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Fish and the Winter Freeze

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During the wintertime, we see the lakes and rivers we loved during warmer months transform into frozen, seemingly barren expanses—but is there anything going on below the ice?

In today’s blog, we’re tackling this big question (and a few more frozen facts for fishermen!).

Adjusting to the ice

What happens when your favorite waterway freezes over? You can rest assured knowing that the fish underneath are okay—they can still swim and pass the time before warmer weather arrives!

This is possible thanks to a unique property of water. While other liquids become denser when they freeze, water stands out and actually becomes less dense, enabling it to float on top of the dense liquid water below. Without this peculiarity, there wouldn’t be any swimmable water beneath the ice—because the water would freeze from the bottom!

While most lakes and ponds are still inhabitable during freezing weather (unless, of course, the water is particularly shallow and freezes all the way through), fish do need to adapt to the colder conditions. They do this by entering into a slower, more conservative state of activity. While it’s not exactly a hibernation, this stupor allows the fish to live despite not having much access to nutrients underwater.

Most fish, except for certain species like salmon, prefer to keep near the bottom of the lake or pond where water is warmest and they are most likely to find what limited food is available. This contrasts with the norm during summer months, when the water closer to the surface is warmer.

The ice fishing alternative

Looking for a new way to experience wintertime fishing? Ice fishing is a sport reserved for the coldest temperatures and the thickest patches of ice—on these lakes, you might find makeshift ice shanties set up on the ice, where anglers spend time waiting for a catch through a hole in the surface. It’s a slower-paced alternative to high-octane summertime excursions and fights to land the biggest catch of the day—but for those who come to the cold, frozen-over bodies of water every year, it’s an activity that can’t be missed.

While frozen-over lakes may not be conducive to your typical Robalo experience, they’re still sites full of interesting things going on below the surface—even if we can’t see it!


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