So, it’s a little bit chilly. At least we don’t have to drill holes through the ice to go fishing!
Although January in many locations of the United States is a brutal time to try to be one the water, here in Alabama, January usually offers some fine days and great fishing for anglers. The major lakes of Alabama have some world-class fishing in January.
A good thing about January fishing in Alabama is that anglers can generally sleep in a bit longer before heading out after the fish. Early morning fishing trips are not nearly as crucial as they are in spring and summer. Anglers can let the sun get up and bring a little warmth to the air before making a chilly morning run to the fishing spots.
Depending on the weather and how much rain and warm weather we receive, many of the fish that anglers prefer can start their spring spawning activities toward the end of January, and all the fish we anglers go after will be feeding up to get ready for the pressures of springtime spawning. By keeping an eye on how the weather has been doing, anglers can get into some great January fishing.
Of course, with the water temperatures at their lowest of the year, anglers will want to be very safety conscious and have that PFD on always. On chilly days, the extra insulation of a PFD can be a welcome thing.
On another safety-related point. In January, especially on the big northern lakes in Alabama, it’s not uncommon to have frost form on very cold nights. When this frost happens to form on boat decks, it is very dangerous. Possibly the slickest surface known to man is a frosty fiberglass boat deck. One slick step on a frosty deck can bring a fishing trip to a quick halt.
Now, let’s see what some of the best anglers in Alabama can tell us about the January fishing.
Captain Jake Davis tells us that even though the wind can be chilly in January, there are still fish to be caught on the big north Alabama lake- if anglers go about it the right way.
“A good thing about January fish on Guntersville is that most fishing trips won’t need to start until late in the morning.’
Captain Jake says,” In January, there will be a pretty good crankbait bite, Rat-L-Traps will be good, and jerk baits will also work. These hard baits should have some red or chartreuse accents on them. Red is always good at Guntersville.”
Bass anglers should work Guntersville along the bigger creek channels and the old grass line. Anywhere that narrows the creeks down and creates pinch points is a good place to look.
Captain Jake tells us that the bass will generally be holding in eight to twelve feet of water but that there will be some shallow bass in Guntersville at nearly all times and all conditions.
Crappie will be schooling up on the bridges- anglers can have good luck with big crappie using small jigs and live minnows around the bridge structures. Fish the shadow lines of the bridges.
A good thing about January fish on Guntersville is that most fishing trips won’t need to start until late in the morning. Captain Jake advises us that this time of year, afternoon fishing after the sun gets up and warms the water a little is best.
Our pal Joe Dunn tells us that the water and weather at Miller’s Ferry will be just about as chilly as it ever gets- but that the fish will still be biting. He says, “The crappie will usually be out in the main body of the river on deeper ledges. Look for the bigger schools of crappie in 20 to 25 feet of water.”
The best technique for cold weather crappie at Miller’s Ferry is bottom bouncing for them. Put a 1 oz. sinker at the end of the line and then put a 1/0 hook about 18 inches above the sinker. Put a live minnow or a soft tube body on the hook, and then tip the hook with a minnow. The preferred colors of the plastic jig will vary from day to day, but sometimes having the little extra attraction of the soft plastic jig can make a big difference. Bounce this rig right on the bottom and feel for bites which may be soft this time of year.
One thing that Joe Dunn advises crappie anglers to be aware of is that if a lot of current is moving through the lake, the crappie may relocate to the larger sloughs and creek to get out of the strong current.
Joe Dunn says, “The largemouth bass will be found not too far from their spawning areas, but they won’t be up in spawning water yet. Secondary ledges and points up the big sloughs can be good. In January there can be a good crankbait, spinnerbait and chatter bait bite in eight to ten feet of water.”
If we get a few warm January days, the bass will pull a little shallower, but they are waiting for steady warmer water in their spawning areas.
As far as colors and patterns for Miller’s Ferry cool weather bass, Joe Dunn tells us, “Ninety percent of the time here at Miller’s Ferry, bass lures need to be in some kind of shad color and pattern. Toward the end of the month and going into February and March, crawfish will start to emerge, and then a crawfish pattern is good.”
Dunn warns boaters to be aware that in a river impoundment like Miller’s Ferry, boating conditions can change, especially after high water. He says, “This time of year, water levels can go up and down. The bottom structure can change. Always practice caution, especially after high water may have relocated snags and logs. Even channels can change. Go slow around the lake at first.”
To find the biggest catfish, anglers will need to use electronics to find the deep-water holding cats- these will be fish in 60 to 70 feet of water. Drop a skipjack or big chunks of shad to the deep fish and give them time.
Finding schools of shad is crucial this time of year- the fish we’re after will be around the shad. Most had schools will be holding at 45-55 feet of water and the bigger fish will be working below them.
Fishing sunny bluffs- mostly on the north side of the lake- can be very good in January. The sun will warm up the water on these bluffs, and this can draw the big fish to the warmer water to feed.
Even if the big catfish are hard to find and catch this time of year, anglers can count on catching an ice chest full of delicious cold-water catfish below the dams now.
Right now is a good time to find some great crappie fishing on Lake Eufaula. Captain Sam Williams tells us that the big slabs are active and very much able to be caught in January.
He says, “1/16 oz. jigs in chartreuse, pink and white are all good colors to use, but each day is different, and the bigger fish will soon show their preference for color. Slow trolling with multiple rigs is probably the best way to find where the crappie are holding now.”
Anglers should look for the best concentrations of crappie in Sandy Branch, Taylor Creek, White Oak Creek, Barber Creek, and Cowwikee Creek. These creeks offer lots of cover for crappie- work the drop-offs and ledges in these creeks.
White bass will be very good in the open main lake body. Try trolling with deep running crankbaits to find the actively feeding schools, but be ready. Very often some very big hybrids and even some really big stripers will be mixed in the with smaller white bass.
Slowly worked soft plastics will be best for bass on Eufaula right now. The bass will be bunched up in creek channels, so when they are found, it can be very good fishing.
Captain Lee Pitts is quite enthusiastic about the winter fishing on Weiss Lake. He says, “About the second week of January, we start our ‘spring season’. We will be long-line trolling for some great crappie.”
The lake is still in low-winter level, so the fish are funneled into the bigger creeks and tributaries to the main lake body. The crappie are getting ready to spawn. Big Creek, Cowan Creek, Spring Creek and Little River are some places to look for early season crappie.
Captain Lee says, “The crappie will winter here in these creeks, and we’ll catch crappie fairly shallow- five to eight feet deep.”
Captain Lee likes 1/12 oz. Bobby Garland Mo-Glo jig heads with Baby Shad Swimmer soft plastic bodies. He advises crappie anglers, “Don’t move the jigs too fast or with too much action.” Blue Grass, Ice Out, and Monkey Milk are all good crappie jig colors.
Weiss bass are generally slow and lethargic in January, but on warm days, they can move to four to six feet of water with wood cover, and they will be active then.
Some very good advice from Captain Lee, “Anywhere there’s riprap in the water, that’s a good place to find winter bass.”
Both spots and largemouth will be on roadbeds, bridges with riprap, and shad pattern crankbaits are good. This is also a good time for slow-rolled spinner baits worked around the rock structure.
Important Contact Information
Capt. Sam Williams
Hawks Fishing Guide Service
Capt. Lee Pitts
33356 Highway 43, Thomasville, Al
Capt. Jake Davis
Mid-South Bass Guide Service
Capt. Brian Barton