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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fish go deeper in colder temperatures

POSTED: January 23, 2014 6:14 p.m.

Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.96 feet, or .04 feet below a full pool of 1,071. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to pull water in preparation for spring rains, but the water is coming in quicker than it can be release through Buford Dam.

Lake temperatures are in the mid 40’s with some small areas that may be a degree or two warmer. The lake is clear on the main lake and in the mouths of the creeks, while stained in the backs of the creeks and rivers. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam.

Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass: Many of Lake Lanier’s bass have gone deeper. The fish have moved into the more predictable winter haunts where we find them when water temperatures drop into the 40s.

This year the deep winter bite has been a lot later than in years past, but is more consistent now that the cold weather has stayed longer. Cold days with lots of bluebird skies have kept the water temperatures consistently in the mid-40s.

During winter, my eyes spend a lot of time staring at the huge screen on my Humminbird 1158c looking for deep schools of spotted bass.

I use the large display setup in split screen mode showing GPS and sonar. GPS allows me to keep my Nitro Bass Boat in the correct position and sonar helps me see fish, schools of bait fish and even my lure.

I mention this often, but it still makes me chuckle at how many seasoned anglers are amazed by this “video game” method of fishing. They can’t believe it when you point out a fish on the screen, then watch as the lure drops down and a fish rises in the water to intercept it before it even hits bottom – all on this on the video screen.

Why is this so amazing? If you asked 100 anglers, 80 percent would rate topwater fishing as their favorite way to catch fish because they can witness the strike happen.

You can also see them strike on the screen, and that’s why catching them with a
Humminbird is my favorite way to fish.

Right now we are locating the timber lines that intersect with the ditches where we caught fish last month. Depths range from 30-55 feet.

These locations still follow the theory of “fish highways” because bass will move along the ditch depressions to the timberlines where the trees were cut down before the lake was impounded.

Bass will hang around these timberlines on the bottom and they will use the vertical cover to move into both shallower and deeper waters as they follow the bait.

Use your electronics to locate the bait fish that are relating to the timber. Most of the time the bass will be close to the bottom, but they can also suspend into the timber too. Use a lure that has some weight and pay attention to where bites occur.

Several lures will work to catch deep fish on the timberlines or in the ditches.

Position your boat directly over the areas where you mark bait or fish. Use a heavier lure that will quickly drop down to the bottom.

There are several options. You can use a standard Jig, a jigging spoon, a SPRO Bucktail or a drop shot just to get down in front of these deep fish while watching it all on your Humminbird Sonar.

You can still cast these lures and stair step them around the ditch and timberline intersections, but pay attention to where your bites occur because deep bass tend to school up in tight groups when the water is in the mid-40s.

Anglers should never forget that there will always be some bass that stay shallow. Deep fishing is not for everyone and there are many successful anglers that never fish deeper than 25 feet. I have caught bass in shallow water in the past and recently bass were sunning themselves around black dock floats and boat ramps in shallow waters.

Striper fishing has been a little harder for anglers if for no other reason than it has been so cold that ice has been forming on the guides of their rods.

Stripers are a cold water fish, but they do follow baits and they will move into some of the shallower stained water when it warms up in the sun.

Plus, you can always bet they there will be active schooling somewhere in the back of the cove or in a creek mouth somewhere on the lake.

Keeping a milk run of areas and an open mind will help striper anglers. Also be prepared to cover some water because we have been seeing them schooling one day above Browns Bridge and then some more action down lake in the mouths of the coves.

The seagulls and loon are a dead giveaway for the best areas. The loons move quickly, but it seems the stripers we have been catching return again to the same areas where the loons stirred up bait fish. The loons have been keying in on both bluebacks and the smaller threadfin shad.

Anglers can do very well fishing with live store bait, like blueback herring, trout and even medium or large minnows. Both flat lines and down lines have been working about the same. If the gulls and loons are active, drag flat lines and planerboard lines around the areas where you see birds diving, or where you mark fish on your electronics.

If your screen shows “spaghetti” or the arches that indicate fish, drop a down line right above where you mark fish. Stripers will move up to strike a line, but they don’t seem to dive down too often to intercept bait.

Bucktails cast or rigged on an umbrella rig and trolled are a staple on any striper impoundment and Lake Lanier is no different. I like the realistic look of a SPRO Bucktail rigged with a Big Bites Cane Thumper trailer but other local brands like Captain Mack’s Chipmunk Jigs are also popular on Lake Lanier.

You can cast these lures to active fish or let them fall down to the level where you mark stripers. Reel a bucktail slow and steady and impart an occasional jerk of the rod to trigger strikes. Trolling an umbrella rig with bucktails is a great way to load the boat right now too.

Crappie fishing is very good for experienced perch jerkers who know where or how to find the deeper schools of fish. The crappie are ganged up in large schools around timber or deep brush piles from 20 to 30 feet deep.

If you can locate the right areas, boat control and fishing slow are both essential to catching deep water cold fish. Some anglers use small spoons on light line to get down to the deeper fish.

Anglers that have access to deeper docks with brush may even have an advantage to anglers in a boat. Cast small jigs or down line crappie minnows. When you catch a fish, concentrate on that area because there is probably a whole school in the same area.

Trout fishing is a little slower below Buford Dam, not only because of the cold, but because the CORPs is pulling a lot of water.

The fish are there but getting them to bite has been a challenge. Live earthworms rigged up on a bottom rig (Ú-ounce split shot) has been working OK from the Dam down to 20 bridge, but check your local regulations on live bait in other areas.

Fishing up in the mountain streams has been OK with wet flies and small inline spinners.

Bank Fishing: Anglers are targeting stripers from the banks down around Mary Alice Park, but there are many other areas to fish, too.

Holly Park in Gainesville, River Forks or even around some of the local ramps, like Shoal Creek and Big Creek, all seem to be good places to fish.

Usually the best bank fishing will happen around parks where there are a lot of seagulls toward the backs of the creeks. Use a heavy main line with a Carolina type setup with a lighter 10 to 12-pound fluorocarbon line and a Gamakatsu Octopus Hook.

Use live trout and make long casts before securing your pole. These hard fighting fish are hard fighters, so make sure to use a good rod holder or make your own from PVC pipe.

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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