Where Do Fish Go When it is Cold?

Where Do Fish Go When it is Cold?

Unlike humans, fish cannot wear jackets and sweatpants in order to protect themselves from the cold. When the winter months set in and a chill begins to develop in the water of their habitat, many fish choose to alter their lives completely and leave the area or stay in their habitat and hibernate.

Every year, when winter comes to the homes and the waters of many fish around the world, they have three different options for escaping the cold. Fish need to leave the area because they are unable to influence their own body temperature. They must be able to warmer waters thousands of miles away near the equator. They can stay in their habitat and find safe places to live near their home and hibernate through the winter, or they can dive deep down into the water where they’re able to avoid the cold water near the surface. 

Freshwater Fish

Since freshwater fish have nowhere to go if they live in a lake or pond that is not attached to a river. They must be able to survive in an environment they cannot escape. But we know that when water freezes during the winter, only the top of the water turns into solid ice. The solid ice acts as an insulator, and the water below it is not as cold as the air and surroundings above the ice. This is one way that fish know that they can survive in lakes and ponds.

As a way to preserve energy and not require as much food, fish who live in ponds and lakes sink to the bottom of the body of water and stay in the area. By doing this, they are farther from the cold air, and the water at the bottom of the lake or pond might be warmer.

Saltwater Fish

When fish that live in the ocean realize they spend most of the year swimming in is becoming colder, they can migrate to warmer waters. This means that these fish must travel south. During this time, fish travel towards the equator because the temperatures are warm and stable all year long. But migration is not a valid option for all saltwater fish. Some saltwater fish are able to live in cold ocean water. Other fish aren’t able to migrate to the warmer waters in the south. Instead, they will dive deeper into the ocean, where the weather is less likely to affect the water’s temperature.

How Fish Regulate Their Temperature

Fish and other aquatic creatures have their internal body temperature at the same temperature as the surrounding water. Fish did not develop the ability to regulate or control their own temperatures like mammals do. So they must find safe areas in rivers, lakes, and streams that have a temperature that allows them to survive and maintain some amount of energy. But when the winter comes, the water could become too cold, and they will have to find a new place. This is why fish migrate. When the changing of the seasons occurs, they can migrate from colder Waters to warmer waters.

Fish Migration 

As we all know, birds fly south for the winter. But saltwater fish also swim down towards the equator as the seasons begin to change. These fish develop the ability to migrate to warmer waters, which are in the south. Their internal body temperatures will be positively affected by the warmer waters.

Freshwater fish are able to migrate if they are living in a major river or river lake system. Salmon is a freshwater fish that can travel between the ocean and freshwater lakes and rivers.

A fish that is born in the ocean but migrates into freshwater lakes and rivers in order to spawn is an Anadromous fish.

Learn more about Why Do Fish Swim in Schools?

What Are The Best Fish for Winter Fishing?

Not all species of fish go into hibernation or stay as close to the lake as possible during the winter. There are some fish that remain active during the winter. These are the fish with the focus on if you want to go winter fishing or ice fishing.

The perch is a fish that is mostly in Canada. Hidden hooks and bait often entice them, so they are more likely to bite than other fish. The best bait for these fish is worms because these fish eat worms regularly. Worms are part of the perch’s diet, and these fish are able to hunt them when they dive down to the bottom of a lake and search through the mud.

The channel catfish is one of the most energetic species of fish that enjoys the winter’s cold waters. They’re very strong and are hard to catch. Don’t expect this face to be sluggish.

The walleye fish is found in the Midwest and becomes quite aggressive when the winter comes around. They are found mostly in rivers and lakes in the North.

The trout is a fish that has evolved to enjoy living in colder waters. Even in the summertime, these fish will live in rivers and lakes that are colder than other places. To catch this fish, you may need to break the ice if they live in the lake and use bait. Be prepared because these are strong fish that will not Surrender if they are hooked.


There are two types of fish that migrate. The fish that are born in freshwater and are able to migrate into saltwater is known as catadromous fish. But they are also fish that are born in saltwater and migrate into freshwater. These fish are called anadromous fish, and one of the most popular species of fish is the salmon. Because their water can lower their temperature, fish who are adapted to migrate must leave their area and travel to warmer waters. Fish are not able to survive in the deep cold of winter. This can also dive deep into the water where the ocean’s temperature will not be affected by the airflow above.

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