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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Bass anglers should target ditches in early winter
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 slightly at 1,065.50, or 5.50 feet below our normal full pool of 1,071. Surface temperatures are in the mid- to low-50s. 

The main lake and creeks mouths are clear. The creeks, pockets and rivers are slightly stained. The Chattahoochee River is really trying hard to get over the 2017 turnover but is still stained. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

As the holiday season greets us, I am reminded of a parable: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for the day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” It’s important to teach our youth activities that foster a love for the outdoors and a respect and appreciation for God’s beauty. Teaching people to fish helps build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Bass fishing has been fair, and anglers are catching bass both shallow and deep. There has been a good spoon bite, but the ditch bite is really just getting started. The consistent cold weather should improve bass fishing this week, so try to get out if you can.

Fishing ditches is a time-tested pattern for early winter fishing on Lake Lanier. Anglers should look for ditches that allow bass an easy path from shallow to deep water. In December, you should be able to find bass that will bite your lures somewhere along the depressions, or “bass highways.”

Early in the day, start out with your boat just a cast-and-a-half away from the shallow mouth of the ditch. Slow roll a SPRO Little John DD or an underspin with a Big Bites Cane Thumper and retrieve these lures just off the bottom. Allow your lure to deflect off bottom features to entice the fish to bite. 

Keep your lures moving slowly and steadily. Don’t spend too much time in one ditch because if the fish are present, they will let you know within the first few casts.

You can work these same ditches all day long. As a general rule, the bass will be shallow early in the day and will move out deeper as the sun rises. That being said, always check the shallow part of the ditch first then move out deeper because the fish may be shallow at major feeding times throughout the day.

Deep-structure anglers have been doing well working spoons, jigs and drop-shots out deeper in the middle of the coves and offshore around the timberlines from 35 to 55 feet deep. I use my Humminbird Electronics to fish directly over the bass I see on my screen. Drop your lure to the bottom and look for the arcs, or wavy lines, that indicate feeding fish near the bottom.

When searching for these deeper fish, look for the bait fish schools first. A lot of times the bass will be so close to the bottom that they blend in with it. If the shad are present, the bass should be close by.

I catch a lot of bass in winter with a SPRO McStick 110 jerk bait. This is the main time of the year when you should use a jerk-and-pause retrieve with herring-imitating lures. During cold fronts, the shad will get lethargic and many will die off, and a jerk bait closely matches the activity of these dying bait fish. 

When the water temperatures are above 50 degrees, you can use a medium cadence with shorter pauses. When the water gets colder than 50 degrees, you may need to employ longer pauses to coax bass into striker your lure.

Striper Fishing: The birds continue to give away the most productive areas, so watch the gulls, loons and your Humminbird electronics.

Pulling live herring, trout or shad on flat lines, down lines and planner boards will continue to work all over Lake Lanier. Use your electronics to dial in the proper depth, and once you get a bite, make adjustments and set your other rods to a similar depth.

It pays to pick up a couple different sizes of live bait. Some days the stripers prefer smaller prey, while other days a large trout or gizzard shad can coax a big bite. Last winter, the stripers seemed to prefer medium-sized shiners and herring, and this winter seems to be starting out the same way. That being said, I always like to put a big bait out to coax those bigger stripers into biting,

Continue to troll a Captain Mack’s umbrella rig around areas where you see birds, and mark fish with your electronics. An umbrella rig looks like a school of baitfish under the water, and it can outproduce live bait under the right conditions. Troll your rigs between 2-3 mph.

Crappie fishing has been good for anglers that can locate and fish these deeper schools. 

Most of the time you’ll find crappie around cover like docks and brush piles in the coves and back in the creeks. Crappie seem to prefer water with a slight stain, so you can often look for water color changes to signal your most productive areas.

I witnessed an angler fishing from the center of his boathouse catching one crappie after another this week. He was dropping a live crappie minnow on a weighted line down to brush that he had planted earlier in the year at around 25 feet. He would just hold on to the rod and wait for a slight tick in the line that indicated a bite.

Trout fishing has been fair below Buford Dam, but fishing up in the mountains has been better this week.

Wet flies have been a good choice after the colder weather has moved in. Fish a bead-headed nymph under current breaks just below the rapids. The trout will position directly behind boulders or trees lying in the water.

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 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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