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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Start your day early for best chance at catching bass
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier’s water level is up from last week at 1,068.51 or 2.49 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. 

Water temperatures remain in the lower 50’s. The main lake and creeks mouths are clear to slightly stained. The creeks and rivers are clear to stained in some areas. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is starting to clear, signaling the end of lake turnover. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing remains productive and the fish are biting all day. The shallow and deep-ditch bite has been productive, as well as targeting rocky banks. Lake Lanier’s spotted bass population is feasting on crawfish, shad and herring.

Start you days in the shallow part of the ditches. 

The bass will be up close to the shore early in the day. You can get busy in a hurry, if you are fishing the right locations. Crawfish-colored crank baits worked around rocky banks is an awesome technique for catching bass. Cast a SPRO RkCrawler to the shore and allow this lure to bounce of the rocks as you retrieve it slow and steady. 

Try alternating a Fish Head Spin rigged with a Big Bites Suicide Shad or a SPRO McStick 110 around the shallow mouths of submerged ditches.

As the sun rises, the bass will tend to move out a little deeper around steep, rocky banks. You can stick with a crawfish colored crank bait or try dragging a «-ounce Strike King Prop Model jig with a Big Bites Fighting Craw trailer. I have been dipping the claws on my jigs in orange colored JJ’s Magic. 

JJ’s will add some scent to your lures plus it also mimics the orange colored appendages that Lake Lanier’s crawfish have in late fall and early winter.

While a lot of bass are shallow targeting crawfish, many more can be found out deeper eating shad and herring. My Lowrance Carbon units are up to the task of finding fish in 25-55-feet deep. Make sure to keep an eye out for the tell-tale clouds of shad and herring. 

Many of the bass will be right on the bottom. You will usually see bait before you actually graph bass. 

Even if you only see bait, try dropping a Flex-It Spoon, a Ned Rigged TRD or a drop shot with a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm in Blue Lilly or Prizm colors. The whole graph may light up once you hook a fish and the rest of the school rises to chase the bass you have hooked. 

This fishing can be fast and furious. Make sure to unhook the fish and drop another lure down quickly.

Other techniques will also produce bass in the winter. 

Texas Rigged Craws, ribbon tail worms or even a Senko will produce bites when you are around the fish. We have caught several bass off of docks by casting an Alabama Rig or Jerk Shad (fluke) style bait along the sides of the floats. The dark-colored floats will warm the docks on sunny afternoons. The fish can be surprising active around sunny docks.

After dark, you can have the whole lake to yourself. 

The bass have been biting deep-diving crank baits around rocky banks after dark. Try the RkCrawler or Little John DD. Allow the lures to remain in contact with the bottom all the way back to the boat. Even though these lures are technically deep divers, they can be worked along the bottom from 2-20 feet deep.

Striper fishing is good. These fish are biting a variety of baits and lures in a variety of depths and locations. Pick your favorite bait and locations and go catching.

There has been a strong early-morning bite, so get out and be in your best locations by sunrise. 

Use your electronics to confirm that the fish are present. 

Gulls and loons are also a great indicator that the fish are active in an area, so keep an eye out for the birds. Whether you troll or pull live bait, it is better to fish your offerings slightly above where you mark fish. Stripers often move up but the seldom move down to attack their quarry.

Trolling while watching your graph and looking for birds is a great way to cover water and to find and catch fish. Stripers can travel miles each day. When the stripers are targeting blueback herring, they will often travel longer distances because herring move about quickly. 

When stripers are actively feeding on smaller threadfin shad, they tend to stay put longer. You can settle down and deploy your live bait lines in these areas. When threadfins are present, you may be able to return to the same locations for days and catch fish.

Get out your Captain Mack’s standard-sized umbrella rigs or get out your mini rigs and take them for a ride. 

Your Lowrance Electronics are extremely important tools for not only finding stripers, but also in determining what depth to fish you rigs. A lot of stripers will be shallow early in the day, so under 20-feet is a good place to start. Deploy a full-sized umbrella rig directly behind the boat and run your big motor at around 2 mph. If you are trolling the mini rigs, you can either pull them directly behind the boat or cover a wider path by adding a couple of planner boards. To control your speed and drift, troll with your electric trolling motor running from around 1 mph.

Medium shiners seem to be the most productive live bait this week. Stock up on several dozen before heading out to the lake. You can also throw a cast net to catch smaller threadfin shad, larger gizzard shad or blueback herring. Using the natural forage that the stripers are already feeding on can often make a huge difference in your catch rates. Unless you are positive that you can net your own bait, it is a great insurance policy to purchase a couple of dozen medium shiners, herring or trout just in case.

There are a couple of ways to hook your live baits. If your boat is moving and you are fishing flat lines (just a hook with no weight), then hook your minnows through the lips so that they swim naturally. If your boat will be stationary and you are fishing down lines (a leader, swivel and heavy sinker), then you can hook your minnows through the back directly below the dorsal fin so that they fish upright below your boat. Some people pull bait fast, but it is best to control your drift and keep your boat moving at less than 1 mph  when fishing live baits.

Crappie fishing has been hit and miss. 

The crappie on Lake Lanier can be either shallow or deep in winter, depending on locations. I spoke with an angler this week who is catching crappie on live crappie minnows fished 3 feet deep under a float in the rivers. Down lake have found the fish to be out deeper below docks with brush from 15 to 25-feet deep. 

I have also caught a couple way out deep while targeting bass with a jigging spoon.

The good news is that innovations in modern electronics, like my Lowrance Structure Scan, makes the hunt a whole lot easier. Determine which side of the boat you want to scan and set your Structure Scan screen to show only that side. This allows you to see only the left or right side an allows you to dedicate your entire screen to that side. I like to scan to the right-hand side of my boat simply because I can line up on upcoming targets better from the helm. Docks, laydowns or bridge pilings are all worth looking at. 

Once you locate the crappie, the best baits have been either smaller crappie minnows or tiny crappie jigs like a 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce Hal Fly. 

You can fish the minnows below a float or on a down line with a 1/16th ounce split shot about a foot or two above the hook

Bank Fishing: After what seemed to be a long time, the Chattahoochee River is starting to clear from the fall lake turnover. Fall turnover occurs on lakes when the warmer surface layer cools down to the same temperature as the colder bottom layers. 

Lake Turnover or stratification occurs on Lake Lanier in the fall and early winter. When lake turnover is occurring the Chattahoochee, the river flows a brownish-green color and when it’s over the water clears again making conditions prime for trout fishing.

There are several parks below the dam, including the Buford Dam Trout Hatchery that are great places to take the family for a day of fishing. For families, you can pack a picnic and drive directly below Buford Dam. If you prefer to get away from the crowds, you can hike below the Dam, around the hatchery or you can park at Highway 20 or Settles Bridge. 

Trout will bite a variety or lures and bait right now. 

Remember that it is illegal to fish with live bait below the Highway 20 Bridge. Corn or worms fished on a bottom rig will work extremely well where live bait is legal. You can fly fish or spin fish with a variety or flies or spinners. The catching should be decent.

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 readers, so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com Remember to take a kid fishing! 

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