Whether you’re ice fishing in the northern states or looking to cast a line somewhere in the warmer waters of the south, some of the best freshwater fish to catch this time of year will also make a good table. Consider targeting these five freshwater fish species once you’ve reviewed state fishing regulations, then bring some home for a family fish roast.
1. Black crappie.
Use small jigs or minnows in clear ponds, natural lakes, and reservoirs with lots of vegetation when aiming for black crappie. Crappies are often most active during the cooler months of the year, so winter is one of the best times to target them in the eastern half of the country. They are also a delicious addition to the dining table when fried or sautéed in a butter sauce.
2. Yellow perch.
Yellow perch is found primarily in lakes or ponds in the Northeast and Midwest and actively feeds throughout the winter. It is often caught ice fishing. These pan fish are an ideal destination for families and children as they are ready to take almost any natural bait, as well as artificial bait or flies. Perch is one of the best freshwater fish, especially when fried in brown butter and drizzled with a pinch of lemon.
To catch winter bluegill, use an ultra-light freshwater fishing rod and jigs with minnows or wax worms around weed beds near the twilight and dusk periods. They are one of the most widespread species of panfish in the country and one of the easiest fish to catch for beginners.
Pikeperch are best for deep holes in freshwater lakes and ponds in low light such as dawn and dusk. Spoons and jigs with minnow are your best choices when it comes to getting pikeperch bite in cold weather. Many anglers consider pikeperch the best and most edible freshwater fish because of its excellent food value. The light, white flake fillets are sought after by anglers in many of our northern states.
5. Channel catfish.
If you can find a river reservoir within walking distance of home, the best winter strategy is to fish the deeper holes that have vegetation or some form of cover. Use bottom-based freshwater fishing presentations such as slip rigs and split-shot rigs. If you roll up a channel catfish that complies with the regulations, you can create a recipe for fried catfish in the south or a recipe for blackened catfish. Yum!
Since you know five of the best freshwater fish to catch (and eat) this winter, the next step is to make sure you have your freshwater fishing license and the right gear for your cool weather adventures.