was named of 1815 by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque. It is found worldwide in tropical and subtropical oceans ranging from the eastern border of the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea on its western border, and the Pacific Ocean in tropical areas. Barracudas live at the water’s top and at coral reefs and sea grasses. Barracudas are targeted by lovers of sport-fishing.

Black drum

black drum

The black drum (Pogonias cromis), also known as the drum or drummer, is like its counterpart, the red drum, a saltwater fish. In the Pogonias family, it is the only species. While most specimens are normally found in the range of 5-30 lb (2-14 kg), the black drum is well recognized as the largest of the entire family of drums, with some specimens exceeding 90 lb (40 kg) in excess. The black drum world record was just over 51 kg (113 lb). When juvenile fish have distinctive dark stripes over a gray body, they are mostly black and/or gray in color. They have rounded teeth and potent jaws that are capable of smashing oysters and other shellfish. Those over 15 lb (7 kg) are recommended to be released. When performing mating calls, black drums are able to produce tones between 100 Hz and 500 Hz.

Freshwater Fish To Target During Winter

freshwater fish to target during winter

Just like saltwater fish, there are freshwater fish active during the winter and here are a list of freshwater fish that you should target during the winter season.



Perch is a common name for Perca, a genus of freshwater gamefish belonging to the Percidae family. The perch, of which three species are found in various geographical areas, gives its name to a wide variety of vertebrates: the Perciformes, from the Greek: perke, literally meaning perch, and the shape meaning Latin forma. Many freshwater gamefish species more or less resemble perch, but belong to various genera. In fact, a red drum that is strictly saltwater-dwelling is sometimes referred to as a red perch, although freshwater fish are known as perch. While many fish are referred to as perch as a common name, the fish must be of the Percidae family in order to be considered a true perch.

Northern Pike

northern pike

A species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox (pikes) is the northern pike (Esox lucius). They are representative (i.e. holarctic in distribution) of the Northern Hemisphere’s brackish and fresh waters. In Britain, Ireland, and much of Eastern Europe, Canada , and the United States, they are known simply as pike

Pike can grow to a relatively large size: the average length is around 40-55 cm (16-22 in), with maximum recorded lengths of up to 150 cm (59 in) and reported weights of 28.4 kg (63 lb). As the all-tackle world-record northern pike, the IGFA currently recognizes a 25 kg (55 lb) pike caught on 16 October 1986 by Lothar Louis on Greffern Lake, Germany.



Walleyes demonstrate a fair amount of disparity across watersheds. In general, fish are very similar within a watershed and are genetically distinct from those of neighboring watersheds. The species has been artificially propagated for over a century and has been cultivated or introduced into waters naturally devoid of the species on top of established populations, sometimes decreasing the overall genetic differentiation of populations.



Crappie angling is common throughout much of North America. Methods vary, but spider rigging, a method characterized by a fisherman in a boat with many long fishing rods pointing at various angles away from the angler like spokes from a wheel, is among the most popular. Anglers who use spider rigging Plastic jigs with lead jig heads, crankbaits or live minnows are some of the most popular. To encourage the fish to bite their lure, many anglers often chum or dump live bait into the water. Crappies are often frequently hunted and captured by fly fishers during the spawning season, and can be captured by ice fishing from frozen ponds and lakes in winter.



Bluegills can grow up to 30 cm (12 inches) long and 2.0 kg (about 41⁄2 pounds). They usually have a very distinctive coloring, with deep blue and purple on the face and gill cover, dark olive-colored bands down the side, and a fiery orange to yellow belly, even though their color can differ from population to population. The fish are omnivores and will eat anything in their mouth they can accommodate. They feed on small aquatic insects and fish for the most part. In the food chain, the fish play a vital role and are prey to bass, other (sunfish), northern pike, walleye, muskies, salmon, herons, kingfishers, otters, and snapping turtles.

Channel Catfish

channeled catfish

North America’s most numerous catfish species is the channel catfish. It is Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee’s official fish, and is informally referred to as a ‘channel cat.’ With about 8 million anglers targeting them each year, they are the most fished catfish species in the United States. The popularity of channel catfish for food in the United States has led to the rapid expansion of aquaculture of this species.[2][3] It has also been widely introduced in Europe, Asia and South America, and in many countries it is legally regarded as an invasive species



In freshwater lakes and rivers, lake trout and most other trout live exclusively, while others, such as steelheads, a type of coastal rainbow trout, will spend two to three years at sea before returning to fresh water to spawn (a more salmon-like habit). The char family includes Arctic char and brook trout. For humans and wildlife, including brown bears, birds of prey such as eagles, and other species, trout are an important food source. They are known as fish which are oily.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do fish do in the winter?

Most fish actually school in the deepest pools and take a “winter rest.” The hearts of fish slow down in this resting state, their food and oxygen requirements decrease, and they move around very little.

What do fish eat during winter?

fish metabolism slows, and because food supply is significantly reduced in winter, this is an important survival mechanism. Many trout turn to consuming drifting insects with lower development of stream invertebrates. The aim is to spend minimal energy on capturing their food.

Do fish hibernate?

During the cold winter months, most fish slow down and rest” near the shore. Some species can burrow into soft sediments and go dormant like frogs and other amphibians, such as koi and gobies, but most fish simply school and take a ‘winter rest’ in the deepest pools.

Bottom Line

Don’t let winter stop you from fishing. Fish are still active and biting during winter season. Knowing which fish to target is the key to your fishing success.

We hope you enjoyed this article. If so, please bookmark us and visit us on youtube as well.

Also check out

hawaii mulisha logo

Visit our sister company Hawaii Mulisha and use coupon code “ULUA” for 15% off your entire order.

Fishing Backpacks

Piscifun Fishing Tackle Backpack

Fishing Lures

Capt Jay Fishing Jig

Fishing Reels

Fishing Rods

OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-80LB Saltwater Big Gamer Roller Rod

ulua shirt

top picks fishing rod

top pick fishing reel

top pick speargun

top pick crossbow

abu garcia















Related Posts

Giant Trevally

Giant Trevally

Prepare to be captivated by the powerful and agile Giant Trevally, a top predator in tropical waters – its prowess will leave you in awe.

Giant Trevally World Record

Giant Trevally World Record

Dive into the depths of spearfishing history with the astonishing Giant Trevally world record, setting the stage for an epic tale of skill and triumph.

Giant Trevally Vs Jack Crevalle

Giant Trevally Vs Jack Crevalle

Hone your knowledge on the differences between Giant Trevally and Jack Crevalle, uncovering unique traits and behaviors that will leave you hooked!