Winter fishing doesn’t have to mean chopping a hole in the ice and hoping you have the right spot to catch the right fish.
Along the 6,000 stream miles of the Root River in Southeastern Minnesota the water runs at a warm 40 degrees throughout the winter. This is perfect for active midges, caddis flies and hungry eastern, rainbow and brown trout to thrive despite the snow and cold.
George Spangler of the National Trout Center in Preston says winter is a beautiful and soothing time to fish for trout.
“The open water, the quiet, and the serenity is a big advantage of winter trout fishing,” says Spangler. “There are also the activity patterns of other animals coming to the open water. Mink, muskrats, beaver, wild turkey and eagles cruise the river valleys.”
Spangler usually fishes off shore, wearing insulated waders more for their warmth than their protection in the water. He cautions people to beware of the snow-covered shorelines or thin ice that can cave into the water.
He also warns against working up too much body heat.
“Stay close to your car and carry a cell phone in a plastic bag should something happen,” warns Spangler.
Spangler prefers to use a fly rod in winter because ice can build up on the line, clogging a reel. He uses single-barb artificial lures during cold days and natural bait on warmer days while practicing catch and release.
Spangler says the un-glaciated, driftless region of Southeast Minnesota is perfect for trout habitat from Albert Lea to Winona. Eastern trout are the most common, with rainbow and brown trout doing well.
Conservationists have rehabilitated 450 miles of trout habitat along the Root River basin. The Trout Center works to further good land use practices, as well as teach people about fishing techniques and promote trout fishing arts and crafts.
The center puts on trout fishing contests, an Adopt-a-River clean-up program, learn to fish and learn to tie flies classes.
The Forestville and Whitewater State Parks also offer training events as well as the I Can Trout Fish program.
Learn more at: nationaltroutlearningcenter.org