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What to do when it's too cold to fish

I know it's coming, you know it's coming, but I still can't quite accept it as so. That is, of course, the full-blown effects of winter and those associated horrors that go with it.

True, many of you simply love the winter months with skiing and sledding and cold nature walks and all. But for an aging angler who has spent the bulk of his existence out-of-doors, work and play, winter is getting tougher and tougher on me. Things like a warm living room, with WFN fishing shows, a well-behaved cat purring in my lap and sweet iced tea just have much more appeal than snowflakes and wind chill. So, since we are all about to enter the world of the Back East Snow Wimps, here are a few ideas for the winter fisherman who is "sentenced" to the indoors for the winter.

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A good book: Ah, yes, a good read is always calming on a cold winter's eve. Lately, I've been amusing myself with the wit, wisdom and truth of a few of the "Duck Dynasty" collections. Humble beginnings and a dream made these folks rich and, somehow, famous. Doesn't seem logical, but it happened. I'll look back on past issues of In-Fisherman magazine and read about every word of the bass, panfish and catfish guides. Usually, I'll have a story or two in these pages, so I'll proudly show Elena, my granddaughter, what Pappy Jim does to make money.

Tinkering with tackle: Sure, some fishermen do this all year long. I tend to save the winter season for things like tying hairjigs for the coming season. I've come up with a few new RiverCritter patterns that were killer on smallmouths and panfish this past year, and I hope to be able to tie about 500 or more before next spring. The guys on bigbluegill.com, the best fishing site on planet Earth, are always giving me inspirations for new lure ideas. Keep 'em coming!

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Surfing the 'net: You sure can burn a lot of downtime on this one. I do a lot of research for upcoming articles and study fishing citation listings from the region so I can key in on some potential "hot bites" from neighboring states. For instance, the best panfishing in Virginia, year after year, for decades, has been the Suffolk area lakes of Tidewater, where a half-dozen bodies of water produce hundreds, sometimes thousands of citation-sized bluegills, bass, crappie, shellcrackers, channel cats, yellow perch along with bowfin, pickerel, white perch and gar. Plan accordingly!

Hit the outdoor shows: Always fun, but you gotta bring money. It's also a good idea to have a game plan, a purchase plan, a food plan and a travel plan for any one of the off-season shows that cater to the outdoors. This is done best with a group of like-minded anglers who don't mind eating out for breakfast to kick off a long day. A filling supper on the way home, preferably at Cracker Barrel, ain't bad, either.

And if you must, there is, dare I say it, ice fishing! Remember what I said about that getting old, getting cold thing? Well, sometimes you just cave in and either go close to home (pending safe ice) or travel to spots west and north. With all the cold we had last winter, I actually had a personal best 38 largemouths through the ice, including four fish over 20 inches. Most years, we won't get 4 inches of clear, hard ice for safe ice fishing. And if we do happen to get a mild winter, it won't bother me a bit.

Jim Gronaw is a freelance outdoor writer from Westminster. His column appears in the Advocate on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

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