Memorable fishing trips often begin with a calendar, map and targeted species. Game & Fish editors and writers have done you a good solid with our 2018 Fishing Calendars, which outlines 5-star fishing hot spots in your region. Whether it's bass, walleye, trout, crappie, muskie, or saltwater species (and many others), we pinpoint when and where the fish bite best all across the South this year.
JANUARY - Lake Mitchell Spotted Bass - "Winter is absolutely the best time to catch spotted bass on Lake Mitchell," said Dustin Connell, Coosa River guide (www.dustinconnellfishing.com).
"On average, you are going to catch 30 to 40 fish, with many weighing 3 pounds."
In January, Connell fishes the upper section of the lake. He says the current, regardless of strength, is key, as it positions fish in eddies, dropoffs, shoals and near rock walls.
He even catches spots when the floodgates are open on Lay Lake Dam ... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - Brown Trout: White River - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been running the generators at Bull Shoals Dam almost nonstop for a year. That has kept many fishermen off the river while filling the water with food and additional habitat for brown trout to get fat on an endless buffet.
You'll need a boat to get to the submerged shoals where big browns hunt, preferably a long, narrow, stable White River trout boat. You'll catch monster browns trolling stickbaits as slow as your motor will go. You can catch big fish casting to eddies against the bank and jerking lures toward swift water.
Access is generous everywhere. White River State Park is a popular spot, but you can also launch at Wildcat Shoal, Ranchette Access, Buffalo City, Calico Rock and Mountain View... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - VENICE YELLOWFIN TUNA - Pursuing yellowfin and blackfin tuna out of Venice is a year-round option. However, cold weather brings big yellowfin and blackfin tuna closer to shore.
Local anglers and charter captains know the location of the famous Midnight Lump located south and west of the Mississippi, which is a large salt dome that rises from the sea floor.
Anglers chase schools of tuna by trolling at multiple depths with swimming lures near the lump or stopping by rigs and dropping lines. Favorite baits include hardtail or Spanish mackerel, and frozen chunk. Other Options: Caney Lake Crappie: The early sac-au-lait in Caney Lake bite worms and crickets. Blue Water Wahoo: Stay in Venice and hunt down this giant, fast-moving mackerel. ... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - LAKE GEORGE LARGEMOUTH BASS - Lake George, located in Putnam and Volusia counties, is one of the best bass fishing lakes in central Florida.
It's part of the St. Johns River system, and at 46,000 acres is the second largest lake in the state.
Large eelgrass beds provide excellent bass habitat. Fish with plastic worms or topwater lures in the eelgrass; deep-diving crankbaits also can produce fish, especially around old dock structures along the northeast shore of the lake and around Drayton Island.... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - LAKE THURMOND CRAPPIE - Crappie school in the tops of standing trees on the old creek and river channels in Lake Thurmond, and the area in Georgia's Little River in front of Raysville Marina — the confluence of Big Creek and Little River and Soap Creek — all have good trees.
In the winter, some standing timber shows above the surface. Even better, use electronics to find trees that stand on the edge of channels in 30 feet of water but top out 10 feet below the surface.
Drop a live minnow or small jig straight down on 6-pound line to the top of the trees.
Try different color jigs and do not move them much. A slight quiver of the rod tip is all the action needed... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - OHIO RIVER SAUGERS - The Ohio River has a fabulous population of sauger and right now is a perfect time for these fish. Sauger are typically scattered much of the year, making it difficult to locate and catch them. However, the winter months are when anglers have the advantage.
Sauger follow the urge to spawn and move upriver during late fall to be halted by the dams along the river. January is time to take advantage of the congregated sauger and fishing remains good throughout February.
Look for sauger congregated on the bottom in holes or depressions, along current seams, behind chunk rock or other current breaks. Use minnows, jigs or a combination to tempt bites. Blade baits are also good options.... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - CHOTARD LAKE/ALBERMARLE LAKE CRAPPIE - This pair of sister lakes are hands-down favorites when it comes to early season crappie fishing. These old Mississippi River connected oxbows are located inside the levee about 20 miles north of Vicksburg.
The majority of crappie caught at Chotard and Albemarle in January are found in the 15- to 20-foot depths. But when this tactic isn't working, experts recommend fishing the bottom at depths from 25 to 35 feet with multiple jig riggings tied every 15 to 18 inches up the line.
The preferred technique is to bounce the lead weight off the bottom while slowly drifting down the steep banks of the two lakes. Some of the more popular jig colors include black/chartreuse, black/silver and crawfish....Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - Bluegills: Big Creek CA - Northern Missouri's many small lakes and ponds provide adventurous anglers a fantastic ice-fishing opportunity.
Ponds 5, 6, and 7 at Big Creek Conservation Area near Kirksville are good examples of a place where Missouri fishermen can cut through ice to catch bluegills in the dead of winter.
Smaller is better when it comes to equipment. A small 3-foot jigging pole with an ultralight reel and the lightest line is your best bet. Baiting your tiny hook with wax worms or maybe a red wiggler is the optimal choice.
Other options include small Power Baits or small minnows. A 5-gallon bucket is a great tool to carry your equipment onto the ice, to use as a seat while you're fishing, and to carry your catch back. .... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - HYBRIDS: LAKE NORMAN - The Wildlife Resources Commission ceased stocking stripers into Lake Norman several years ago and began stocking hybrids instead. The hybrids are aggressive and congregate in large numbers at the discharge canals of Duke Energy's Marshall coal-fired power station and McGuire nuclear station during cold weather.
In January, these hot water discharges attract many species of fish. Anglers can park at the parking areas to walk down to the banks and fish. In the hot water ditches hybrids will attack anything that looks like a shad.
Good lures to try are Rat-L-Traps, Shad Raps and jigs with soft plastic soft plastic trailers. The best all-around lures may be a Sidewinder or Little Cleo spoon....Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - Hybrids/Stripers: Sooner Lake - This reservoir supplies water to cool an electrical power plant in Noble and Pawnee counties, but in January, it can be red hot for striped bass and hybrid striper fishing.
Warmwater discharge from the power plant attracts huge numbers of baitfish, which attract huge numbers of predators. Hybrids and stripers are aggressive and easy to catch when they're feeding.
You can use lead spoons, inline spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and white, chartreuse or yellow twistertail grubs on 1/4- to 1/2-ounce ballhead jigs. Medium-light-action rods accentuate the fight, but adjust your drag to keep these powerful fish from breaking off.... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - STRIPERS & HYBRIDS: LAKE HARTWELL - South Carolina and Georgia tag-team on stocking efforts, with annual stockings of both striped bass and striper/white bass hybrids. Results are high numbers of both species. Both feast on Hartwell's abundant blueback herring.
The current population includes high numbers of stripers and bigger-than-normal hybrids. Stripers and hybrids follow the herring, so finding fish begins with finding bait. Vast flats near deeper water provide good winter habitat for herring. Stripers feed actively through the winter.
Live herring make the best bait for these fish. Good artificial options include jigging spoons, bucktails and hard baits that imitate herring. Licensing is reciprocal between South Carolina and Georgia..... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - OLD HICKORY MIXED CREEL - The water temperature in winter pushes many fish to search for the warmest spots in the lake. At Old Hickory, that means near the steam plant discharge. Anglers have an opportunity to catch a mixed creel, but panfishing is especially good.
Crappie and bluegills are in play, but one of the best things going is tilapia. This non-native fish was introduced to the lake some time back and while considered an invasive species, it adds to the winter catch. Tilapia cannot withstand cold water, so they congregate in large numbers near the plant.
Use a soft-tipped rod with 8-pound line and a small bait hook on the end. Add a small split shot about a foot above the bait and a weighted float two foot above the hook. A small piece of worm is all that is needed for bait.... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - Black Drum: Saltwater Jetties, Piers and Passes - These fish gang up before the spring spawn and it's common to see scores of anglers frequenting areas near passes and other manmade flows targeting fish with a variety of natural baits.
Dead shrimp and cracked crabs and cracked mantis shrimp are among the notable lures and cut bait that always produce for anglers looking to take home some great-tasting filets.
The best surf tactic is to pin the offering to the bottom using heavier weights than most inshore anglers will ever try.
Even a "butterfly" drum, one that's within the slot, can peel drag with the best of the saltwater fish, and having heavier tackle can be handy, especially if the bull drum are in... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - TROUT: MIDDLE FORK HOLSTON RIVER - Trout are stocked in the Middle Fork Holston River eight times from October through May. Anglers can access the river in Marion along the River Walk Greenway and fish from the bank for stocked trout. There are also some wild trout in the river.
Most of the rainbows average 10 to 12 inches, but some will grow to 2 pounds. Try typical trout baits such as spinners, spoons, Trout Power Bait, crickets and red wigglers. Fly-rodders will also take their share by using streamers or nymphs.
There is a universally accessible pier in Marion. However, there are no boat launches for anglers to use. Fish must be 7 inches and a limit of six fish per angler applies. ... Read the entire 2018 outlook
JANUARY - OHIO RIVER WALLEYES - Frigid water temperatures concentrate Ohio River walleyes in defined areas. Fish run up the river in the late fall, so expect to find lots of fish below the lock and dam systems.
Other places that tend to collect walleyes are the mouths of feeder streams, where rock bars and scour holes create quiet pockets for the fish to lie in wait for an easy meal.
The upper most dams on West Virginia's portion of the Ohio tend to hold the most walleyes.
More specifically this is the New Cumberland, Pike Island and Hannibal locks and dam systems. ....Read the entire 2018 outlook