Creek fishing is one of the disputed joys in life. It is undoubtably fun, catchingfish after fish while admiring the picturesque scenary many of these creeks are set in. It's fun to climb over rocks, hike through the woods, and lose yourself in outdoors. The options are diverse, too: while most people think of trout when they think of creek fishing, you can catch smallmouth, panfish, and even the rare catfish and largemouth bass (be warned; creek largies can be feisty!) There are also fish who less well known, but putting up a good fight nevertheless, such as chub, sucker, and various large minnows.
Above: Large creek minnows can be easily caught late in the year with 1/16th jigs.
Many park creeks see a lot of visitors in the spring and summer. Rows of men and boys, some very experienced, others just learning to wet a line, line the banks of popular creeks in the summer. Many tackle shops near popular destinations stock up overtime on live bait and flies in preparation for the warm-weather traffic. But when the leaves start turning red, and the frosts set in, the once-common crowds are now gone. The shores are bare. The parking lots are no longer packed. The cold weather, and the subsequent lower feeding activity of fish, discouraged most fishermen.
Above: When approaching a large pool in a stream, walk quietly. You never know what kind of fish you just might spook!
However, that's a mistake. Creek fishing is still very much alive in the fall. All fish will feed if a good opportunity, and the right conditions, are in place. The challenge is getting them. That's when stealth and finesse tactics set in. Whenever and wherever the water is getting cold, these two tactics work.
When most of us think of fishing, stealth isn't something we think of. But in small, or clear creeks, especially in the cold weather, the fish are jumpy. They are easily disturbed, and the sound of pebbles skidding down the shore, or the vibrations created by your heavy boots hitting the ground scares them. And when fish are scared, the bite's off. They hide, and don't feed. It's crucial in these situations to:
A: Walk slowly and quietly. Don't talk. You don't want the fish to sense your presence and get scared by your approach.
B: Make a silent cast into the water. The sound of your lure hitting the water may scare them. Try to "slip" your bait into the water. Make as few ripples as possible.
Being spooken into not feeding, especially during cold or post-frontal conditions, is universal fish behavior. Some fish, such as panfish, are easier to coax back in feeding again, but others, such as brown trout, will stop feeding altogether. Your best bet is to move down to the next pool and come back later when you scare the fish.
Above: Fish like to crowd around inlets for the flow of food.
Finesse tactics are something we are all familiar with. Fish small, unintrusive baits, and fish them slow. In the creeks and streams during the cold months, I recommend using tiny hooks with a bit of worm or cricket on them, 1/16th oz marabou jigs, or fly-fishing wet flies. Ice fishing jigs (1/64th oz) can work as well. Make a silent cast into the pool, and start to work you bait. I like to fish my jig with a twitch (small!), twitch, pause retreive. Remember, in the cold, the fish are inactive, and won't be frisky and chasing after fast prey.
I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any article requests; this article was resquested by a reader and I was more than happy to write it.
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.