How to Treat the Winter Disease of Cabin Fever


As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to the realization that cold-weather fishing is not my thing anymore. Ice fishing does not appeal to me, even though its popularity is at an all-time high—and will rise, especially if and when we get enough ice this season. I’m still an avid open-water angler. But when I’m inside in the winter months, it takes a toll on my mental state, just as it does for many of you. This condition has been diagnosed many years ago and is called “cabin fever.” There are tips for each winter to treat this dreaded seasonal “disease.”

First, you can focus on cleaning up your tackle, all your rods and reels. I know it may sound silly to some, but just handling your tackle and equipment can provide some satisfaction and relief. Fishing rods can get pretty dirty over the course of an open-water season, and a mild soap and water rubdown over the rod blank can do wonders. The same soapy solution and a toothbrush can clean up those cork rod handles too. Also, check the guides for cracks or other signs of wear and have them replaced now.

I usually leave the internal cleaning of my reels to the experts. Send them back to the factory or have them cleaned and lubed by a local tackle shop, with experts who can even teach you the correct way, or give it to someone who specializes in that type of work. Again, if you are handy and have learned how to do it, you can disassemble them and do it yourself. But chances are—if you need replacement parts—you will have to contact the factory and order them or try to find them locally.

Once I’m finished cleaning my reels or having them done, I don’t re-line them with monofilament until the end of February or early March. You’ll have fewer problems with monofilament line memory if you wait until the open-water season is about to start.

Next, go through all your lures, looking for rusted hooks and worn split rings. Replace them now if it’s needed. A minor touch-up on lure finishes can be done with clear nail polish. Of course, now you can replace those favorite baits that you lost last season on snags or lost. Go through all of your tackle and equipment systematically. Now is the right time to buy a new minnow bucket instead of the rusted one that you’ve been using for the last 20 years. Also, check product reviews and pay a visit to local tackle shops or other well-stocked stores to check out any new offerings.

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You want to now update and review your fishing log from last year. You might be surprised how satisfying and rewarding it can be to relive those good trips and try to learn from some of the bad ones. By reviewing your log, you may discover some successful patterns from past outings that you overlooked at the time. Now is the time to reapply them mentally and incorporate them into next year’s game plan on the water, at home and on the ice. If you don’t keep a fishing log, you may want to consider it for next season. No one’s memory is that good, and a log can be more valuable as the years go by as they can reveal areas, patterns, movements and successful presentations on different bodies of water. You can list additional notes or any other information too. Some tackle shops sell logbooks and there is computer software or online opportunities in this area available if you would rather go that route.

There are now more sport shows from January through March than ever before. Get out of the house and take advantage of them. And do not overlook some of the smaller shows. These shows may not attract the big-name tackle companies, but the lesser-known manufacturers often have some unique items to offer, and your questions will be fielded thoroughly. Every show, especially the larger ones, will have some retailers there displaying new products for this year with a lineup of speakers. Many are well-known pros and experts in their own type of fishing. But many also are local guys who are experts on their own bodies of water the frequent. They are certainly worth listening to, providing valuable information.

Many of your favorite species are covered on fishing shows on TV. Record or DVR the better ones, and review them through these winter months. There are also many good shows available on VHS and DVD to add to your knowledge. Reading MidWest Outdoors and older issues of Fishing Facts will help with your cabin fever. Each issue in these months will bring a new dose of “medicine” to help provide helpful information, and a distraction from being stuck indoors. You also may consider clipping out those articles that are especially helpful and putting them in a notebook or your logbook for future review to increase success.

Again, the online option is there with all kinds of information including fish habits, presentation, fishing destinations, etc. This media source of information can help get some anglers through the winter and lessen those effects of cabin fever.