Cold-Front Bluegill Wrangle

Cold-Front Bluegill Wrangle

I want the fish that tried to eat this 10-inch bluegill. She bit on a cold-front day. Rather severe. More like an ice front, accompanied by 30 mph winds and horizontal snow. We all caught some nice fish, but not in the numbers we were hoping for. Catching one or two bulls for a day's effort is certainly better than a kick in the groin, but not a great day.

Catching nothing might be more like a kick in the groin. And it can happen. When cold fronts pass in winter, the dense, cold air super chills everything, including the ice and the upper layers of the water column. It may not sound plausible, but it's easily proven with a down-temp gauge. Check and see for yourself. You'll find the warmest water under the ice is very seldom higher than 38°F. Water is most dense at that temperature — more dense and heavy than it is at 39°F or 37°F (a fact that still boggles the minds of physicists). So that warmest layer will be found near bottom, and during unseasonably warm weather that 38°F band of water will be larger than it is during extremely cold weather. In other words, colder water presses downward. Layers of water above measuring 33°F to 37°F expand downward.

Fish feel that pressing and expanding cold. For some fish, like lake trout, it's no more than a minor inconvenience. For bluegills and crappies, it might be quite a bit more uncomfortable. We gather that from their response. Typically, they slow down. They move around less, chase lures less, and become timid.

So we sat and worked fish longer today. That's what you need to do when you've planned a trip for bluegills that can't be rearranged and it ends up coinciding with a massive cold front. Hunker down with the fish. When you see bluegills with cameras or depth finders, stay put, downsize to smaller jigs and hooks, shorten your jigging strokes,  and inject longer pauses.

Ice-front days seldom produce the best fishing experiences of your life. But stay on the fish you find, which will generally be on bottom or closer to it than usual. You'll catch a few. Mostly smaller fish, but patience rewards you with a few like the one in this photo we took in the morning. By afternoon, after working in heavy wind all day, we felt like we'd been kicked by something, but not in the groin, at least.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Pike & Muskie

Best Drive-To Pike Waters

Gord Pyzer

Some of Canada's best pike waters are within driving distance.


Topwater Lure Secrets for Bass

Jim Edlund - April 26, 2018

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat!


10 Best Bass Fishing States In America

Matt Straw - November 01, 2017

Which of the ten is the best? You decide.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Selective Harvest Yellow Bass

In order to sustain good fishing, it's important to understand which to release and fish you should for a fine meal.

Simms' Challenger Raingear

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products details the warm and dry features found in the new Challenger raingear being brought to market by the Bozeman, Mont. company.

Room Full of New Gear from L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean's Jeff Miller shares a room-full of new gear for 2020 with Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...


The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Stories

More Panfish


Proven Patterns for Panfish

Dan Johnson - May 22, 2018

Proven patterns for panfish allow anglers to catch a rich diversity of panfish all year round.


Softbait Hacks for Hardwater Panfish

Cory Schmidt - February 27, 2019

Bites are one thing, but bites alone don't get it done.


Finding Big Bluegill in Tall Corn

Matt Straw - April 02, 2018

There are several reasons why spring is the season to invest most of your bull-hunting time:...

See More Panfish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.