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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Change lures regularly to catch best bass, stripers
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,069.35 which is 1.65-feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are in the low to mid 70’s. 

The main lake and lower lake creeks mouths are clear to stained from turn over. The backs of the creeks are stained from turnover. The upper lake and rivers are clear to stained and many areas are starting to turn over above Browns Bridge. The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam remains stained from lake turnover.

Check generation schedules before heading out to the river below Buford Dam at 770-945-1466. 

Bass fishing: We are really starting to see areas where lake stratification (or lake turnover) are occurring. When the lake “turns over” it basically means that the warmer surface layers have cooled down to the same temperatures as the cooler lower levels. This causes the layers to mix up. The cooler lower layers contain lower oxygen levels and decaying matter. The water mixes up and gets an ugly stain and smells of sulfur. Because there is no thermocline, the fish can be located from 6-feet-deep or 60 feet deep, which makes it harder to pattern them. The fish can be found anywhere, so keep your options open.

Lake turnover can be a frustrating time to fish, but the good news is that the bass fishing is good and they are biting a variety of lures at different depths. This week, subsurface techniques have trumped the top-water action. “Junk fishing” has been the best way to approach the fish this week. That basically says you can keep 5-to-10 fishing rods on the deck, each with a different lure and catch fish on every one. You may catch bass on a top water plug one hour, and then you may catch them 40 feet down with a jigging spoon the next.

We have started our days casting a SPRO McStick 110 or a Sebile Magic Swimmer around main lake and secondary points and humps just as the sun is rising. Just cast these lures to the bank and reel them with a medium steady retrieve. These jerk and swim baits perfectly match the look and feel of blue back herring. Continue to cast these lures throughout the day to any “bassy” looking areas.

As the sun rises, we have had some luck casting top water plugs over main lake humps and points. The top water bite has been off and on, so if you don’t get bites on your top water plug switch to subsurface lures like swim baits, spy baits and medium to deep diving crank baits. Once we work an area with brush we will stow the moving lures and pick up a drop shot rig. My Lowrance Carbon 12-inch unit has become a valuable tool for drop shot fishing in the brush. This unit will allow you to actually see your drop shot rig and the fish that you are targeting. If you are not getting bites but you are seeing fish, try shortening your leader to 6 or 8 inches or try a shaky head rigged worm instead. A lot of these bass are trapping the worm directly on the bottom.

If the wind is up, fish a spinner bait around brush and rocky banks out in the wind. This pattern can be extremely strong and some anglers are slinging a spinner bait and catching quality bass on this technique all day long. Begin by reeling your spinner bait just fast enough to see it running a few feet deep. If this retrieve is not producing, try slowing your spinner bait down and slow roll it over the top of brush and over rocky drop offs.

Another approach is to target feeding fish located in the pockets and creeks up and down the lake. These shallow fish are suckers for the McStick, a small top water Chug Bug, a finesse worm, a jig head or a Texas Rig. Work these lures over flats and around docks. These fish are feeding on small threadfin shad, so try downsizing your lures accordingly.

Night fishing for bass has been very good. Cast a McStick, Little John DD or a large black and blue Spinner bait with a single Colorado blade. Work these lures around rocky points just inside of the creek mouths. Reel them, just fast enough to feel your lure wobble and keep it in contact with the bottom as most of your bites will occur very shallow as your lure deflects off of bottom structure.

Striper fishing rates from fair to very good depending on conditions. The ability to keep an open mind and make changes will make the difference between just fishing and actually catching. My electronics have been key tools for finding fish. Keep an eye on your graphs and also keep an eye peeled for any surface activity.

We encountered several schools of stripers thrashing on the surface close to the river channel, from River Forks all the way on down to the dam. These fish appeared to be staying around 60 feet and then they were surfacing to attack schools of threadfin and blue back herring.

Your electronics are your eyes under water. One of the most common things I encounter when fishing with other anglers is that they do not trust what they see on their electronics. My Lowrance Carbon 12 and 16 units clearly show me a picture of what is occurring under water. As my best friend used to say, the fish may be fighting World War III under the surface when all we see is clam on the surface.

Because the fish can be both shallow and deep, make sure to keep a casting rod at the ready along with both flat lines and down lines. As mentioned above, I have seen a lot of fish in the 40 to 60-foot range as well as some good schools busting shad and herring on the surface. You should keep a combination of down lines, flat lines and casting lures ready so as to make changes as needed.

The fish schooling on the surface have been finicky when it comes to hitting lures. Because there is so much bait, your lures may go unnoticed as the fish school on the surface. Try stowing the top water plugs and cast subsurface lures like a one-half ounce silver and white Rooster Tail, a SPRO McStick110, Magic Swimmer or a buck tail worked slow and steady around these schoolers. I have seen several fly anglers who had hooked up casting small streamers. Use a small Clowser Minnow on an 8-weight fly rod for your best results.

If the fish are hanging around deeper in the water column, a down line with a small herring or medium store-bought minnows have been working best. Change your baits out frequently and use a smaller 10 to 12-pound leader of Sunline Fluorocarbon.

The night Bomber and McStick bite has been very good in the right locations after dark. Main lake islands from Lake Lanier Islands on up to the islands around River Forks are the best areas to target. We have had the best success targeting islands below Browns Bridge that are located out near the river channel. Just cast these lures to the banks and reel them just fast enough to feel them wobble. This is an awesome way to fish and you will get a lot of hits, so it keeps things interesting!

Crappie fishing is slow, but things are changing along with the weather. As the lake continues to cool, look for crappie to relate to docks and brush. As winter approaches and the water cools down, these fish will move a little shallower.

When fishing from a boat or from your own docks, play around with the depth and let the fish that bite tell if you’re at the best depth. As the lake turnover continues the fish may be shallow, deep of anywhere in between.

Trout fishing is good and the Department of Natural Resources has been stocking trout in North Georgia. These fish are stupid and hungry which makes fishing a lot easier! The mountain streams and rivers are clear, but the occasional rains can stir up things. The rivers below major dams are stained from the fall turn over.

Cast a white and silver or a gold and green Rooster Tail around any trout water you fish. Downsize your line to 2 or 4-pound test. The lighter line will really help in the clear streams up north. Live earth worms or Power Nuggets fished on a bottom rig will produce, especially where the newly stocked fish are located.

Bank fishing: A slip bobber is a great tool when fishing from the shores of Lake Lanier or deeper pools in subdivision and farm ponds. These lures are usually weighted so they cast very well.

You can cast these bobbers from the bank and change depths by adjusting the bobber stop. This allows you to cover depths from shallow to deep. Rig your setup with as light a line as possible and add a Gamakatsu Aberdeen hook tied directly to your line. Hook a live shiner or night crawler on the hook and you are ready!


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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