Best Cold Weather Fishing Gear: 11 Tips For Keeping Warm & Dry

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When it comes to winter fishing, most anglers spend time worrying about equipment and location and forget about the right fishing clothes.

Any angler who spends time in cold weather areas has warm clothes that could work, but they don’t always work well. Fishing using specific cold weather gear keeps you on the water longer and leads to more productivity and comfort.  

In this article, I will cover the following:

  • All the different layers of clothes you will need
  • The best cold weather winter wear available
  • How to ensure you have the perfect fishing outfit for cold weather days

Breaking Down The Different Layers Of Fishing Winter Clothing 

Trout fishing in the winter requires a lot of flexibility, choose the right cold weather clothing

Every angler needs a variety of clothes for their winter fishing excursions. Whether you’re spending time ice fishing in the dead of winter in a blizzard or traversing the banks in pursuit of trout, different situations call for different clothing. It’s not a one size fits all method, but this guideline is going to give you the perfect starting point for your winter fishing setup.

Upper Layers

Depending on the temperature, you’re going to want several different upper layers to keep you comfortable. 

Outer Layer

Outer layers are extremely important! Make sure you have a hard shell outer jacket, a warm inner layer, and a full layer of insulation. 

For your outermost layer, you’re likely going to want something that is not only warm but waterproof. A hard shell jacket that’s able to repel water, but also lined with a warmer layer is best. Make sure this layer is a little more baggy, so you can easily make casts and fit any other necessary layers underneath it. 

This jacket should not be the only thing you rely on as you’re fishing in the winter. You want to be able to remove it if you end up moving around or find your way into a warmer environment. If it’s the only layer you bring, you will limit yourself in what you can do while you’re fishing.

My best pick for the outer layer is the Striker Ice Predator Jacket, it’s one of the best ice fishing jackets you can buy, and used without any additional base layers for more general use.

Inner Layer

Your inner layer should solely be there to add warmth. It doesn’t necessarily need to be waterproof, but it should trap your body heat and keep you comfortable. Whether it’s a classic hooded sweatshirt or a warm, fleece pullover, make sure it keeps you comfortable and doesn’t let too much heat escape from that insulating layer.

Again, you want to make sure it’s comfortable underneath your outer layer and it doesn’t inhibit any sort of movement. You need to be as free-flowing as possible. The more you’re able to move your extremities, the better fishing you’re going to do, and the more you’ll allow for blood to circulate. 

My personal preference is a hoodie for use as a top inner layer, check out my full review on the Bassdash Fishing Fleece Hoodie Here! I love hoodies as they are more versatile, and can be used in the other seasons as well.

Insulating Layer 

Perhaps the most important layer of your winter fishing outfit is the insulating layer you choose. This layer must be moisture-wicking. If it leaves all of your moisture on you, you’re going to freeze regardless of the other layers that you’re wearing. You’re going to sweat, so make sure the layer you have on pulls that sweat away from your body, so it can naturally cool and go through the warming cycle. 

This layer doesn’t need to be overly large! A thin, moisture-wicking long sleeve is plenty! This layer isn’t in place to do all the work to keep you warm. It’s there to trap some of your body heat and make sure your sweat doesn’t dry on you and make you colder than what’s necessary. It’s smart to make a good investment in an insulating layer. These can be lifesavers! 

Check out my best overall pick for a base layer fishing top, Thermajohn Thermal Base Layer Shirt here!

Bottom Layers

The layers you wear on the bottom depend on the temperature at which you’re fishing! One pair of pants may do the trick, or you may need two. 

While your legs are going to be moving and have a better chance of staying warm, you still need to make sure you’re wearing layers and keeping that cold away from your lower extremities.

Long Underwear/Leggings

A set of moisture-wicking long underwear can be extremely helpful on cold winter days. A pair of outdoor pants or jeans can only do so much to keep you warm. Find a set of moisture-wicking, polyester leggings or wool long underwear to keep you comfortable. That initial layer of pants is going to keep you extremely comfortable! As the day progresses, you’ll grow more and more thankful that you have that extra layer.

My choice in the thermal base lower layer is the Carhartt Force Midweight Classic, this affordable option is perfect for flexibility for anglers!

Outer Pants

The pants you wear for winter fishing should be moisture-wicking or close to waterproof. Pants like jeans can easily get wet, are hard to walk in, and will not keep you warm throughout the day, so stay away from them if at all possible.

You want outdoor-specific pants that are made with a polyester and nylon blend. These are going to be stretchy and more than likely moisture-wicking. Some of these pants are even fleece lined! That’s a great feature for an especially cold day. Similar to your upper layers, you want your pants to be easy to move around in when you’re fishing. You need to bend, make long steps and be as agile as possible. 

Check out my recommendation for the best outer layer pants, the Toomett Men’s Insulated Fishing Pants are at a great price point and they look good also! 

Waders/Bibs

Some anglers choose to cut out the middleman and wear waders or bibs in the winter. They’re great at trapping body heat and are generally waterproof. If you plan on doing a lot of moving and hiking, they can get uncomfortable and easily overheat you. However, if you’re staying in one place and still need to fight the cold, they’re a wonderful option. They have pockets and all the necessary features for you to stay comfortable on the water in the winter. 

My top fishing bib pick is the Striker Ice Predator Fishing Bib, matching this bib with the Striker Ice Predator Jacket ensures you get the perfect combo for your outer layers.

What Cold Weather Fishing Clothing Accessories Do I Need? 

When fishing during heavy snowfall, make sure you are set up with all the winter clothing accessories

Your winter clothing is not complete without some of the added accessories like hats, gloves, boots, and neckwarmers! Without these, you’re going to be freezing and cut your time way too short on the water. 

Accessories are the most underrated part of your winter fishing outfit. Your body heat will find somewhere to escape, so if you don’t protect all areas of your body, you’ll be in trouble. 

Hats

A warm, fleece hat is what every angler needs for winter fishing. Quite a bit of our body heat escapes through the top of our head, so if you can keep it trapped, you’ll stay much warmer throughout the day and night. Like all other warm clothes, they can cause you to overheat or sweat more than you would like. However, the opportunity for you to keep your head and ears warm throughout the day is worth the minor inconveniences. 

Numerous fishing-specific companies create hats just for anglers! They have a harder outer shell that can withstand some precipitation. They’ll prevent you from getting your head wet and allow you to stay on the water for as long as you would like. 

Don’t just go with a baseball cap. Your ears will get cold and the body heat will still escape out of the top of your head. 

I love fishing with a beanie on my head, check out my best pick for cold weather fishing beanie hat here! They easily fit under the hood of your outer fishing jacket.

Gloves

Buying the right fishing gloves is challenging for anglers, using your hands is critical in many situations. If you choose full-finger gloves, you run the risk of those getting wet and staying uncomfortable for the rest of the day. If you choose half-finger gloves, your fingertips run the risk of freezing with no opportunity to keep them consistently warm. 

Many anglers swear by the fold-over finger gloves. When you’re making your casts and moving around, you can fold the fingers over to keep you warm, and when it’s time to change baits or handle the fish, you can remove the tops of the fingers and do what you need to do without wetting the entire glove. At the end of the day, you need something! 

Nothing gets people off the water faster than cold hands. There’s only so much a person can tolerate, so make sure you find a design of glove that’s best for you – my best fishing cold weather gloves pick is the KastKing Mountain Mist. Understand the conditions and your tolerance for the cold! 

Socks

Socks are an underrated part of a winter fishing outfit. Merino wool socks are the way to go! They can pull the sweat away from your feet but still keep you extremely warm. Make sure you don’t overload your socks and still allow for your feet to move within your boots. Stuck toes are cold toes. Merino wool socks will forever be the ideal option for winter fishing. 

My choice for the best socks for cold-weather fishing is the Ebmore Merino Wool Socks. The Merino wool is the number one socks choice for me to keep my feet warm whilst fishing.

Boots

Boots are another piece of winter fishing gear that you cannot compromise on. The boots you choose have to be comfortable, warm, and waterproof. Whether you’re wandering around in the snow or jumping through small puddles, you want to have peace of mind that your feet will be warm regardless of the weather conditions. 

Also, you want your boots to be tall enough, so if you do choose to walk through deep snow or water, they’re going to protect you. I use wellington boots a lot while I’m fishing during the colder weather, I strongly recommend the Kamik Icebreaker Insulated Winter Boots, my best pick for keeping warm!

If you have to spend a decent amount of money to get the boots you need, then go for it. You do not want to spend your time worrying about whether or not your feet are going to be too cold to continue fishing! There’s enough to worry about when you’re on the water. 

Neckwarmer

The neck is most likely the only fully exposed part of our body when we’re winter fishing. As a result, that’s where body heat is going to escape and cold is going to enter. Do yourself a favor and purchase a nice fleece neck warmer. This will not only keep your neck warm but it can also move above your nose to keep your mouth and nose warm. If your eyes are the only things exposed, that’s okay. 

If you are looking for the best winter fleece-lined neck gaiter I would strongly recommend the Original Turtle Fur Fleece Neck warmer  These are a well-known quality heavyweight option, which is perfect for fishing – really well worth the purchase! 

Ice fishing clothes need to be several layers thick, don’t get caught out on the ice freezing cold!

Warming Up

Finding the perfect winter fishing outfit isn’t a one size fits all process. Each angler has their preferences on what works and what won’t. As long as you prioritize using an effective base layer and waterproof outer layers, you’ll stay comfortable.

Winter fishing is a blast because of the minimal amount of pressure that the fish face. You have a great opportunity to catch a trophy as long as you’re able to stay comfortable in the cold weather! 

If you are like me and love winter fishing for trout, check out my in-depth article on all the best tips, bait, and gear.

Daniel Mooers