I have received a firestorm of questions through the ask a catfishing question page in the last few weeks with folks asking everything you could possibly think of about winter catfishing. These questions have pretty much covered everything on winter catfishing from A to Z. From what catfish rigs to use, to winter catfishing techniques to what kind of tackle and equipment I suggest for this time of year.
One of the top questions that has come through my inbox has been about what to wear and how to stay warm when winter catfishing.
The beauty of living in Texas is we traditionally have a pretty mild winter. There is an occasional northern that comes through and makes it miserable for a day or two but usually within a day or two things are comfortable again. I am by no means and expert on surviving cold weather as a native Texan and will admit that I am hot blooded and the cold weather kills me, even more so than the Texas heat.
Here is a basic rundown of what I do, what I wear, and how I (attempt) to stay warm.
Use The Weather To Your Advantage
I generally start my days on the lake catching bait around 5:30 when the colder weather sets in, and have my catfish guide clients meet me at the lake around between 8:00 and 9:00. I start my day catching shad with a cast net at 5:00 or 5:30 and this is the absolute most miserable part of the day. There is nothing worse than crawling out of a warm bed and being greeted to freezing cold temperatures alone in the middle of the lake throwing a cast net. It’s not glamorous, or fun.
In the event I catch enough bait to last me a few days, or am going cormorant catfishing (where I can use punch bait) I don’t have to start my morning catching bait. These days are a bonus. The other alternative is to catch bait the previous day, which I often do when I have time, it’s just not always possible.
The reason I say all this is the first and foremost tip I can offer is to use the weather to your advantage. The temperature at 9:00 in the morning is usually MUCH warmer than at 5:00, so don’t be afraid to use the weather to your advantage and let the sun get up and warm things up for you.
What To Wear For Winter Catfishing
Always start with base layer by wearing some sort of thermal underwear. If you are still using those old waffle weave thermals that you bought twenty years ago, ditch them and go with one of these new breed undergarments. I am currently using the Midweight Thermal Crew and the Midweight Thermal Pants from Bass Pro Shops. If you live somewhere that it’s blistering cold you might want to go with some heavier versions but for a moderate climate like I have these work great.
Before I go on, and don’t address it and get one hundred emails from you guys, let me say that I know that Under Armour is great. I know it works and works well, I am just too cheap to invest in it. if you are OK with shelling out the money for it then Under Armour is the way to go.
My next layer of clothing is nothing high tech. I generally throw on some jeans and a t-shirt over my Midweight Thermal Crew and then throw a long sleeve t-shirt on over that, and then a good hooded sweatshirt. When it is REALLY cold I take a pair of sweat pants and throw them on over my jeans for an extra layer, but only when it is REALLY cold.
This is the important part and the part that most people get horribly wrong. If your fishing from a catfish boat it is highly likely that you will get wet. Between boat spray, waves and all of the other things that can and will go wrong, you are going to get some water on you. if you are catching your own bait then you are going to get wet, period. Throwing a cast net is a wet job and you just have to deal with it and move on.
Panchos are worthless. Let me say that now. I cannot count how many people I have had on my boat through the years that have thrown on a pancho to stay dry running across the lake. What happens next is I gun my Yamaha outboard, head off across the lake, their pancho blows up over their head and they can’t see, and they still end up getting wet.
Invest in some sort of rain gear, whether it be a cheap set or something super deluxe like the Bass Pro Shops 100 MPH Gear that I use get something that has pants (preferably bibs) and a jacket that willkeep you covered and keep you dry. Make sure to look for something that is light and breathable.
The general rule on rain gear is you get what you pay for and I cannot offer many money saving tips on these. The cheaper stuff will keep you dry but is uncomfortable and generally retains moisture inside. You start sweating and it traps the moisture in and then you get cold.
A number of years ago I got the Bass Pro Shops 100 MPH Gear as a gift. It is very expensive but I absolutely love it. I am going to do a full review on it because I think it deserves a full article.
Footwear For Winter Catfishing
This is pretty simple find a decent pair of hunting boots. I wear Rocky Boots and have had them for years but anything will work. Just make sure you look for the right features in boots. Get boots because they go higher up your leg and a do a better job keeping you warm. Getting something that is made of Gore-Tex and that has Thinsulate in them will do the trick for keeping you warm and dry.
This is another area I see people try to skimp on and they end up miserable. if my feet get wet in the winter it is a deal killer and I am going home and Gore-Tex boots will keep your feet dry no matter what you do (except for fall in or step in over the laces).
I have yet to learn how to throw a cast net and keep my feet (or shoes) dry.
Cover your Noggin.
This has been beaten into you since you were five years old and your mama’ yelled at you to put a hat on your head before you left the house. Your body loses heat through your head. At one point people claimed that your body would lose as much as 45% of it’s heat through your head but that has since been debunked by scientists.
Even though that myth has been debunked one thing rings true, if your head and ears are cold you will be miserable.
I’d like to say I had a fancy winter hat that solved all these issues but I don’t and in fact usually just resort to a ball cap and I wear a sweat shirt hood when I get cold, plus the Bass Pro Shops 100 MPH Gear has a good head that I can cinch up around my face and that helps a lot.
I keep a Fleece Face Mask (looks like a redneck burglar) handy in the boat for the long runs across the water when we get started in the morning but other than that it stays stowed away.
If you really want to get super deluxe check out Fish Headz Save Phace Sport Utility Mask . This is about as good as it gets for keeping your head and face warm when running across the lake. You’ll look like a freak but at least you will be warm. If you fish in it people will probably think you are mental.
I own a pair of decoy gloves but they rarely get used. Because I am generally doing everything on the boat by myself I just get frustrated taking them on and off so I never wear them. Gloves are impossible to fish in so don’t waste your time or money unless you need them for driving from place to place. I have yet to see someone be able to land a fish with gloves on so my clients never end up wearing theirs either.
Hand Warmers are one of the greatest inventions ever. These are the chemical kind that you open the package and shake and in a couple of minutes they warm up. I buy these by the dozens and use them daily. Shove a couple of them in each pocket and when you have down time you can keep your fingers warm and ready to land that big catfish!
Remember to always wear more than you think you need, as it is always colder on the water when winter catfishing than it is around your house. If you dress in layers like I have outlined you can always remove layers and cool off but if you don’t have anything else to put on, you are just going to be cold. Always better to have too much than too little.
if you follow these basic guidelines for dressing for winter catfishing, you should have a nice comfortable time on the water landing that next big catfish!