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Lake Lanier fishing report: Rainy weather makes for improved striper fishing
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 to 1,070.98 feet, which is just .02 feet below the full pool of 1,071. Because of the rain inflow, we will probably reach full pool by the time you read this report. Water temperatures remain in the low 50 degree range. The main lake and creeks mouths are clear to slightly stained, and the creeks and rivers are slightly stained to muddy from all the rain. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is mostly clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing remains good, but look for some changes to occur if the forecast turns as cold as they are predicting next week. If water temperatures fall below 50, we could be in for a shad die off. For right now, expect the patterns to vary from shallow to very deep and all depths in between. This week we have been concentrating on around 20 to 40 feet deep. 

There are still some good fish in the ditches, and that is where some anglers are spending a majority of the day. Start you day in the shallower water found close to the shore, down the center of the guts or around the sides of the ditches. Target any rock you locate within the diches and fish moving lures early in the day. Deep diving crank baits like a SPRO RkCrawler or Little John DD will work best on clear days, Slow roll a crank bait and allow this lure to stay in contact with the bottom.  

If the weather is cloudy and windy, try working a SPRO McStick 110 or SPRO McRip95 with a jerk and pause retrieve up shallow around windblown areas in the ditches as well as out on long points or steeper bluff banks with rock. Work these baits with a jerk, jerk and pause retrieve, and experiment with longer pauses as the weather and water cools down. Most of the time bass will slam these lures during the pause, so if you are not getting bit, lengthen your pause rates between jerks. 

There has also been a fair amount of bass biting around brush piles and around timberlines from 20 to 40 feet deep. Work a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm on a drop shot rig and drop down to fish that you see on your Lowrance Fishing Electronics. Even if you only see brush or timber but don’t actually see fish up off the bottom, it is still worth dropping into productive-looking areas. A lot of bass will be tight to the bottom, and you may not be marking any fish when suddenly the whole school appears on the bottom to chase your drop shot rig. 

Other methods have shown to work well in addition to moving lures and the drop shot. There are still plenty of crawfish out deep, so dragging a 1/2-ounce Strike King Pro Model Jig or a Big Bites Yo Mamma Crawdad Imitator on a ¼-ounce Big Bite Fintwist stand up jig head and drag your jigs and craws out around deep rock piles and bluff walls. The jigging spoon bit was been a little slow, but look for that to pick up with any cold weather fronts. Fishing the docks with a reliable 1/8th-ounce finesse or trick worm has also been producing some decent fish.

Striper fishing remains good, and the fish are starting to congregate both back in the creeks and up the rivers. With all the rain, you should be able to travel back into the creeks and rivers and locate where the stained rain water meets the clearer main lake water and that is an excellent place to start.

Shad and herring set up along mudlines, and the stripers will follow. Stripers use these underwater mud walls to trap their bait. Herring and shad will seldom venture into muddy water, but instead will treat mudlines as if they are an impenetrable wall.

The best live bait this last week seems to be herring, although small trout and medium shiners have worked well too, so stock up before you hit the water. The shiners have been working best for numbers of stripers, bass and other species, whereas the herring and trout seem to be catching bigger sized stripers. 

You will need to utilize your Lowrance Structure Scan as it allows you to scan a large area. It is not unusual for one boat to be on fish located only 100 feet away from another boat experiencing no bites at all. Bait placement is critical, so if you are not marking fish, keep moving until you do before deploying flat or down lines. 

Continue to keep your eyes peeled for any feeding birds. When you see gulls and loons actively feeding, you can usually bet the stripers and bass will be right in with them gorging on the fleeing and wounded bait. Casting a live herring or a spoon or bucktail to any surface activity will score you a few extra bites throughout the day. 

Pulling both full sized and the smaller rigs continues to be a viable way to catch fish. Deploy the standard sized umbrella rigs behind the boat and travel around 2 mph. You can also run a stealthy approach by deploying mini rigs on planner board and running your trolling motor at between 1 and 2 mph. Set your outside planner boards shallow so that you can troll up close to the banks. Trolling is a great way to cover water to find active fish. 

Crappie fishing continues to be hit or miss. The winning equation seems to be a combined skill of locating then casting or shooting small crappie jigs up under the most productive docks. The most productive docks will usually be one of the deepest docks with brush located up under or around them. Often the isolated, the first or the last dock in the line will hold schools of crappie.  

Once you locate the active schools of crappie, then work them over thoroughly. The crappie are congregated in tight schools in winter, so where there is one, many more should be close by. You can approach these fish in several ways.  

Shooting small crappie jigs into the far recesses under a dock takes some practice, but learning this skill with pay dividends for a life time. You can also cast a slip bobber, which will allow you to place a crappie jig tipped with a crappie minnow in the strike zone. Set your slip bobber to fall between 15 to 25 feet where the schools seem to be positioned this past week. If you are a dock owner or you have permission to fish a private or marina dock then position yourself inside the slip and drop a tiny down line (a hook with a 1/8th-ounce sinker placed a couple of feet above your hook and minnow) and drop it down into or just above where the brush piles top out.

Bank Fishing: Lake Lanier has a healthy population of catfish, and they are an under fished species that both fights well and makes great table fare. The majority of channel catfish run between 2 and 10 pounds. Up in the rivers and in some places down lake, the larger flat head catfish tend to average from 10 to as much as 40 pounds or more.

Cut bait is the best bet so secure some frozen herring or gizzard shad and cut them into chunks. String these bait chunks onto a Number 2 Octopus hook with a long 3-foot leader attached to a swivel with a 1-ounce egg sinker and cast it around steeper banks close to the creek, ditch and river channels.

Catfish feed by a combination of smell and sight. Chumming any extra cut bait will pull catfish from a resonable distance to strike your offereings. Secure your rods well with cut PVC or commercial rod holders. Some people fish multiple rods and reels, and they often attach a bell to the rod tip to signal when mister whisker strikes your rod. 

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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