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Lake Lanier fishing report: Fish are moving shallow

POSTED: March 24, 2011 6:17 p.m.

Lake temperatures are in the upper 50s with some low 60s showing up in shallow sunny pockets. Lake Lanier's water level is a very healthy 1,070.7 feet or just a couple inches below full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake Lanier is clear to stained on the main lake and stained in the creeks and the rivers. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass: We have caught some big largemouth and spotted bass this past week. These fish are fat, healthy and getting ready for the spawn. While the quality of fish is very good, we have had to work to catch some numbers, and several methods are working.

There is still a good deal of the flooded bank growth from when the lake was down, and this submerged, decaying vegetation, can play a big part in your shallow-fishing patterns. The water in the shallow pockets is around 60 degrees and a few fish are actually starting to build their nests, while the majority remains in pre-spawn mode.

The flats in the backs of the pockets are holding large schools of baitfish. Both the threadfin shad, blueback herring and even some gizzard shad are relating to these shallow flats. The secret to fishing medium-to-large expanses of seemingly flat as a pancake bottoms is to key in on the ditches that feed into the flats. The ditches that run through these shallow flats are lined with overgrowth that grew when the lake was down. There is a combination of willow, scrub pine and several types of grasses and weeds that provide cover for bass that are looking for areas to spawn. The bass use these ditches as cover to hide in when they are inactive, and as roadways or paths when they are actively moving in and out to feed or build nests.

Use lures that can make contact with the submerged weeds and bottom and still pull free without snagging. Bass are opportunistic feeders and a lure that rips free from submerged weeds right in front of them is often more than a bass can handle. I describe a reaction bite like this: When a hornet buzzes around most people's heads they swat at it out of instinct. I feel that a bass does the same thing when something gets around their face. Of course bass don't have hands so when the "swat" something it is usually with their mouth. This "reaction bite" accounts for a lot of the fish we catch. An Aruku Shad is designed to hit and break free of grass and weeds and this lure is an excellent choice for covering water.

Cast jerkbaits like a McStick or Rouges and try to keep your lures close to the channels or along the sides of docks. I use a bait caster with 12-pound fluorocarbon for casting jerkbaits. Also cast or skip jig head worms or a small jig rigged with a Fighting Frog trailer up under the floats. I use a medium action 7-foot spinning rod with 5-7 pound Sunline Fluorocarbon for skipping jig head worms or small jigs. A lot of shallow docks are holding schools of fish, and a dock in as little as 5 feet of water can hold more than 20 keeper bass. You can also witness these shallow dock bass or spawning fish if you have a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. One rule seems to hold true: if you can see the bass then they can probably see you too.

Most anglers target the shallow pockets this time of year but there are also plenty of spotted bass and even some largemouths that live and spawn out on the main lake's points and humps. Windy main-lake banks can hold good concentrations of spotted bass, and these fish will hit spinner baits, Aruku Shads, Fish Head spins and even the old reliable Rooster Tail. The more wind, the faster you should work your lures. The wind breaks up the surface of the water, creating a situation where bass are less likely to notice your lures are not real.

Fishing in the wind may seem like work for some, but anglers in the know understand that wind is an angler's best friend at times.

Live bait will almost guarantee that anglers will catch bass and other fish. A medium-sized minnow rigged weightless or under a float will work very well. Try to use small Gamakatsu circle hooks when using live bait. Circle hooks will hook a fish in the side of the mouth almost 100 percent of the time so this makes for an easy release.

Stripers: Fishing has been good, and the line sides remain shallow where they are easiest to catch. There is a huge amount of live bait up shallow and the stripers are not far behind. This is one of those rare times of year where your electronics may not be as helpful as an educated eye. There are plenty of gulls still hanging around and they are still great, free, fish locaters.

The report has not changed much from last week other than the fact that the main lake is also holding stripers as well as the creeks and pockets too.

Continue to pull live bluebacks, trout and gizzard shad behind your boat on free lines or planer boards for the shallow stripers in the pockets and also for a few shallow ones out on the points and secondary pockets off main lake.

Continue to cast SPRO McSticks or Bomber Long As to the banks both during the day and especially after dark. We boated more than 15 stripers and had at least twice that many hits in a four-hour trip the other night. It is amazing how hard a fish can hit a lure with three very sharp Gamakatsu Hooks and still not get hooked, but it keeps things very interesting. The full moon is not my favorite time for nighttime stripers, but they were hitting hard after sundown this week even with the bright night sky. Target areas that were holding stripers during the day or look for the large bait schools in the pockets or creeks. Also try fishing the points and pockets around Buford Dam for some great night fishing.

Crappie: Fishing remains very productive and few things are as fun and rewarding as a successful day of crappie fishing. The great eating that follows makes for an awesome meal. These tasty fish are just about as good as it gets for freshwater food. Only Walleye can beat the taste and there is a decent population of those in Lake Lanier.

Crappie hang around in schools and they can be caught both from a boat and from the shore. When you catch one, you can just about bet there will be a bunch more in the same area. Trolling multiple lines or "Lake Raking" can be a very productive method. At times, you will hook two or three at a time, which can make for a fun fishing fire drill. This is catching instead of fishing, and it is a great way for kids to catch fish.
Troll Crappie Jigs, Micro Spoons and even small crankbaits slowly around in the pockets toward the backs of the creeks set your trolling motor to a low speed and keep the boat moving at just above 1 mile per hour.

If you prefer a slower pace, then fish crappie minnows under a float from the docks or boat. Target any trees that are lying in the water and also stay close to those ditches with the submerged bank growth. Docks with planted brush or old Christmas trees and even the bridges can all hold crappie.

Trout: Fishing is very good and we are right at the beginning of the 2011 Trout season. The DNR has been stocking the streams and rivers in north Georgia and there should be plenty of ignorant trout that will strike lures or bait with reckless abandon.

Bank Fishing: This method can be very productive in spring. The biggest mistake I see from bank anglers is that they have a tendency to set up all their fishing rods in one place and stay there for the duration of the day, whether the fish are bitting or not. If you know a productive area, then try fishing it for about an hour and if the fish don't bite, be willing to move. The best areas are places where fish where fish stay and school. Bridges, docks with brush, and even rocky points may hold large groups of catchable fish. Of course, sometimes they are there and won't bite too. A minnow or live worm a couple of feet below a bobber should work well right now.

Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist and bass angler. Reports are based on personal experience and permission from a close network of friends. He would love to hear from his readers so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com or visit his website at
aldrichfishing.com. Remember to take a kid fishing!

 



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