January 2017 Freshwater Fishing

by Ray Merckx
Another year has gone by and we enter into a new month in the process. While January is one of our coldest months that we face during the winter time, fish can still be caught but it takes a lot of patience and warm clothes.
For freshwater fishing, only three species of fish will be the most active within our freshwater lakes and stream systems. They are the chain pickerel, yellow perch and the black crappie. These three species of fish are what you will more than likely catch if you are looking to go freshwater fishing this month. To catch them, night crawlers, crappie jigs and small minnows/imitators will produce catches. The perch and crappie will be grouped up in deeper water like most fish are this time of year but these two species will be schooled up to bite. Pickerel on the other hand are solitary fish and are not known to school together. They can tolerate cold weather and can even be found in the shallow waters anytime of the year. Pickerel, like the crappie and perch will bite the same baits this time of year and will even be more enticed to chase a bass bait as long as it’s fished at a slower pace.
Bass fishing in January is on the slow side but is very possible and you might be able to hook into some nice sized ones. Keep in mind that mostly all bass will be grouped together in certain spots within the depths of the lakes and may not be willing to bite as they stock up heavily on food during the autumn months. While most of our lakes have an average depth of about 5 to 6 feet, many of them will be located near the dam system somewhere within or just off of the channel. If you are fishing from the land, by the dam is your best spot, however if you are fishing a boat, use electronics to try and locate them. You may find some bass in some pockets and holes in other spots of the lakes.
Baits to use for bass should consist of the same types as you would use for the other three species and even some stick/crank baits or small bass jigs with a small trailer. Jigs with trailers are always a great bait for bass all year long it’s just all about size and presentation when using them in the winter time. The best way to try and entice the bass this month and into parts of next month while using the jig is to cast a small sized like a 1/8 to 1/4 ounce black and blue jig with small trailer into the spot you feel the bass are in. Retrieval method should be every 10 to 15 seconds with a slow tugging motion on your rod tip. While it may take sometime to get a bass to bite, you will more than likely hook into a crappie, perch or pickerel. To catch a bass in January is rare but is possible and if you hook one in a spot stick to it as more maybe within that same vicinity.
One thing that may hinder fishing would be thin layers of ice. Last month we had some days of thin ice on certain lakes and this month will more than likely have the same. One thing to keep in mind is that if there are any openings within the ice that you can cast into from the shore line, there more than likely will be fish within those spots as the fish are looking for the areas that produce the most oxygen and holes within the ice will be the most oxygenated spots for the winter time.
If you are freshwater fishing on any trout stocked lakes this month, don’t be surprised if you hook into a few of the trout that were stocked within the fall. A few anglers on Iona last week stated to me that they have still been hooking into some from time to time by the dam as well as all the other species mentioned. Angler’s stated that while not many fish were caught, the most active times they’ve noticed were between 8:30 and 11 am and again around 1 to 3pm. Seems like there is only a small window to try and catch fish so it’s best to try fishing within these time frames.
A reminder to all freshwater anglers that you will need a new 2017 fishing license if you are to be fishing this month. All bait shops and sporting goods stores have the licenses ready to go plus you can even order one online. All you will need is information that is on your license from the previous year. So if you are to go fishing in freshwater this month, these tips should be helpful. Just be sure to check the weather and wind speeds as well as the amount of ice that could be on the lakes. Best of luck.