Winter can be one of the most productive times for shore fishing. The largest cod – those well into double figures – are caught during the winter months, while species such as whiting, flounder, dab and coalfish can all provide action for anglers who are waiting for big cod to bite.
The best winter fishing usually coincides with strong winds and rough seas. While these may be the best conditions for catching large fish, they’re some of the most challenging for anglers. Chris Middleton tells us how to stay safe and keep warm when the cold bites.
Why it’s important to keep warm
In winter the temperature can drop well below zero, with cold winds, rain or sea spray making conditions even worse for anglers. Failing to wear suitable clothing makes for uncomfortable fishing, and in extreme cases can put an angler’s health, and even life, at risk. A two degree drop in body temperature is all it takes for you to suffer hypothermia. A mild case will result in irritability, confusion and unconsciousness. Ultimately it can end in death.
The good news is that the right clothing can make winter sea fishing one of the most exciting sports you can imagine. Advances in materials and fabrics mean that modern thermal suits, flotation suits, jackets, hats and gloves will keep you safe, dry and toasty warm while fishing in any type of weather.
If you’re serious about fishing in winter, a thermal suit is an essential investment. Today, two piece suits which offer a separate jacket and trousers/braces bottom are the most popular option, although one piece suits are also available.
As thermal suits are very effective, anglers don’t have to wear too many layers underneath them. Many find that a T-shirt and sweater along with jogging bottoms is sufficient, but those looking for extra warmth could always add additional layers.
All good thermal suits feature a heavy-duty outer shell and a warm thermal lining – a combination with keeps the wind and rain out and allows anglers to remain warm. Other features include a detachable hood, thermal-lined exterior pockets, Velcro adjustable cuffs and an interior pocket with a zip (ideal for keeping a mobile phone, car keys or other valuables.) The Imax Thermo Suit from Fishtec provides all of this for just £89.99. Alternatively, the Imax ARX-20 Ice Thermo Suit allows anglers to fish comfortably at temperatures as low as -20 degrees.
Flotation suits offer the same warmth and protection from wind and rain as thermal suits, but with the added advantage of buoyancy for anyone unlucky enough to fall into the sea while fishing. These suits offer a higher level of security for anglers who fish from rock marks or other exposed fishing marks.
These suits typically offer 50 Newtons of lift (less than a life jacket which is designed to be used in tidal waters) so they’re not designed to be used in place of a regular life jacket. But they will help keep you afloat if you fall in – potentially saving your life. There are two choices of flotation suit – a one piece style, or a two piece that consists of a jacket and separate trousers with shoulder straps. Most people find the two-piece version more versatile as you can wear the jacket alone when it’s not cold enough to warrant the whole thing. The Daiwa Sas MK7 2 Piece Flotation Suit from Fishtec is a high quality option from a well-known manufacturer – a good investment at £114.99.
Of course not all fishing takes place in the coldest or most extreme weather! Mild winter night fishing for cod, or an autumn evening lure fishing for bass will require a warm jacket rather than a full flotation suit.
Modern jackets constructed from breathable materials don’t restrict movement and allow you to cast to your heart’s content. However, they are very warm and waterproof, meaning that you’ll be protected if the temperature suddenly plummets or there’s a flash downpour. The TF Gear Force 8 Waterproof Jacket is an ideal example – totally wind and waterproof with polar fleece lining, comfortable elasticated cuffs and a lined hood with draw cord.
Hats and gloves
It’s important to invest in high-quality, effective hats and gloves. Indeed, insufficiently warm gloves could allow your hands to get so cold you’ll be unable to carry out basic sea fishing actions such as tying knots, reeling in or unclipping terminal tackle. In serious cases gloves that don’t protect the hands properly have led to anglers getting frostbite. A pair of high quality thermal gloves – such as the Imax Oceanic Glove – are an essential item of clothing for winter anglers.
And don’t forget your head. While most thermal and flotation suits come with a thermal lined hood, many people also wear an additional woolly hat as extra protection from cold winds. Peaked, fleece lined hats which cover the ears are popular with some anglers when the sun is setting. Polarised sunglasses are also useful. The anti-glare properties help anglers spot fish such as mullet feeding just below the surface of the water. These Bolle polarised fishing sunglasses are a popular choice and a lanyard is probably a good idea!
During a winter fishing session your feet can become very cold, especially if there’s snow on the ground or in frosty conditions. Invest in boots with a heat-retaining thermal lining that are specifically designed for harsh winter weather.
Indeed, many anglers have learned the hard way that normal walking boots or wellingtons are simply not warm enough on cold winter nights, even when worn with thermal socks. The TF Gear Thermo boots are an ideal example of this type of footwear and will keep feet warm down to temperatures of -10 degrees.
What should I wear for winter sea fishing?
Don’t get so caught up in decisions about rigs, venue and bait when planning a sea fishing trip that the correct clothing becomes an afterthought. Inadequate clothing will not only spoil your enjoyment, but could even threaten your health. Here’s a quick summary of the essential clothes you’ll need for winter sea fishing: