OUTSIDE: A report on winter fishing | Sports


To all my readers: winter fishing gets a bad rap because of cold weather and fronts, but honestly the biggest fish you could catch all year can be caught right now. Get the right gear and get started!

Lake Oconee

The temperature is 53-56 degrees and the main lake is colorful from I20 to Lick Creek, Richland Creek is clear to the dam.

Bass fishing: guide Chad Smith reports bass fishing is right now; fish move to deeper waters. They are no longer at the bottom of the creeks. Look from the mouth of the creeks to the edges of the river. The mouth of Sugar Creek and Lick Creek are good areas to target. Try white spinnerbait or natural colored Shad rap caught around baitfish. These bait banks appear in the morning and later when the water warms up. Pick up bass with a #7 Shad Rap fished around the same bait. An old standby at this time of year is a chrome and blue or chrome and black rattletrap. Also, fish a spoon Capt. Fully white Mack in bait balls – there are times when he will fish all other bait. Be prepared to move deeper as the water cools with the upcoming cold fronts, which will change quickly.

Striper Fishing: Mark Smith Guide with Reeltime Guides Reportstriper fishing is fair to good-excellent. Live bait, spoon and mini trolling Macks, live shad, bass minnows will all produce. You can look for birds or use your Lowrance to locate schools and then go fishing. I would say the spoon bite was the best bet of the last week. Start looking south from the bend in the river. Looks like they are leaving stained water.

Lake Sinclair

Lake Country Fishing Professional Staff Danny White gave me this report: The water temperature fluctuates between the high 40’s and high 50’s and it depends on the time of day and the route whether you are going up or down the lake. Also, the water is always very stained in the streams and rivers and it’s normal from about Nancy Branch to the dam and it’s clear in Island Creek and Rocky Creek.

Bass: Some fish have started moving to deeper waters. You can catch them in the lake on spoons, Carolina rigs, and Alabama rigs. These fish follow the bait and they are around 20 to 30 feet of water. Some quality fish are still caught on points, levees and docks in 6 to 10 feet of water.

Captain Mack Farr’s Lake Lanier

Striper Fishing

Stripers are still in streams, drains and pockets around the bait, so the basic principle is unchanged. Find the bait where it is layered on the bottom, then drop the lines down. Scale your baits based on what you see on sonar, but often fish that are on or near the bottom will be the fastest to bite, even if you see more fish hanging in the water column . Try to drop at least a few baits to the bottom and crank up a few cranks just enough to get the sinker off the bottom. You can always adjust the depths once you have determined where the sweet spot is on any given day. Dedicate a few lines to smaller baits, and a shorter leader can be a plus.

Rig trolling is also very strong, large rigs and Mini-Mac are both effective. Using the big rigs to search for fish, then switching to stealth trolling for Minis once you’ve located the fish is a good combo. If the boat is moving at 1 mph or less, you can effectively fish Minis with live bait. Watch the birds, there are a few fish pushing bait to the surface and the birds (seagulls, loons or both) are quick to talk about it. Swimbaits, buck tails and Mini Macks are good choices to cast at surfacing fish.

bass fishing

Bass is still all over the place, and perhaps a bit more inconsistent than previous weeks. Bait concentrations will always be a key for many models, and fishing bait groups standing above channels and ditches will always be a good producer. Weedless wonders paired with Senkos and Roboworm continue to produce, as well as Damiki and the drop-offs. Swimbaits on lead heads and Fish Head Spins are effective, as are spoons. A footnote on the spoons: many bass are becoming more structure oriented, as opposed to randomly roaming around bait banks. So first find the bait, then look for any structures the bait may be on. These can be canal ledges (even in very low relief areas), stumps or rocks on the side of a canal, or lines of wood. Slowing down the spoons and using smaller spoons can also be productive.

The docks continue to produce well, lots of singles, but fish enough of the docks and you’ll probably catch a good number of fish. This pattern seems to be very random with fish on a variety of docks in a wide depth range. Docks with secondary structures are also a big plus. I think Senkos and Robos are tough to beat here, but Jigs will be a great choice as well. If I were to define this model, 25-35 foot docks, in the middle parts of creeks, seem like a good place to start.

Channel diversions continue to be likely fishing grounds, and likely will be throughout the winter. The plastics and jigs are staples on this model and remember that some of these areas have very steep outlines. You’ll likely find that the peach slowly makes an effective presentation. Otherwise the bait is too far from the bluff/bank and if the fish are slow they just watch the bait sink right in front of them. Keeping the boat close to the cliff and performing a parallel cast will make it easier to maintain contact with the cliff.

Lake Hartwell report from tournament angler Tracy Davis

Crappie is on a feeding frenzy right now. Last week I found lots of large white and black crappie wandering around in 4-12 feet of water. This time of year, usually when you find large numbers of shad, you can find large crappie. Currently, they can be caught from 4 feet deep on stumps in 20 feet of water on docks and everywhere in between. Right now the water temp is around 48-49 but that hasn’t slowed the feeding patterns. Last week I settled on a shallow stump field on the arm of the Tugaloo River. I used the Garmin livescope and the Slab Reaper jigs to put really big fish in the boat. Since I was only targeting large fish, I caught 29 of them, the smallest weighing 1.2 lbs and the largest weighing 2.42 lbs. Longline trolling and spider rigging will also be effective if you don’t have a livescope. This pattern should remain solid until spawning, unless there are drastic changes in water level.

Good luck guys and tight lines.

Outdoor columnist James Pressley can be reached at [email protected] .


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