How Do Seasons Affect Freshwater Fishing In Lakes And Rivers

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Seasonal weather changes have a huge impact on freshwater fishing. Every country worldwide has variations during the year, some more than others. However, whichever part of the globe you spend your time fishing in, specific seasonal changes significantly affect fish behavior and, therefore, your chances of catching fish. 

Seasons when fishing on lakes and rivers are one of the major factors you need to understand as a freshwater angler to increase your success rate.  

Having been a professional fishing guide on the Kenyan rivers and streams and fishing in multiple countries throughout Europe and the United States, I have had to learn about the impact of the four seasons, and believe me, fish respond to them far more than you think. 

In this article, I’ll run through everything I’ve learned over my many years on the water so that you can better predict how fish will behave and be more successful anglers.  

If you are a sea angler, check out my article dedicated to the tides and seasonal impact of saltwater fishing in both offshore and inshore locations. 

How Do Seasons Affect Freshwater Fishing? 

The main thing you need to be aware of concerning changing seasons is changing water temperatures.

Fish have to regulate their body temperature, which requires energy, and fish will always act in a way that conserves or maintains their strength as much as possible. So, how do they do this across all seasons? Let’s start with winter. 

How Do Freshwater Fish Behave In Winter? 

When winter arrives, the water temperatures drop, and fish look for the warmest water locations to regulate their body temperature as quickly as possible. 

During winter, warmer water is around the deeper depths. This means all the trout, carp, pike, or other freshwater predatory species you target will prefer to hold in the deeper water of the lakes and rivers they habitat. 

Due to the colder water temperatures, fish have to expend more energy regulating their body temperature, slowing down their metabolism. Fish will feed less actively, as chasing a fish around a lake would be a massive waste of energy. 

Of course, this does not mean they don’t feed, but they will look for easy meals that require as little activity as possible. 

How To Adapt Your Fishing Tactics In Winter 

When fishing in winter, you should fish deep and as slowly as possible. This will have your bait or lures in the strike zone, and moving them slower creates the easy meal the fish you are targeting are interested in. 

To gain more advantage, you should plan to fish in the middle of the day as during this time, the water will be at its warmest, and the fish will be most active. 

How Do Freshwater Fish Behave In Spring?

In the springtime, the water temperatures begin to heat up, and fish become more active, moving from the deep into the shallows. 

Spring is also when some bait fish spawn and insects start hatching. Predatory fish will be hungry after a long winter and will want to strap on their feed bag. 

Also, some predatory fish like bass spawn in late spring and therefore have even more reason to feed aggressively as they need to build up their energy for spawning. 

But, keep a close eye on the water temperature; if it doesn’t warm up enough, the fish will still hold deep and be lethargic. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather, as the second or third warm day can see the fishing go off! 

How To Adapt Your Fishing Tactics In Spring 

Bring a deep, slow fishing rig and a faster shallow fishing rig when fishing in early spring. It is hard to predict how fish will behave on any given day, and you want to cover the possibilities of lethargic or more aggressive feeding, which can change throughout the day too! 

In mid to late spring, the fish will be aggressive and hunting in the shallows, so a faster action shallow rig is your best bet. 

How Do Freshwater Fish Behave In Summer?

In the summer, lakes and rivers are packed full of bait as everything has spawned, from tadpoles to bait fish, and the insects have hatched. This creates much more food for predatory fish to go after, but their aggression changes again based on water temperature. 

Hot summer days see the surface water temperature rise to an uncomfortable level for fish. This makes them head deeper to find cooler water and become lethargic again to maintain their body temperature. 

They will feed on the bait at their preferred depth but will be less aggressive. However, the water temperature drops in the early mornings and late evenings, and the fish will be more aggressive and move to the shallower waters. Margin areas are great examples where fish like carp will prefer to roam around for food.

How To Adapt Your Fishing Tactics In Summer 

When freshwater fishing in the summer, you want to time your fishing sessions around sunrise and sunset, as this is when the water temperature is best, and the fish are most aggressive. 

These times of day also have less light. Most fish do not have eyelids, so they can not protect their eyes from the intense midday sun. 

If possible, fish in the shallow areas in the early mornings and late evenings and change to fishing deep and slower in the middle of the day. 

How Do Freshwater Fish Behave In The Fall?

In the fall, the water temperatures cool off from summer and become ideal for fish again. It’s at this time when the maximum amount of hatched fry is available in the system. 

Add to this the fact that the fish need to feed a lot to create winter fat stores, and you have a fabulous time of year for fishing. The fish become increasingly aggressive and eat as much as possible before the cold winter arrives. 

How To Adapt Your Fishing Tactics In The Fall 

Since the fish are aggressive in the fall and looking for large chunks of protein to fatten up for winter, it is best to use larger baits and fish them in the shallows.

The predatory fish will be looking for their preferred prey all over the lake or river, trying to gorge on as many of them as possible.  

Seasons Out

Freshwater anglers of all types should never downplay the notion that seasons don’t affect their fishing. Each season will change your chances dramatically whether you target carp, tench, bass, or trout in any part of the world.  

Lastly, the changes in barometric pressure will also play a role in the success of every angler, and together with understanding seasonality; you can gain a big advantage over other anglers. 

Steve Fitzjohn