Fish are cold-blooded, which means their body temperature matches the water temperature. In the winter, water on the bottom of a lake or ocean will generally be the warmest. Long after fish have left the upper water column bottomfish will still be snapping. To fish through winter, turn your attention down deep.

Photo: Tim Moore; New England fishing guide, Old Town pro,
Photo: Tim Moore; New England fishing guide, Old Town pro,

Black Seabass

SEASON Late winter

FORECAST Calm seas and high pressure

FISH FINDER Black sea bass move inshore to water 30 to 60 feet deep. To find the fish, look for rock piles, wrecks, bridge and dock pilings.

TACTIC Most common tactic is fishing a two-hook bottom rig baited with strips of squid. I prefer to use a vertical jig because it doesn’t require bait. After marking the structure on the fish finder, I drift over the area bouncing the jig off the bottom.

SECRET TO SUCCESS It takes a fine touch to work the jig without getting snagged. Between bounces, allow the jig to rest on the bottom for a few seconds. Sea bass often bite on the pause.

TIP When you get snagged on the bottom, put the rod in a rodholder and the reel in freespool with the clicker on. Paddle up-current from the snag, tighten the line, and gently pop the rod to free the hook.


ROD7-foot, medium-heavy conventional
REEL 6:1 high-speed, 20-pound class
LINE 50-pound braided line
LEADER50-pound fluorocarbon for abrasion resistance LURES Daddy Mac Diamond Chain and Elite Deluxe jigs

Annie Nagel
Annie Nagel; Mendocino, California, Ocean Kayak pro

Ling Cod

SEASON Early winter or early spring

FORECAST Light wind and no swell

FISH FINDER Look for pinnacles and ledges

TACTIC Use a two lure set-up with a heavy jig on the bottom and a light shrimp fly 12 inches above. Let your jig bounce against the rocks making noise to attract curious ling cod. Ling are aggressive, I will often catch two fish on one drop. Many times, a larger ling will latch onto a smaller one; be prepared to net or gaff two fish at once. When I feel a smaller ling on my line, I’ll wait 15 seconds before reeling up in hopes that a larger fish will eat the smaller one. Lo-cal anglers love the challenge of a double hook-up.


ROD 7-foot Shimano Trevala ML jigging rod with fast tip and strong backbone.
REEL Shimano Stradic 5000
LINE 50-pound braided line
LEADER 4 feet of 30-pound monofilament
LURES 4- to 8-ounce metal jig or jighead and 6.5-inch Big Hammer soft plastic Senorita and shrimp fly on a 6/0 Aquahunters hook.

Lisa Ballard
Lisa Ballard; Outer Banks, North Carolina International angler and outdoor writer


SEASON Late fall to winter

FORECAST Calm, strong tidal flow

FISH FINDER Cast a sinking fly to the sandy or muddy edge of an oyster reef, jetty rocks, grass bank or channel.

TACTIC Let the fly drift across soft bottom while keep-ing your rod tip low. When you feel the slightest bump of the flounder, pause for five seconds before setting the hook; flounder are famous for spitting the fly. Set the hook by pulling the rod to the side to keep the line low. If you miss a bite, make another cast to the same area, flounder don’t move far.

TIP Use a net to land flounder. They have sharp teeth and their odd shape makes them hard to grasp. The flat fish are famous for flopping out of the kayak and back into the water.


ROD 8-weight, 9-foot rod
REEL Saltwater reel/ 7-weight
LINE Floating line in the shallows, sinking-tip line in water up to 12 feet deep and sinking line in deeper water.
LEADER 20-pound fluorocarbon
FLIES Flounder have a small mouth. Size 2 to 4, long-shank-hook streamers like Clouser minnows and tiger rattlers with lead eyes.


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