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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fish are starting to fatten for the fall

POSTED: September 13, 2012 11:11 p.m.

Lake temperatures range from high 70s to low 80s. Lake Lanier’s water level is around 1,061.63, or 9.37 feet below a full pool of 1,071. The lake is clear and the creeks and rivers are clear in the mouths and stained in the backs. The Chattahoochee River is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing has turned on this past couple of weeks. While some anglers are not catching a lot of fish, most are getting at least a few good bites. The majority of spotted bass I have caught this past week are very healthy and strong. The largemouth bass population is as healthy as I can ever remember since I started fishing Lake Lanier in the early 1970s.

There are shad schools everywhere on the lake and even the bluebacks are appearing on the surface as bass and stripers chase them up from the depths.

There is so much forage right now and the predator fish are feeding heavily with the milder weather. Shad, herring, bream, crayfish and even insects provide Lake Lanier’s bass with a variety of food to eat. Because the forage base is so diverse, the bass will strike a variety of lures, and we have caught bass on just about every lure in the tackle box this week.

While a variety of lures are working, two methods are definitely producing the better fish. A topwater plug and a swimbait are on the deck of my Nitro at all times. The spotted bass are actively feeding close to the surface during active feeding periods.

A large walking lure like a Super Spook and a SPRO BBZ1 four-inch Shad have been my lures of choice when the bass are chasing bait. My offshore areas are producing some good fish, but timing seems to play a big role in how productive these can be. Areas closer to the banks midway in the creeks that have laydowns or rock have been producing.

The surface bite is occurring all day long, and contrary to other lakes, sunny days are better than cloudy ones on Lanier. I also keep a drop-shot rigged to drop down on any fish that appear directly below the boat on my Humminbird 858.

Most anglers know how to work a topwater plug, but many neglect to throw swimbaits. It’s hard to deny how good swimbaits look in the water, but a lot of anglers will cast them a few times then put them down in favor of the “old reliable” topwater plug.

These people are missing some of the best action on the lake. My advice is to take a full day on the water and throw nothing but a swimbait, especially this time of the year. Experiment with different retrieves to get dialed in to what the fish react to.

If you dedicate some time to these realistic-looking lures your topwater plugs may spend less time in the water and your swimbait collection will grow.

Spot tail minnows or store-bought medium shiners rigged on drop-shot set up with a Gamakatsu Circle hook are working well. There is also a very good night bite, and the lake is almost deserted after dark. After the sun sets, work deep-diving crankbaits or slow roll a big spinner bait around rocky banks in the creek mouths.

Stripers: I had the pleasure to drive around the photographer in my Nitro during the Phil Niekro Skins and Fins tournament last weekend. I want to personally thank all of the people who helped out making this event a great success! This Operation One Voice event raised over $100,000 for our wounded Special Ops soldiers and their families.

Being the camera boat also allowed me to see first-hand how many of the lakes best striper anglers were fishing.

As mentioned in last week’s report, the deep water summertime bite has started to give way to shallower action and the stripers are moving up a little closer to the surface. The full-blown topwater striper action is still a few weeks away, but keep your Super Spooks and Redfins at the ready because there are a few fish surfacing. We caught some smaller stripers on swimbaits, so look for the topwater line side action to improve as we head into fall.

A lot of the striper anglers are using blueback herring on down lines, but some are starting to use flat lines, too.
A down line is basically a Carolina Rig with a live baitfish attached to the hook.

Down lines usually incorporate a one- to two-ounce sinker to get your baits down deep. A flat line is just a free-lined bait on a hook with no sinker — just a hook tied to the end of your line. You can add a split-shot sinker to get your flat lines down a little deeper. Whichever method you choose, my best advice is to use the liveliest bait possible and change them out frequently.

Trolling a large bucktail or an umbrella rig outfitted with multiple bucktails is still a productive method. Trolling allows anglers to cover a lot of water. Moving around like this also allows us to watch what the stripers are doing on our electronics. My Humminbird Side Imaging will actually scan an area up to 240 feet to either side of the boat.

That is almost a 500-foot wide view of what is underwater, and there is no doubt this technology helps anglers to catch more fish. Troll areas in the lower creek mouths and around the river channels and let your electronics and the striper bites dictate your best depth and speed. Most striper anglers are setting their rigs to around 35 feet now.

Crappie: Trolling and casting to brush are working ok this week, but this action will get better very soon. The crappie are located in and around brush in 10 to 15 feet with some deeper and some shallower.

Look for the water in the creeks that has some stain to it to give away the most productive areas. Fishing after dark with lights around the bridges is working well, and you may have these areas all to yourself right now.

Trout fishing is ok, but we could really use some rain to add some oxygen to the water. Fishing is fair to good below Buford Dam, and fair in the Wildlife Management Areas. Break out your fly rods in the afternoons and fish dry flies on the surface. Spinning tackle with live bait (where permitted by law) and small inline spinners or minnow imitators are also working.

Bank fishing is getting more productive.

Find steeper banks with rock and cast topwater plugs or jerkbaits to entice bass and even stripers. Live bait on a Carolina Rig or under a float will catch a variety of fish in fall.

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. Contact him at
esaldrich@yahoo.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.


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