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Lake Lanier fishing report: Fish still biting despite cooler weather
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level has risen about a half a foot and is at 1,067.83 feet, or 3.17 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Water temperatures are in the low 50s. The main lake and creeks mouths are clear to stained. The creeks and rivers are slightly stained to very stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is still stained. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass: It was brisk enough this morning to make me think fishing would be slow, but the bass are still biting. This trip consisted of answering a customer’s questions about his Lowrance electronics’ Structure Scan and teaching him how to set up customized waypoints, icons and names. Reviewing all of this provided the opportunity to scan a lot of water to see what the fish are doing for this report.

Many of Lake Lanier’s bass are in a transition period right now. Some are shallow. Some are suspending around bait from 10 to 30 feet while others are relating to the bottom out deep from 40 to 55 feet deep. These fish are swimming below the bait schools waiting for an easy meal. The thermocline has not set up yet, and low 50-degree water allows the bass the luxury to roam throughout the water column as they pursue herring and shad. 

Junk fishing may be your best bet this week. The fish are at all depths, and they are eating a variety of forage. Small to medium-sized shad, larger herring, gizzard shad, brim and even crawfish are all on the menu. Pick your favorite method and be willing to change up as needed to catch fish. 

We have continued to target the ditches early in the day. Spotted bass will slide up shallow early before sunrise and actively feed for about an hour on sunny days and even longer on overcast days. These fish will swim out to deeper water as the sun gets up. Cast a SPRO Little John DD or RkCrawler or try fishing a jerk bait like a McStick or Pointer 110. Cast these lures up shallow parallel to steeper banks and retrieve them with a slow, steady or jerk and pause retrieve. 

You can keep up with the bass in ditches throughout the day. After the shallow fish quit biting move out deeper and cast a Cane Thumper or Suicide Shad on a Fish Head Spin and work it along the bottom from 10 to 30-feet. Fish will relate to both the edges of the ditches as well as out in the gut of the ditches from 35 to 55 feet deep. Use a drop shot with a Prizm Colored Lanier Baits Fruity Worm. This color along with Blue Lilly have been working very well for the deeper fish.

Try working a TRD on a Ned Rig and just drag it along the bottom. This is a killer technique for catching bass, but remember, less is more. Don’t shake or hop it. Just let the lure drag or swim along the bottom. Keep a little slack in the line and feed the lure line as you work it along the bottom. Bites will usually be subtle.

Other lures are producing both shallow and deep. Jigging spoons in the ditches as well as along bluff walls or out deeper can score multiple bites when you get over a good school. Slow rolling spinner baits or digging crawfish colored crank baits around rocky banks is a great way to catch a fat spotted or largemouth bass this week.

Striper fishing remains good. Different methods are working, and anglers should take clues from the above bass report. Pick your strengths and go fishing. Trolling umbrella rigs is working. If you prefer not to troll, then dragging bait on flat lines, planer boards and down lines are all viable methods depending on what depth and location your Lowrance Electronics show fish.

Trolling is a great way to both cover water, as well as locate and catch stripers on Lake Lanier in early winter. Locate the clouds of shad schools on your screen and pay attention to what depth they are relating to. Drag a Captain Mack’s regular or mini rig around 2 m.p.h. Position your rigs at or just above the depth where you mark bait and fish. 

Successful trolling anglers need to be able to control the depth of where your rigs are running. You can utilize planer boards, down riggers and lead core line to obtain the proper depth with your rigs. You can also add or decrease the weight of your buck trails, add or delete trailer or switch from heavy monofilament to braided line. All of these factors affect the depth of your rigs run. Watch YouTube or refer to some of the best guide websites for the proper formula for successful trolling.

Last weeks’ rains seem to have pushed a lot of the bait schools into the mouths of the pockets and creeks. Once you locate productive looking water, you can deploy either flat or down lines, depending on where the fish are positioned in the water column. Medium shiners, herring and smaller trout are all working well. Try adding one large trout or gizzard shad to your spread to coax a big bite!

Crappie fishing has picked up a little. Master crappie anglers know how to shoot tiny jigs up under docks. Crappie love docks with brush because they provide cover where these tasty critters can hide and ambush prey. 

Hopefully you have been building a milk run of productive docks on your GPS. If not, utilize your side scan to locate the best water. You will often see thick clouds that indicate shad schools or small, compressed dots which are often crappie.

Crappie will be located in these same haunts throughout the winter 

Shoot crappie jigs up under the back floats of the docks, engage you reel and allow the jig to pendulum through the water column. The crappie may be as shallow as 5 feet or as deep as 30 feet, so pay attention to the depth where you catch fish and concentrate on making the same cast again.

Bank Fishing: There is a good population of catfish on Lake Lanier. Most anglers catch these whiskered fish as a by catch while targeting stripers or bass. Catfish are aggressive predators that will strike live or dead bait and occasionally eat artificial lures. There are several species of catfish, and they can range from 1 pound on up to 30 or more pounds.

You should use medium to heavy tackle when fishing for catfish from the banks. Use 10 to 14-pound monofilament and make sure your line is fresh and your rod and reel are in good shape. You can purchase commercial rod holders or make your own out of PVC, which you can hammer into the bank to secure your rods.

Use live shad, cut dead shad or traditional catfish baits like nightcrawlers or chicken livers. Rig up a Carolina Rig. Use a hook with a 1 to 2-foot leader tied to a swivel and a 1-ounce egg sinker on the main line. Hook your bait securely, and make a lob cast to prevent the bait from slinging off the hook. Target banks that have deep water in front of them. Wait a while for the fish but move after an hour if you don’t get a bite.

Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist, guide and bass angler. He is currently booking teaching trips for Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass. 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 Remember to take a kid fishing! 

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