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COMBATING COLD HANDS IN THE WINTER

A look at how a group of hardcore anglers combat cold hands while fishing right on through the winter.
By Toby Lapinski
COMBATING COLD HANDS IN THE WINTER
The author opted for a pair of fingerless fleece fishing gloves made by Chota on a recent trip for holdover striped bass.

Sitting here less than 8 hours removed from a late-December, night time striper outing, my fingers haven’t quite fully thawed out as I type this. They have that “fat feeling” I get in my hands the day after fishing in the cold, so proper fishing gloves is at the forefront of my attention today. Perhaps my eventual cold hands last night were made worse by my own stupidity as you will read, but just the same I have yet to find the perfect fishing gloves.

After hitting my first spot last night without so much as a touch, I moved to another place and was greeted with actively-feeding striped bass. I made a few casts with the 5-inch Red Fin that I had been tossing at the first spot, but I couldn’t tempt a strike. I decided to make a drastic change in the form of a 1/4-ounce marabou jig—a lure that has produced loads of stripers for me at this spot over the years—but in order to tie on the small offering I had to remove my gloves as threading the 12-pound leader through the tiny eye of the jig is difficult while wearing gloves. So I turned my back to the water, set my gloves on a rock, flipped on my headlight and a few moments later a strong gust of wind proceeded to dump my gloves right in the water at my feet. Since I was mid-tie with the leader, I had to leave my gloves where they were for a good 30 seconds which was long enough for them both to fill with water and be rendered essentially useless.

After finishing tying on the jig I squeezed as much water as I could out of my gloves and tucked them inside my coat pocket as they are useless once wet. I lasted about as long as I could, catching my fair share of fish, but eventually I had to call it a night—with fish still feeding in front of me—as I could no longer grip the fish securely with my frozen digits.

Heading back to my truck with my fishing partner, we spent most of the walk discussing how to keep our hands functional while fishing in the winter. We both pretty much accepted that keeping them warm is a longshot, so the goal now is to ward off the cold long enough to feel like it is not a limiting factor in how long we fish from the surf to the ice to the deck of a winter cod boat.

Finding fish is really only half of the battle when fishing in the winter. I mean, what is good is finding a school of actively-feeding cod, for instance, if you can’t keep warm enough to stay at the rail all day? Going further, not all warm gloves are fishing-friendly. This can mean different things to different people based on how/where they are fishing, too, so in all reality there is probably no true PERFECT cold-weather fishing glove. That all said, there is no shortage of fishing glove options out there and it can be a daunting task to figure out which pair or pairs you should buy for that next wintertime venture. I polled a handful of respected Fisherman Magazine contributors, and the following is what they had to say on the subject of keeping your hands warm while fishing throughout the winter months.

BOB DANIELSON – Field Editor, Long Island
I wear lined gloves while cod fishing during the very cold winter months, the ones that are generally found in most well stocked bait and tackle shops. They have a pretty solid grip built in. The only drawback is you generally need to remove them to tie or retire knots or rigs. I stay away from neoprene unless I'm in a wetsuit during the warmer seasons. They also go a long way to protect my hands from barnacles. I have used those chemical hand warmers found in sporting goods and hardware stores, but I find that they get in the way while actively fishing.

NICK HONACHEFSKY – Field Editor, New Jersey
I use the felt-lined neoprene Glacier Gloves for hardcore winter surfcasting, winter wreck fishing and ice fishing. The felt keeps your hands sweaty warm, while the neoprene outer shell keeps the water out. It gets even better as they have finger cut-outs to bend back the forefinger and thumb tips with Velcro patches to stabilize them so you can tie rigs and knots, change baits, open a beer, etc. without having to take the gloves off. The ONLY issue is that when you want to wipe your nose, you always naturally go to wipe it with the forefinger and thus the abrasive side of the Velcro and it hurts.

J.B. KASPER – Field Editor, New Jersey
While the fight to keep one’s hands warm while fishing in cold weather is ongoing, one thing that can help a lot is the use of chemical hand warmers. Over the years I have picked up several tricks that improve the usability of the chemical warmers. Since the heaters can get very hot and burn the skin in some instances, just putting them in your pants or shirt pocket can get you burned. The best way to deal with the problem is to take an old chamois or heavy flannel shirt, and cut it up and make small cloth bags with draw strings to place the chemical heaters in. The extra layer of cloth will still allow the warmth to get through, and help protect you from getting burnt. You can also use the draw strings to pin them on to an inner layer of clothing such as a shirt or pants to provide heat under your outerwear.

PETE KOSCIUKIEWICZ – Contributing Writer/Illustrator, New England
Preventing cold hands while fishing is an ongoing battle with no clear solution for me just yet. Currently, while fishing in the late fall to early-winter surf (December/January nights), I opt for neoprene gloves with a hand warmer packet against my palm. This works ok, but is in no way perfect. In general it is enough to keep my hands warm enough to get by for a while, so long as I do not get water inside the gloves. From there the biggest challenge is in preventing the braid from slicing into the index finger neoprene, but I am experimenting with solutions like hockey tape or Band-Aids to help prevent/delay this.


Pete Kosciukiewicz prefers a pair of neoprene gloves when making late-season forays in the surf.

TONY SALERNO – Field Editor, Long Island
For the hardcore winter fisherman, I suggest hitting your local ski shop and tell them you’re looking for fishing gloves; they will show you options that are best suited for your taste. I use Burton [ak] Oven Mitts when it gets really cold. They work great but are a real pain in the tail to keep peeling off when baiting the hook for cod. If you are just employing diamond jigs, then this system works well. The con is that they will set you back a buck and a half and are real frustrating when baiting hooks. The pro is that they work quite well providing that you don't get the under-laying gloves wet as the top glove (actually more like a mitten) is water resistant. For about a half a buck the North Face ETIP Glove work real well and have plenty of flexibility to work your reel and handle your catch.


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