Lake Sinclair’s 14,750 acres and Lake Oconee’s 19,050 acres are owned and operated by Georgia Power. Both lakes offer good fishing throughout the year and the late fall and early winter seasons can be exceptional times to be on the water. The transition from the hot humid days of summer to the cool, crisp mornings of fall arrived late this year and was a welcome relief for the fish as well as anglers.
Anglers who understand the impact of weather changes during fall and winter will have a greater success at catching fish. Both the fall and winter seasons are filled with cold fronts and changing weather patterns and they will have a serious impact on where the fish are located in the lake and whether or not the fish will be in a biting mood.
The transition to the fall fishing season was slow to develop this year but we finally saw the changes that fall brings as the overnight and early morning air temperatures have begun to drop into the 30s and 40s and the daytime air temperatures have dropped into the 50s, 60s and at times even into the upper 30s. If the cold weather continues the fall fishing season will be very short.
That drop-in air temperature has resulted in falling water temperatures and those falling water temperatures has signaled the reservoirs’ fish that change is here. The water temperature will continue to drop until it reaches the mid to high 40s and that will hopefully occur in January.
But nothing is assured about the weather and seasonal changes. Some serious winter type weather arrived in the early November so the fall season may be short lived. Last year the warm and wet weather and muddy weather never resulted in good winter fishing.
Shad or baitfish found in both lakes provide the greatest natural food source for game fish like largemouth bass, hybrid/striped bass, channel catfish and crappie in both lakes. Those shad that were dispersed over deep water in both lakes during the recent hot summer began moving to shallow water as fall weather finally arrived and the game fish were looking for an easy meal in shallow water areas.
They use the fall feeding frenzy to fatten up for the winter months and this year they may need to feed quickly in shallow areas before a large majority of the fish move to their winter hideouts. The exact timing of this period differs each year and the length of the period will vary depending on the water temperature. This year’s fall fishing season was interrupted by cold weather and has been shortened somewhat.
The secret to catching fish during the fall and winter seasons is finding schools of baitfish. During the fall, they can be found almost anywhere but generally shallower water in the larger creeks are the best bet. During the winter, they are more likely to be found in deeper water areas.
During the current transitional period from the fall fishing season to the winter fishing season, conditions will change from day-to-day and week-to-week so anglers must constantly modify their techniques to take advantage of the changing weather conditions. We have seen recent cold fronts come through the area and those cold fronts can offer excellent fishing. Largemouth, hybrid/striped bass and crappie will go on feeding sprees just before a fall/winter cold front and then fishing will slow during the bluebird skies that follow.
Just as quickly as the shad and game fish moved to shallow water areas with fall’s arrival, they will reverse course and move back to deeper locations with the arrival of winter and cold-water temperatures. The movement of the game fish to deeper water will again correspond to the movement of the shad to deeper locations. At times during winter, the shad will move to relatively shallow water and the game fish will pursue the shad to feed after a few mild stable days but most often they will be located in deeper water areas.
I love to be on the water at any time but the winter fishing season is my favorite time to be on the water. I have been waiting now for two years for a really good winter fishing season. We need some really cold weather to make that happen. That is when the fish bunch up in deep water and are fun to catch.
Right now, is one of my favorite times to be on the water fishing and that will last right through the winter season. The weather is now cooler/colder and best of all the fish are now biting better. It can’t get any better than that. Good fishing and see you next week
Outdoor columnist Bobby Peoples can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.