A buddy and myself have caught largemouth every month of the year up at Green Peter but have found in winter months for the most part you have to fish pretty slow and have decent electronics. Drop shotting 3" Yum Dingers have done us well and small jigs also. (20 to 40 feet)
Several years back I was able to catch smallies every month out of the Willamette below the falls. The best bait was a black football jig (3/8) fished slow. Some days only caught one or two. Caught them in very slow current places as well as out in the current!!
A bunch of Western Bass Club members use a technique in Nov.-Feb. that we tend to call "The Rev Rig". Also known as "the 3-way Rig". The guy that discovered/developed it is Reverand Chuck Bailey, hence the name. I think there may be some prayer involved, too. Basically, this is used on Lk. Washington and Sammamish for deep Smallies. I wouldn't say the current in Lk. WA is in the same class as your rivers, but there is some. I have been driven nuts at times, drifting upwind while fishing under the East Channel Bridge. Current should be heading North there, not South.
Anyway, the rig is a 7' med-lt G.Loomis baitcaster, decent reel (Shimano is likely), with a 'super-line', like Stren Braid. Tie on a 3-way swivel, then tie a 2 oz ball sinker on a monofil of about 8 lb test onto one leg of the swivel. The other leg of the swivel gets a leader of 6 or 8 lb Flourocarbon, with the lure tied to that. The lures of choice are jointed Rapala minnows or the Mann's Minus-1. I can't tell you the colors, because I don't do this stuff, but I'd bet Perch would work, Craw would work, and silver/black or gold/black should work. "Clown" might even work. It goes without saying, that the hooks are replaced with Gamakatsu EWG trebles, right?
The presentation is done by dropping (no casting) the rig over the side with the trolling motor running. The TM is kept running, pretty much as fast as you can while keeping the "downrigger ball" on the bottom. Deep water around 40-45 feet adjacent feeding flats is appropriate. Drag it down the drops, drag it back up the drops. Electronics are useful for this.
You have very little time to "CPR" these fish. To get them back to the depths, rig another rod with another 2+ oz sinker and a single barbless worm hook. Hook the fish on and drop that rig over the side, with the fish. The bloated fish will be pointed down, and will be pulled to the bottom. Wait a few minutes, and the fish will get itself loose from the barbless hook. Theory is that this saves the fish. There is some reason to think this is only temporary.
Like I said, I don't do this. I don't like cold weather that well (hypoglycemic), and don't like fishing for deep fish (but only because it's hard on the fish). But if you are interested and have the boat, it's a productive way to do it. Possibly not tournament legal, but certainly worth a try for sport fishing. I gotta say, I don't understand why they don't just use downriggers. :hoboy: C&R, Steve
Is there proof that fishing fish deep is hard on the fish, besides the fact that fish have trouble staying upright because of their air sack (or what ever it's called)? I know people use needles to let the air out so the fish that were caught deep don't have a problem getting up-side-down in the livewell. Is that enough to help the fish get back into the water and actually live to be caught another day?
I have this happen on deep crappie, especially in the colder months. The fish will float up, curl it's tail and lay there with it's mouth open and the swim bladder in it's throat. Unhook the fish and throw it back straight down. You want it's head to enter the water first, like a dive. It's mouth will be open and the force of the water pushes the swim bladder back where it is supposed to be. The fish will burb out some bubbles and take off like a shot. If it doesn't work it will struggle down a ways and pop back up. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 drops to do the job. The drop also helps jump start the fish from the lactic acid build up from the stress of the fight.This seems to work about 80% of the time.
Today I was catching slabs so deep they would float up the last 10 feet. If they pulled loose 3/4 of the way up there was a chance they would free float up and lay on the surface while they were netted.
We had a couple of fisheries biologists come and take some records and measurements at a club T on Lk. Washington. I was TD, and didn't fish in the T, but did C&R. I told the biologists that I didn't like to tournament fish deep fish, and I figured that they would be, in early October. As I recall, they said that venting the air bladder was a temporary fix, but that the organs would already be hemorrhaging and most the fish would not survive, even if they seemed healthy.
However, opinions vary. Some say that deep Smallies will scream to the surface and go airborne...surely they wouldn't do that if it was going to hurt them, would they? I don't really know, but I'd rather not take a chance with my favorite...:bowdown: brown bass. C&R, Steve :angel1:
Going deep isn't the problem. Coming up too fast is. I've seen fish ralph up air bladders after being yanked up from merely 15 to 20 feet. When you're little, I guess that is a bigger deal than it would be to you or I. Some fish are fine below 100' but if you pull them up from that depth too fast it can mean the end of that fish.
Nothing huge but lots of real good ones. Solid, thick fish 11" - 14". Now is the right time to catch a monster. They are feeding heavy on crappie fry. I have been catching huge perch each trip lately. Doing some cast & blast trips (crappie/chukar). Fishing is usually secondary on those.