February can bring on one of the most exciting and challenging times of the year to fish. Fish are no doubt on the move, the weather is all over the map, and heavy rains can muddy up water in a hurry.
What to look for: In February you have lots of fish still in wintering spots —stable areas with not much current and good water clarity. The fish can still be really deep, but these fish are eager to move up. The idea place to start your search is a flat next to deep water on any warming trend. Deep is of coarse relative to the body of water you are fishing. Deep can be a small 2 ft contour line in Florida (were fish are already within their spawning cycle in Feb.) Throughout most of the middle part of the country however, water temps can be still in the 40’s and low 50’s. You guys way up north and in Canada are probably still ice fishing…,sorry about that!
For this middle part of the country shallow water adjacent to channels and steep drops are key. On rocky lakes, the type and size of rock are important as many fish prefer to look for gravel bottoms early in the year on the lookout for crawfish just emerging from the winter. I’ve heard that is some parts of the country crawfish mate when the water is in the low to mid 40’s. So it is a good time for jigs and crawfish colored cranks.
Productive Fishing in February — there are two areas of every lake that I like to pay attention to early in the year — the upper end and the lower end. Both offer great fishing depending on the weather.
The upper end is often overlooked as it is often muddy and cold in the winter, but if the weather is turning by February the upper end of reservoirs can be very good. The sun hitting the stained shallow water can get it heated up fast. These fish will move to the bank and are really easy to catch, but they can disappear just as fast under cold front conditions or fresh cold muddy water. I really like several baits for the upper end stained water scenario — a crawfish colored crankbait, spinnerbait, a 4” Culprit Incredi-Craw, and a Dave’s Swim jig with a DW3 Trailer. This is the time to use baits that displace lots of water so the fish can find it. I often start with the spinnerbait or crankbait, until I get a few bites or get some misses on it, then I slow down and flip the Incredi-Craw at any cover that gets in my way, just going down the bank in protected pockets. I like the colors of Black and Bamabug for stained water. If the water warms to the upper 50’s the swim jig bite with that big DW3 pumping behind it is outstanding. Keep it simple in the murky water. Colors such as white or black and blue will work. This pattern can last February and March as cold fronts constantly come in and knock the fish back off the banks.
The more consistent area is the lower end of the lake. It is often more stable but also gets the most fishing pressure. Water tends to be much clearer farther down the lake so finesse baits become the best option. The lower end is better under bad weather conditions. I like three baits for the lower end – a drop shot T-rex finesse worm, a jerkbait, and a finesse jig. If it is really clear and cold I like a drop shot T-rex worm in natural colors like Ayu and watermelon. I’ll use light 7lb sunline flurocarbon and 1/4 weight for water deeper than 10 feet. I often will just find some baitfish on my electronics adjacent to some good winter structure like roadbed and fish just below them. If I’m having a tough time finding fish, that is when I rely on a jerkbait, just covering water, until I figure out a pattern. Maybe they are on main points, secondary points or in the back of steep, deep pockets. You have to fish it all to know so you need to cover the water. Once you catch some or see some, the Dave’s Tournament Tackle Ace in the hole jig with a DW1 or DW2 finesse jig trailer is deadly. I’ve watched my co-host of Carolina’s Perfect Cast, Dave Wolak catch way too many big fish on these tiny jigs and DW trailers not to get on the same bite for myself. I recently caught one of the biggest fish I’ve ever caught on that little jig and DW2 combo — an 11 lb 5 oz Mule!
Good luck and go catch yourself a mule this February.