Where do small fish go in the winter?

Shadrack

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I’ve been fishing a small stream over this season, my first season on this type of venue. During the summer and autumn it was teeming with life, lots of small roach and chub and masses of minnows. Trotting maggots was a fish a chuck.
Over winter they seem to have completely disappeared, with only the larger chub hanging around. Is this a normal thing? Where do the smaller fish disappear to during the winter months? Will they be back in the spring?
 

Yuccaman

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With my pike fishing hat on, I would always, once it gets cold, target deep, slow sections, for the simple reason that it's where you often will find the small fish because the deeper holes will retain their temperature more.

That said, your main river goes into flood, and they may well head back into side streams for shelter - I suppose it depends a little on how far from the main river it is you are fishing.

Wherever you are, it is likely that the silvers will be shoaled up tight somewhere - it's a question of finding where that is (but deep, sheltered and slow would be where I would be heading to find a pike... who will only be where it's breakfast is).
 

tipitinmick

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A few small fish will still be in the swims you’ve fished but, simply won’t be feeding. The majority may have migrated to more sheltered areas of your stream. Some favouring the deeper glides / holes where the water temp may just be a tad warmer and more consistent. Chub will feed when there’s snow on the ground. I’d target them while you can. Nothing wrong with chub from a stream. 👍
 

Shadrack

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Suppose it makes sense that they would head for deeper areas, same as on a lake. Just surprised me how it’s gone from solid with fish to looking almost devoid of life.
Ah well, I’m happy enough catching a few chub and concentrating on other venues whilst waiting for them all to return.
 

Zerkalo

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I've wondered about the same myself, using the weir I fish as an example. It seems different species and sizes want different water at different times of year and different flows and temperatures, so the above makes sense about trying to find where they shoal up. The weir I fish is devoid of fish once the water temperature reaches a certain level, even the bigger Chub migrate out of the pool so you're lucky in a way.
 

Silverfisher

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Yep completely normal they tend to both shoal up in particular winter holding spots and feed a lot less. In the warmer months they’ll be all over the place and feeding most of the time. Generally the migrations and reductions in feeding around here starts sometime in November depending on when the weather changes then they wont both start returning to their usual haunts and feed consistently until after they’ve spawned. So generally on stillwaters and canals the fishing will be back to normal by start of may but on rivers I find it tends to be start of July for some reason of which there are many theories.
 

Shadrack

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Yep completely normal they tend to both shoal up in particular winter holding spots and feed a lot less. In the warmer months they’ll be all over the place and feeding most of the time. Generally the migrations and reductions in feeding around here starts sometime in November depending on when the weather changes then they wont both start returning to their usual haunts and feed consistently until after they’ve spawned. So generally on stillwaters and canals the fishing will be back to normal by start of may but on rivers I find it tends to be start of July for some reason of which there are many theories.
Interesting. Haven’t been on this stream since October until recently so I didn’t notice when they disappeared exactly, but it’ll be interesting to note when they start reappearing.
 

Silverfisher

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Interesting. Haven’t been on this stream since October until recently so I didn’t notice when they disappeared exactly, but it’ll be interesting to note when they start reappearing.
I suspect it’ll have happened when the temperatures plummeted about 2/3 of the way through November. As to when they might show again if they have just gone dormant rather than departed a week or so of mild weather might see them come back on the feed for a bit but if they have migrated they probably won’t come back before the end of the season unless there are spawning grounds there.
 

mike fox

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80% of them will have died, either through predation,(many will be inside the stomachs of the larger Chub) natural mortality by starvation through lack of natural food or washed away during a flood. Those that do survive the first few months of life will be hidden in grass and tree roots hard under the undercut banks out of harms way. When a single female Roach could lay up to 100,000 eggs each spawning season it is little wonder that only a small percentage will survive the first year. Most of the 15% that survive the first year will be probably taken by predators but natural recruitment will be sustainable year on year. Only 5% will survive naturally to reach adulthood. So, in your river, only a handfull of the number of fish you saw earlier in the year will ever show up again next summer.
 

Yeoman

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It's a good thing, imo, and happens on one of my local stretches.
About mid October all the pissy chublets and dace disappear and all you can catch are good Chub......what a shame!
 

Zerkalo

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The one year the weir had no small fish in there but only big fish, there was also a lot of Pike. That might have been a reason the small fish didn't congregate. The next year it was teeming with small fish and was great fun, but they only stuck around for a week or so mid August, the very next week I was back on the big Chub again. Last summer there were only enough small Chub to be a nuisance rather than put together a big bag of them, and again, they weren't there at the very start of the season but in July and August, then they made way for Barbel in Autumn. I say that my weir has what is a buddhist concept of Samsara, or flow, a cycle of life.
 

Shadrack

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It's a good thing, imo, and happens on one of my local stretches.
About mid October all the pissy chublets and dace disappear and all you can catch are good Chub......what a shame!
Haha, those sessions catching with every run through can be nice after blanking on harder venues.
 

Shadrack

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The one year the weir had no small fish in there but only big fish, there was also a lot of Pike. That might have been a reason the small fish didn't congregate. The next year it was teeming with small fish and was great fun, but they only stuck around for a week or so mid August, the very next week I was back on the big Chub again. Last summer there were only enough small Chub to be a nuisance rather than put together a big bag of them, and again, they weren't there at the very start of the season but in July and August, then they made way for Barbel in Autumn. I say that my weir has what is a buddhist concept of Samsara, or flow, a cycle of life.
It’s the first season I’ve fished this type of venue, but it’ll interesting to note any stuff like this over the coming seasons
 

Zerkalo

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It’s the first season I’ve fished this type of venue, but it’ll interesting to note any stuff like this over the coming seasons
I've had three seasons on this weir and the first year I fished maggot and could only catch big Chub. Someone told me it was full of tiddlers and I didn't believe them until the next summer, for a week or two it was packed with small fish, I had some good days as you say, getting a bite every run through is good sport from small rivers.
 

Pompous git

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Slightly off topic, in the early seventies the river Darent actually dried up {I remember walking across the dried up lake beds at Horton
Kirby} but when the river had water back in it they returned almost overnight. Where did the go? They couldn`t go upstream because
of a weir so I assume they followed the river downstream to the Thames and turned left.
 

mbuna_matt

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My local backwater of the Colne is normally stuffed with wintering roach and dace, some matches you wanted double figures off the pegs in the 50's to do well. This year? Well, today was the first match of the year and was won with 2lb (1 bream..), 2nd place weighed in 8oz and 3rd was two minnows. I would dearly love to know where our normal wintering fish have gone to this year ! I blanked - not a good start!
 

Silverfisher

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80% of them will have died, either through predation,(many will be inside the stomachs of the larger Chub) natural mortality by starvation through lack of natural food or washed away during a flood. Those that do survive the first few months of life will be hidden in grass and tree roots hard under the undercut banks out of harms way. When a single female Roach could lay up to 100,000 eggs each spawning season it is little wonder that only a small percentage will survive the first year. Most of the 15% that survive the first year will be probably taken by predators but natural recruitment will be sustainable year on year. Only 5% will survive naturally to reach adulthood. So, in your river, only a handfull of the number of fish you saw earlier in the year will ever show up again next summer.
Surely that would depend on the size of fish he’s talking about? They’re presumably well beyond the first year size if he was catching them as if I’m not mistaken a year old roach would be barely bigger than a couple inches so unlikely to be catchable in any numbers with maturity I think coming after 3 years thus probably fish over 5 inches.
 

Shadrack

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Surely that would depend on the size of fish he’s talking about? They’re presumably well beyond the first year size if he was catching them as if I’m not mistaken a year old roach would be barely bigger than a couple inches so unlikely to be catchable in any numbers with maturity I think coming after 3 years thus probably fish over 5 inches.
I’m talking roach and chublets of a few ounces up to probably 10oz, the bigger chub I’ve been catching are about 1lb. Saw two or three late last autumn which might have touched 2lb. So basically anything smaller than 1lb seems to have vanished.
 

mike fox

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I’m talking roach and chublets of a few ounces up to probably 10oz, the bigger chub I’ve been catching are about 1lb. Saw two or three late last autumn which might have touched 2lb. So basically anything smaller than 1lb seems to have vanished.
So you are talking of 1-4 year old juvenile verging on mature fish. All fish are nomadic to an extent if they have the freedom to do so without man made obstacles in their way, otherwise I would assume it's predation or just natural mortality/disease.
 
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