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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Plenty of fish in shallow waters

POSTED: April 17, 2014 6:51 p.m.

The amount of rain fall has brought the lake level up again. Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,072.03 feet or 1.02 foot above a full pool of 1,071 feet. Main lake temperatures are in the mid-50’s to the lower 60’s. The main lake is clear to stained, while the rivers and creeks are very stained from pollen and recent rains. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass: Everyone can tell that spring is here-The pollen is falling and the trees are blooming and turning green. The temperatures on the other hand make it hard to distinguish whether its late winter, spring or early summer as we bounce from lows in the 30’s one day to highs close to 80 the next. This is Georgia; if you don’t like the weather, stick around because it will change soon.

I think the fish are just as confused because they have been starting to build their nests one day as it warmed only to disappear because the temperatures drop on following days.

The bass are in all stages of reproduction right now and it is hard to gauge just how many of the bass have already spawned, but I would say about a 1/3 of the fish have laid eggs. The other 2/3 are just now making nests or are still waiting for the temperatures to stabilize so they can ensure the water will stay warm enough for their hatched fry to survive. Life is hard for baby bass.

There are many dangers lurking out in their environment and the majority will not to survive the first year of their life. This is nature’s design and that is why fish lay such a large amount of eggs. Out of a thousand hatched fry, probably only one percent of them will survive to become adult bass.

If you get out with a good pair of polarized sun glasses you will witness plenty of fish in the shallows. Bass, bream, shad, blueback herring and carp are all moving around in shallow waters. There is a thick layer of pollen on the water and this can make it very hard to see below the surface but there are a bunch of fish below in the skinny water.

We have been catching bass on a variety or lures and at a variety of depths and locations. The best technique for catching a large number of bass has been to fish the docks with a shaky head and worm combination. The fish you will catch on the docks vary from less than a pound to over five pounds. The smaller fish are in shallow waters eating the bait fish that are available, while the larger fish are probably there for one reason – to reproduce.

Skip a light weight jig head with a straight tail finesse worm around docks and you should easily catch a limit of bass. We have caught from 10 to 50 bass in a normal day of fishing and that is a bunch of fun no matter who you are. I have been using a 1/8-ounce Gamakatsu Alien head with a 7-inch Big Bites trick worm or 4-inch finesse worm in watermelon green color dipped in chartreuse JJs Magic dye.

You may want to move to an even lighter jig head worm to reduce the rate of fall. A lot of your strikes will occur on the fall so when you engage your reel, be ready to set the hook quickly if you feel a “tick” or see your line swimming off. When a bass swims out from under a dock with your bait this usually means there are several more fish under the same dock so make multiple casts to the same area when this occurs.

Striper fishing has been a little less predictable. You may load the boat one day and then return and duplicate your pattern and location only to go fishless the next day. Remember that stripers can swim long distances. So when they are on the move, fishing can be a challenge.

As always, your electronics are key tools on the water. With Side Imaging locating, fishing has gotten a whole lot easier. Set your Side imaging to twice the depth that your boat is sitting for the best results. Schools of fish often appear to be clouds of bait with the bait fish school appearing to be more like dense fog versus the striper schools, which look more like groups of small oval shaped dots. The manuals usually say to run about four miles per hour, but I get my best Side Images when I run the boat at its slowest speed, around two miles an hour.

Live bait on flat lines continues to work best but some anglers who are trolling umbrella rigs as they move around trying to locate the schools of stripers. Trolling the multiple arm, multi-lure rigs will allow you the opportunity to catch an extra bonus fish or two while searching large areas until you get the fish dialed in. Once you find actively feeding fish, slow down and drop back some flat lines with nose hooked herring and also set some bait out to the sides on planner boards.

Don’t feel too bad if you are not locating the stripers because many anglers this past week have had a tough time patterning these fast moving game fish.

Very soon we should start to see some top water action, as striper move into shallow water in the warmer months. The late spring top water activity on Lake Lanier is some of the best in the country. You may often find over an acre of fish schooling and as long as you can reach them with a cast, the hookups come quickly.

Crappie fishing is good in some areas of the lake and fair in others. The fish have been spawning heavily for the past few weeks and that spawn seems to be finishing up. The crappie fish are being caught in the shallower coves, so target docks that are close to any shallow channels swings, anywhere from 5 to 10 feet deep. Follow those channel swings into and out of the coves to locate fish that are either in a pre-spawning or post-spawning position. Pay close attention to any wood cover like laydowns or brush piles that are located close to these ditches.

Shoot small crappie jigs under the docks and work them on a tight line and a steady retrieve. A lot of your bites will occur as the jig falls from 5 to 10 feet deep. Watch your line closely to see even the lightest “tick” that may indicate a crappie eating your jig. I still like to tip my legs with a small crappie minnow as I feel it gives the lure a scent and also some additional movement to increase the odds of a crappie eating it.

Trout fishing remains very good in the clear mountain streams and on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam. We have had some very hard rains and this can slow the fishing. Any time there is high, muddy or very stained water, the bite can turn off. Some people think this is because the trout can’t see the bait or lures, as well in the otherwise normally clear water, and this may be true. I believe it is also because the fish have so much natural food they may have eaten all they can.

Worms, insects and other forage gets washed into the rivers and streams after a hard rain and this allows trout to feast on these easy offerings. When the water is high, trout also have more room to roam around, so they may move around instead of staying positioned behind bolders or other easily seen current beaks.

Remember that the biggest trout will position themselves in the best areas in the stream. If a large bolder is located at the front of a large run of rapids, you can bet there is a big trout there that will take the first opportunity to eat food that is washed down stream. When an angler catches and keeps a big trout the next most aggressive fish will move up and take its place.

Bank Fishing: There are a lot of bream in shallow water this week. These fish are shallow because the water is warming and there is a lot of food for them to eat. Small minnows, bass fry, other baby fish, eggs, worms and insects all provide an abundant food source for these pan fish to eat. Also the bream will spawn soon and some are even forming their bowl shaped nests this week with the full moon.

These fish are easy to catch. All it takes is a hook, bait and bobber. Put a live earth worm, crickets or even a small piece of hot dog on a small hook.

Grab a light spinning reel or your old reliable Zebco 33 and use the live bait mentioned above. Also try a small Beatle Spin or Rooster Tail. Fly fishing for bream is a blast and all you need is a small dry fly on your fly rod to go catch some pan fish.

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 can be reached via email me at esaldrich@yahoo.com or through his website at aldrichfishing.com.


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