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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Striper biting hard on the main lake

POSTED: August 28, 2014 8:42 p.m.

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is 1069.81 or.1.19 feet below full pool of 1071. Water temperatures continue to stay between 80 and 85 degrees. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and clear to slightly stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass: Bass fishing remains better than usual for August and this has been a banner year for both spotted and largemouth bass. Lake Lanier is well known for being a world class spotted bass fishery, but the largemouth population is garnering more attention as of late.

The population of largemouth bass has improved greatly in recent years and most anglers agree that the drought years are partly responsible for this occurrence. Vegetation grew thickly on the exposed banks when the water was down. This provided the largemouth bass and their young much more habitat to spawn and hide in, allowing for a higher than normal survival rate. Now, anglers are reaping the rewards. Many anglers report catching a much higher percentage of largemouths than in years past, many of which are three to five pounds or heavier.

At times, you may catch spotted and largemouth mixed together in the same areas, but you can increase your odds for catching one or the other species by adjusting how and where you fish. As a general rule, largemouth bass will relate to shallower water that has more color or stain to it, while spotted bass seem to prefer the clearer deep water closer to main lake. Knowing which areas and tactics each species prefers will allow you more options tailored to the way you prefer to fish.

When asked, the vast majority of anglers will state that their favorite bass fishing method is top water fishing. Casting and retrieving a top water lure that remains in site builds anticipation. Anglers can confirm that their lure is working correctly or they can make adjustments and tell immediately that the lure is working the way they want it to.

Few things in life are as exciting as watching while the almost hypnotic action of your lure is abruptly disrupted by a large explosion and the ensuing pull of a large fish. Whether the strike happens early at dawn when your buzz bait gets annihilated by a largemouth bass or in the middle of a sunny hot day when your Zara Spook gets slammed three or four times before disappearing and your drag starts stripping off your reel from a large spotted bass, the results are usually the same. Your heart beats, your hands shake and you either grin as your buddy shoots a quick photo or cuss uncontrollably when your trophy throws the hook and swims off to fight another day.

You either get it or you don’t.

The large mouth are eating buzz baits in the creeks around flooded laydowns and other flooded vegetation in the creeks. Early in the morning or late in the day are your best times but don’t be afraid to cast these top water lures all day long. Some of the bigger fish will eat buzz baits in the middle of the day.

Look for aquatic birds like the blue heron or small chirping king fishers (that look like fast moving blue jays) to give away the best areas. A white and silver Lunker Lure Buzz Bait fished just fast enough to keep the lure on top is a great lure to use in the creeks. You can even bend the blades slightly to create a deeper cup so the lure can be worked slower. Always add a Gamakatsu Trailer hook to any buzz baits to increase your hook up odds.

Cast a weightless Senko on a 5/0 Gamakatsu Offset Worm hook around docks with brush or skip one up under to the shady areas around the gang planks. Allow these weightless lures to sink slowly and watch your line. If you see a “tick” or the line swims off to the left or right, set the hook.

Remember that fish don’t have hands, so if the line is moving they have your lure in their mouths. Crank Baits, Texas or Carolina Rigged soft plastics or a Jig N’ Pig are all good choices for large mouth fishing.

Spotted bass fishing has been challenging but we have switched back over and gambled on running and gunning, looking for the active spotted bass that are chasing blue back herring. This is a zero to hero technique and it is a complete gamble. The spotted bass seem to be running in smaller wolf packs of 4-6 fish and while they are fast moving and harder to target, they have also been bigger fish. It’s completely a timing or luck deal.

If you have two anglers in the boat, make sure you each have a moving lure ready to cast to the area where the one angler is already fighting their fish. Spotted bass are not polite and they will take any chance to steal food away from another fish and anglers can capitalize on these greedy fish by presenting a second lure to the fish that your partner is fighting. Be prepared to catch all your fish from one area, because the opportunities can be few and far in between.

Stripers: The main lake is the place to be, and trolling and down line fishing have both been viable methods this week. Look for the large schools of herring to confirm you are fishing in the right areas. With modern electronics, you will be able to see these bait fish school clearly on your screen even on standard factory settings. You do not need to tweak your settings too much, but it does pay to read your manuals and to take advantage of the many opportunities available to anglers on the Internet and also at some of the larger seminars that are usually free at both large tackle outlets and smaller local tackle stores. Most local shops will be happy to spend some time showing you how to use a unit that you purchase from them and many are happy to help even if you already have a unit. YouTube, the Internet, seminars and your manuals all contain a wealth of information and if you are really serious, hire a guide and ask them to show you how they use their units. Many guides can be hired to join you in your own boat to teach you how to set up your personal units.

If you own a unit with Side Imaging there are some basic rules, like setting your scroll speed to the same speed you idle or troll. The best speed to troll right now is from 1.5 to 2 miles an hour so set your scrolling speed accordingly. I seem to get my best Side Imaging at the slower speeds.

Also set your Side Range about 120 feet out and once you find bait fish schools, slow down and reduce the range as you narrow down an area. Herring and other bait fish will appear as round or oblong shaped clouds and stripers will look like white dots or small foot balls. The spots will usually be smaller than most anglers would think, but once you spend some time with your units and catch some of the fish you see on the screen, you will come to understand what you are looking at.

Trolling a two-ounce SPRO Buck Tail on lead core set out to eight or nine colors and the boat idling at 1-2 MPH has been a good method to start out with. Set one line on the left side and one on the right and troll around the creek mouths from where the bottom is, 40 to 60 feet to where it drops off into the channel at 70 to 100 feet have been good places to target. That being said, conditions change and you should make sure to understand where you are and what you are doing, so that when you get a strike you can duplicate it and capitalize one what is working that particular day. Trolling lead core is not as consistent as using a Cannon Down Rigger, but both methods have their place. Tip your buck tail with a plastic trailer like a Hyper Tail, Cane Thumper or a live blueback herring and keep moving until you mark fish.

Down line lively herring with a heavy weight that drops them down quickly through the warmer water layers into the thermocline where the water is much cooler. Depending on the size of your boat, you can set out as little as one or two down lines and I have seen anglers use as many as six or eight lines at once. When you hook up with more than one fish at a time, it can be like a fire brigade to keep your lines from tangling. Most of the stripers are being hooked from 40 to 70 feet deep, but the depth can vary drastically from day to day.

Whether you catch stripers trolling or on live bait down lines, make sure to either keep a fish for the dinner table or release them quickly face first with a quick steady down force so that they go deep quickly. If a striper has been hooked in the gills or gut hooked, make a decision to keep the fish or to release it quickly.

Crappie: The crappie are deep in the brush around deeper docks or in the middle of pockets in the creeks where brush or other cover is located where the flats in 15 to 25 feet deep meet the ditch or creek channels that drop off quickly. Cast or fish vertically where these transition zones meet cover. An ideal situation would be a steady flat at 20 feet meets a sudden drop that bottoms out into 30 to 35 feet deep and then rises back quickly. These defined ditches located in the middle of the flats act like highways to crappie. Areas when these ditches intersect with brush or other ditches are gathering areas where the crappie will ambush minnows and other prey.

Trout: Trout fishing is great this year. Fly fishing has been very good. Pay attention to any insect hatches and keep a variety of flies to match these hatches. There are a few patterns that seem to work well in summer. Small nymphs, small grasshoppers, cricket or ant pattern dry flies will entice surface strikes.

Seasoned fly anglers know this, but anglers new to the sport should show up with quality polarized sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat so that they can read the water. Before even making a cast, take time to watch and see where the trout rise in the run or pool you approach. The strongest fish move to the front of the line, so watch the areas where larger rocks break up the current at the front or back of the rapids. If you watch for a while, you should see trout breaking water and they will rise repeatedly in the same spot over and over picking off insects that float by. A well-presented fly will fool these fish and this form of fishing is an art that takes time, but it is well with the investment. Use your own hand tied flies and you will become one of the rare Michaelangelo’s of the fishing world.

Bank Fishing: Or you may be more inclined to dig up some small read wigglers and thread them onto a small Aberdeen hook with a six-pound test and crimp a small split shot a foot above your hook and cast these on a Zebco 33, then hold onto the rod and wait. Just make sure the area you fish allows live bait and also be aware that trout anglers in Georgia may only use one single hand held rod at a time when targeting trout.


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