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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fish move shallow as weather warms

POSTED: April 3, 2014 5:39 p.m.

This week marks a full year that Lake Lanier has been above 1,070 feet. Lake Lanier’s water level is steady at 1,070.76 feet, or 0.24 foot below a full pool of 1,071 feet. Main lake temperatures are right around 60 degrees. The main lake is clear. Rivers and creeks are stained in the backs.

The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out on the river at 770-945-1466.

Just a note: last week’s fishing report had an error. I had stated Sunday as the opening day of trout season and it should have read Saturday. Opening day of trout season is always the last Saturday in March. I apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate the many readers that noticed and emailed me.

Bass: This past week’s warm weather resulted in rising the water temperature almost 10 degrees and significantly changed the fishing. The bass are biting well and there are many buck bass (males) up shallow around the banks. You can sometimes catch 20 or more bass in an eight-hour day this time of year.

These bass are moving shallow to mate. If you have a quality pair of polarized sunglasses, you may see them roaming and nesting for the next month or two.

The bass that are shallow right now are in any one of the three phases of reproduction: prespawn, spawning and postspawn.

Prespawn fish are usually aggressive, and they will strike lures or their natural prey aggressively.
These fish are feeding heavily to build body mass and gain energy that will carry them through the strenuous process of reproduction. When you catch a prespawn bass, they may be so fat they look like footballs.

Most of the bass this week are in the prespawn phase and many will wait until the full moon and for the ideal water temperatures between 60-70 to mate.

Bass that are spawning will fan out nests where the female will lay eggs and the male will fertilize them.

The adult bass will guard the eggs and the very small baby bass that hatch from these eggs. In some instances, larger females may lay eggs in multiple nests with more than one male. They will also guard the nests against predators like bream and other small fish that will eat their eggs.

The actual nesting process will take around a week, and these bass are working very hard.

Some anglers will sight fish for bedding fish, while others may catch them without actually seeing the nest. Bedding fish will often have bloody fins from where they have fanned away the bottom.
Postspawn bass will usually go through a recovery period where they are very lethargic, and afterward they feed as much as possible to regain their health. These fish are usually very skinny and they can lose almost of their prespawn weight.

I spend a lot of time just watching these fish.

Anglers and nonanglers alike are often fascinated by this natural process because it allows us an opportunity to see very large bass that will stay put for days. Some tournament anglers specifically target the biggest fish they can find. Many tournaments are won this way. 

Some people believe that this is unethical. Other anglers will catch these fish and quickly release them, and the bass will usually return right back to the nest. Bedding fish sometimes make the greatest sacrifice as the strenuous mating process takes their life.

Look for areas that have a mixture of rock and sand midway on back into the pockets, as these will attract a lot of fish right now. 

Also, use your electronics to find the warmest water available. 

If we get a cold spell, the fish may back off deeper, but most of your fish will stay under 20 feet deep. Many spotted bass stay on main lake and will feed and reproduce on humps and coves close to the big water. 

Because most fish are prespawn and feeding, you can almost pick your favorite lure and go catching. Moving lures like jerkbaits, spinner baits, crankbaits and swimbaits can all work this week. Slower-moving soft plastic worms or jigs can also work very well, especially around docks or laydowns.

Striper fishing has been strong and a good number of big fish are being caught. I witnessed a large striper attacking a native gizzard shad that was over a pound down in Baldridge Creek. 

Both live bait and artificial lures can be very productive right now, as long as you have located fish. 

Your electronics are essential tools, because the stripers are schooling but very few are breaking the surface. Many of the gulls have headed to the ocean for spring break.

Main lake humps and points can hold stripers as well as the coves, creek and rivers. Side imaging will make the task of finding fish much easier because you can scan a wide areas and see the bait balls and even the schools of stripers clearly. You can even tell which side of the boat they are located. Like the bass, a lot of these stripers will be located in under 20 feet of water.

Your best bet will be to troll blueback herring, trout or even cast net up some native threadfin or gizzard shad. A flatline or planer board is your best bet, but if you are targeting a trophy, try dropping a big bait on a downline to get down through the smaller fish.

Some big stripers will hang out below the smaller fish and pick off wounded baits. Spotted bass sometimes follow this same pattern as well. Striper anglers very often catch very large bass as a bonus. 

You will need to use a large-capacity reel. Bait your hook and then feed out about 20 feet of line. Tie a balloon on, then feed about 100 feet of line. 

Then secure the rod. This method will keep your bait way back from the boat and it will also prevent it from getting tangled in your regular flatlines.

Many anglers prefer using artificial lures, and now is a great time for this type of fishing. 

Many lures will work, so you can pick your favorite artificial. Cast a buck tail, swimbait or even a large one-ounce silver and white Rooster Tail. 

There is not much topwater activity, so the surface plugs may not work as well. But I have seen stripers attack topwater plugs at almost every time of year, so it can be worth a try.

Night fishing is still ok but it has been a little slower as the water temperatures have warmed. It may improve again later this week with the cooler days that are in the forecast. Cast large Bomber Long As, McStick 110s and 115s, or V-wake a Redfin around lighted boat docks and hold on.

Crappie fishing remains very good. Pick your favorite weapon for slab fishing and go load the cooler. This is a great time for kids to cast a bobber and crappie minnow out into the shallow coves. You can also fish minnows, troll, shoot docks or cast small crappie jigs, or even small crankbaits and catch your limit.

Trout fishing is also very good, and you can bet the Department of Natural Resources has probably stocked your local waters or favorite streams and rivers up in the mountains. All trout waters are open this week, so grab your ultra-light spinning rods, spin cast rods or fly tackle, and go enjoy God’s beautiful spring weather. 

It’s hard to beat a good old red wiggler on light line, but check local regulations to make sure live bait is permitted.

No worries if you fish artificial-only trout waters as inline spinners, small crank baits and fly fishing should all be productive. The newly-stocked trout are easy to fool.

Bank Fishing: Lake Lanier is a great place to fish from the banks, but local farm and subdivision ponds can produce incredible action in spring. Smaller waters are also easier to fish. Kids and adults can pick their favorite baits and cast for bass, crappie, bream and catfish.

Use live night crawlers either with or without a bobber to catch a variety of species. Don’t forget the old reliable Texas rigged plastic worm. 

Many anglers, including the author of this report, learned how to worm fish in small ponds. Make sure you have permission to fish the ponds and you may catch a trophy!

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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