January may be cold in terms of weather and water temperatures, but many crappie fishermen expect to catch quality and quantity of crappies this month.

The key to cold-weather crappie fishing is that the fish are in very predictable patterns, with some lakes clearly better than others. We profiled crappie fishing at several lakes that offer excellent winter crappie fishing and secrets to success from top guides.


Lake Hartwell

A deep, clear South Carolina lake known primarily for black and striped bass, Hartwell has rightfully become known as an excellent crappie-fishing destination. The lake produces plenty of slabs and limit numbers of fish on a consistent basis.

Guide Steve Pietrykowski said January kicks off outstanding action that lasts through March; this is his favorite time of the year. 

“Beginning in January, crappie fishing patterns become very predictable on Lake Hartwell,” he said. “Many fishermen are surprised at the quality of crappie fishing we enjoy here because it’s a clear lake. But from cold weather right through spring, crappie fishing is on fire, and we consistently catch limits, including plenty of slabs.”

Pietrykowski (864-353-3438) has been guiding on Lake Hartwell for 11 years and has learned the predictable patterns. He employs two primary techniques: long-line trolling in the creeks and fishing tightlines over sunken woody cover. 

“Trolling enables me to cover much more water and is my go-to method when crappie are scattered,” he said. “Typically, I’ll troll with jigs and