Where do small fish go in the winter?

Silverfisher

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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.
Yeah that sounds pretty much the norm. Through the summer and autumn here the Thames is full of sub pound roach, dace, chublet, pommies, skimmers, perch etc (along with the flipping bleak!) but come the winter you only really catch them in some particular areas and usually in sustained spells of mild weather and even then very rarely in the numbers that you do in the summer and autumn. Aside from those places and conditions you tend to catch mostly 2-5lb chub and sometimes bream.
 

Sam Vimes

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On my local rivers, dace and small chub tend to migrate downstream for the winter. They'll be back at some point during the closed season. Grayling, which are thin on the ground during the summer months because they are further upstream, will migrate downstream to the parts of the river I tend to frequent. Barbel and chub tend to come upstream (to the areas I fish) to spawn and mostly drift back downstream when they are done. Essentially, I'll be fishing for dace, chublets and trout in the summer. In the winter, I'll be fishing for grayling (with the odd trout as unwanted bycatch). There will be a smattering of resident chub throughout the year. Minnows will be a total menace for the bulk of the year. However, they do tend to disappear almost completely once we have a few days of frost. We'll only see them before the end of the season if it's relatively mild.
 

smiffy

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Look for sheltered places. Bridges, especially if it’s in a town centre. Parks with footbridges and suchlike, anywhere Joe Public might feed the Ducks. Cuts from the main river where they can shelter in floods. Quaysides away from the main river are a pretty good bet. Any small feeder streams.
Don’t expect to catch them on a big maggot. A small punch is all you need. They can switch off for weeks though.
 

The Runner

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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!
Hi @mbuna_matt . Was talking to Derek on Friday and said that I expected the all time low winning weight there to be beaten ! (It was 4-6 for donkeys years, until today) .
No idea where they go. The same thing happened for about three years in a row around twelve years ago and people were praying then not to draw the back stream. And then the next year it was back to normal. Difference now of course is that the chub have virtually gone from the main river as well so it’s hard everywhere.
Assume the bream was from the Dole House ? There’s a small shoal there, about two get caught per season , only ever one at a time , and pot luck as to size, anything from 1-8 to 5-8. I’ve had odd ones from the main river in various swims below the weir but only in summer. Had one of 8-6 from peg 39 just before I moved up here- god knows where that came from.
 

Robwooly

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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?
Rest assured they will be back, you'll fish it on the 16th of June and won't be able to get through them, many will be new additions and last years troublesome tiddlers will be a generation larger, many of the reasons for their disappearance have already been given on here although I would add on really small streams and rivers the surviving fish don't tend to migrate too far and will go to the nearest available bit of cover.

It stands to reason that in the colder temps a small fish isn't going to want to be swimming around trying to digest a bait that takes up their entire mouth or stomach, much like high oil pellets don't work well in winter, they can go months without needing any food.

Also your shoal of chub will keep these minnows and fry honest, in summer the small fish can see them better and dart in and out for your bait knowing they can get out of the way, I'd expect the warmer water temps make their muscles work better too and they are more active for that reason, come winter there is also usually more colour in these little streams, perfect for ambush from the larger fish.

I've seen shoals of small fish on small rivers and canals compacted into the tiniest of spaces, they could well be a stones throw from where you are fishing tucked away someone not wanting any food but are still there, try fishing for them and they will drift away especially if the water is clear and it's freezing. Most species fish are surprisingly mobile even in the coldest temps especially in moving water.
 

mbuna_matt

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Hi @mbuna_matt . Was talking to Derek on Friday and said that I expected the all time low winning weight there to be beaten ! (It was 4-6 for donkeys years, until today) .
No idea where they go. The same thing happened for about three years in a row around twelve years ago and people were praying then not to draw the back stream. And then the next year it was back to normal. Difference now of course is that the chub have virtually gone from the main river as well so it’s hard everywhere.
Assume the bream was from the Dole House ? There’s a small shoal there, about two get caught per season , only ever one at a time , and pot luck as to size, anything from 1-8 to 5-8. I’ve had odd ones from the main river in various swims below the weir but only in summer. Had one of 8-6 from peg 39 just before I moved up here- god knows where that came from.
Hi mate - actually Derek won from the main river, peg 43 I think......... good call on the weights ;-(
 

BarryS

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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?
Benidorm
 

JamesMc

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I have witnessed them in a marina in their 1000s recently, they won't look at a thing and spend their time avoiding the large pike that hang around them like a carvery station!!

It always fascinated me that until I seen it.. I also spent a few hours like a kid dropping worms and sweetcorn and pinkies at them with very little interest.. in fact I made some groundbait and watched how they avoided the cloud drift and didnt return for the free offerings included!! 🤔🙃
 

Zerkalo

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I don't mind the small fish disappearing from stretches of the Severn in winter, no idea where they go (maybe Stourport? :LOL:), but it means you can fish maggot and only catch Barbel and Chub that also seem to be a better stamp with their winter weight on.
 

HALTON DANGLER

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Think of it like this, winter is the missus is moaning at you, you either put up or move on.

Some fish stay in the harshest of cold like grayling and trout and chub and suffer the harshness of the wrath. Others migrates and come back kn spring when it's all su light and happiness.
 
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