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George Kramer's Blog

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Monday, December 28, 2009
Thinking back to 2009
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
‘New’ record not the same

It’s cold out there

While I have a family heritage stretching back to Minnesota, I never got a taste of ice augers on a frozen lake. Never a taste of, nor a taste for, I might add.

Yes, I know that it took air temperatures of 32 degrees and significantly lower to freeze the surface thick enough to walk on. Yet below, the water is actually insulated and warm enough to sustain life—at least for northern strain bass.

The 40’s (and I hear as low as 39, but can’t confirm) is pretty much a condition of a cold winter upstate. Down in lower half, I’d say 49 degrees would be considered as cold enough to turn the bite slow, slow, slow. I don’t know if that’s a product of the Florida strain genetics still existing in the population or just the fact the bass here are conditioned for the low 50’s and up.

In any event, we check the surface temp frequently at this time of year—especially when we’re not getting any bites-- and when it gets below say 53 degrees, we suddenly start to give the fish human traits. “It’s so cold down there their tongue would stick to your spoon,” or “I don’t blame ‘em for not biting, I wouldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t have to.”

Of course, when you apply a little science to the matter, it jumps back into your consciousness that a cold-blooded creature adjusts to its environment, and within certain parameters, actually gets through the cold months quite well.

Where fishermen and fish have the biggest issue, however, is over metabolism. When the activity level of the bass slows down because it can sustain life with fewer carbs or calories or whatever, then it’s less likely to chase a bait. And over the span of say, 24 hours, if it does “chase” or feed, it does so for a shorter stretch of time. Timing, under this scenario, would seem to be vastly more important than during the warmer months because, if you’re not fishing when they’re eating, the net result is very few bites.

However, interview enough fishermen and they will tell you that while individual fish don’t have to feed, except as needed, that doesn’t necessarily apply to the whole population. There can be bass feeding at 3 a.m. in winter as much as there can be at 2 p.m. and probably at any other hour.

That’s why you have to admire the night fisherman, the ice fisherman or the pro fisherman who will go out there at all hours in order to be there when the fish are ready to eat.

I confess, though, that doesn’t suit me. Talk about metabolism, I can get up and go at 6:30 if it’s light out there, but I’ll perform a whole lot better after about 10 a.m.

Sure you can dress for the cold, but compared to shorts and a tee-shirt, you don’t perform as well in a storm suit, jacket, hooded sweatshirt, flannel shirt, tee shirt and thermals.

Your movement is stifled and it’s like fishing with someone holding you in a bear hug. 

That’s why I’m in no hurry to get out there this morning. Over 35 years of fishing the shallow pond across the street and I’ve found the middle of the day produces the most bites and the most notable catches during the winter months.

And it’s not just because I think the fish are ready to get out of bed at that time of day. It’s because that’s when I’m ready.

Bass columnist George Kramer, who says hot chocolate is hot for good reason, can be reached by email at

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