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When Cabin Fever Sets In - Fishing in Cold Weather

When the Weather is Cold, Staying Home is Often the Wise Thing to Do


Photo © Ron Brooks

Photo © Ron Brooks

Photo © Ron Brooks
On a day when most other fishermen would stay in bed, we decided to make a go of it and attempt to fish. The temperature was well below freezing and was forecast to stay that way for most of the day. A twenty-knot wind only added to the pain we experienced running at half throttle. We could not take a full throttle run.

Cabin fever. Everybody gets it eventually, and we all succumb to it at some point. It’s a debilitating condition. It makes us do things that any sane person would avoid. There is no known medicinal remedy. Therapy is the only solution. That therapy would have you venture into the elements seeking a cure.

Note that the weather elements may or may not effect a cure. If it turns out to be balmy and nice, the fever only worsens when you get home. If the weather is cold, windy, and generally not fit for man or beast, as it was this day, the fever is abated, even if only for another few weeks.

I would guess the chill factor on my boat on this particular morning was well below zero. We were wrapped in so many coats and sweaters, I was reminded of Ralphy’s young brother being dressed for school in that great seasonal movie, A Christmas Story – we “looked like a tick about to pop”.

Fishing in this weather is at once good and bad. I suspect we were the only anglers that bought bait from the tackle shop. My regular shop was closed, as were three others we passed. We bought some live shrimp and mud minnows at the only one we found open. Fiddlers had been non-existent in tackle shops for several weeks. I never have figured out whether the cold weather makes the fiddlers disappear or the fiddler-catchers disappear. My money would be on the latter based how cold I was this morning!

The tide was high in the morning when we launched – a perfect morning tide. We ran to some small creek openings as the water began to fall and trickle off the surrounding grass and mud flats. If there were any redfish to be had, they should be coming off those flats.

Live shrimp and mud minnows are kept alive in my live well. It’s a recirculating live well, constantly pumping fresh seawater through the tank – numbing, forty-seven degree seawater. Loosing your bait becomes a very unpleasant experience on a day like today. When I look at a tired mud minnow on my hook in the summer time, I am apt to replace him with a fresh lively one. But, on this day, he stays on the hook for as long as I can manage to keep him. Somehow the tired bait - any bait - looks just fine on days like this.

We stopped at a number of creek mouths on this morning. Each stop was determined by our ability – or rather inability – to withstand the wind chill. Each stop produced the same number of fish – zero.

I often wonder what the fish do when they get lockjaw on these cold, high-pressure days. I know they don’t bite. And although I can usually entice a few as the sun gets overhead, it still makes me wonder what is going on in their world. Perhaps it’s because no self respecting mud minnow or shrimp would be seen out on a day like this, and my bait is an obvious “out of place” picture to them.

Whatever the reason, we caught no fish. I let the mud minnows go at the dock and kept the majority of what was six-dozen live shrimp, which I boiled and had for dinner later that evening.

The bad news was, we caught no fish. The good news was threefold. First, we did not have to clean fish. Second, I had some really good boiled shrimp that night. Third, and probably most important, my cabin fever has abated.

I read the long range weather forecast that next morning. Saturday’s outlook would be for twenty to twenty-five knot winds and temperatures in the twenties again. Suddenly, a crackling fire, hot cup of coffee, a newspaper and the morning array of fishing shows on ESPN look awfully nice!

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