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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Concentrate on shallow areas to find bass
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake levels remain very healthy at almost full pool. Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.66, or 0.34 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are above normal for this time of year in the mid- to upper-50s. 

The main lake and creeks mouths are clear to stained. The creeks, pockets and rivers are everywhere from slightly stained to muddy.

The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear but will muddy up quickly if we have heavy rains. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing: This past week’s Bass Fishing League Bull Dog Division Tournament showed just how great the fishing can be on Lake Lanier. 

Even though my big motor never started the whole day of the tournament, my non-boater and I caught more than 20 bass, along with another 30 or more stripers and white bass, just running the trolling motor around Laurel Park.

Congratulations to boater Ben Brisbois, who boated a five-fish limit of 20 pounds, 11 ounces. His limit included a magnum 6-pound, 3-ounce spotted bass. There were three five-bass limits of more than 20 pounds that weighed in.

If you are even remotely interested in bass tournaments but don’t know where to start, you can sign up to fish a professional-level trail at FLW Outdoors. The BFL is a weekend series that almost anyone with a bass boat (that follows guidelines), or even with out a bass boat, can fish. See www.flwfishing.com or email me at esaldrich@yahoo.com for more information.

The bass have moved very shallow, and that is where most anglers are concentrating their efforts. 

Surely there are some deeper fish, but with the record-high day-time weather, the vast majority of bass will be found shallow. Target ditch and small feeder creek channels from 1 to 15 feet deep. Areas where a ditch flows through a large, featureless flat can be gold mines this time of year. Points, shallow humps, stump fields and larger rocks can all hold schools of fish in spring.

Start your day early casting moving lures like a SPRO McStick, spinner bait, Chatterbait, SPRO Little John DD, underspin or even an Alabama or Captain Mack’s Mini Rig. The small umbrella rigs are what we used to catch the majority of our 50-plus fish during last week’s tournament.

The Alabama rig was my go-to technique in practice. These rigs consist of five arms and often have added spinner blades for attraction. You then attach small jig heads and a smaller shad-style trailer. Try to look for bait fish that bass spit up, then match the hatch with a similar shaped and sized trailer. 

I use a 7-foot, 11-inch heavy action Kissel Krafts Custom Rod and cast with 25-pound Sunline Super Natural Monofilament. Casting these heavy rigs will take some practice, and it pays to invest in an umbrella rig retriever. Slow-roll them much like you would with a spinner bait, and experiment with the retrieve until you get a bite.

When it gets sunny, a lot of bass have been moving up, around and under shallow docks in the pockets. The fish will average 1 to 2 ½ pounds, but there are some big ones too. These fish will eat a variety of lures and live bait.

A staple for us is casting a Big Bites Green Pumpkin Red Flake Shaky head worm on a ⅛-ounce shaky head or Texas Rig. Cast these worms around and under docks, and watch your line. A lot of strikes will occur on the fall, and you may not even feel it. The line will just swim away, so reel up the slack and set the hook.

Be aware that when fish swim out from under a dock, they often do so because there is a big school of bass under the same dock. Make sure to make several more casts where you picked up that fish before moving on. While it may be rare, I have seen more than 20 bass caught from the same dock in the not-so-distant pass.

In early spring, many different techniques can work, so pick your favorite style and best lures and go fishing. The fish are biting both day and night.

Striper fishing has been good, and they are biting in the rivers and streams up-lake along with the creeks down-lake. 

Stripers on Lake Lanier have a lot of natural bait to eat in spring. Small- to medium-sized threadfin shad, 4- to 6-inch herring and small to extra-large gizzard shad are their most common natural forage. They will also eat dead bait, crawfish and smaller pan fish.

The water is pretty stained to muddy in the rivers as well as down-lake in the backs of the creeks. This muddy water turns off anglers as well as impedes stripers, but the fish will not completely leave these areas. You will often find clearer water in the backs of these pockets, which can hold schools of fish. 

Mud lines where the clear water meets muddy water are also great locations to fish large schools of striped bass.

Pulling an umbrella rig is hard to beat in the pockets and toward the backs of the creeks along the mudlines. Trolling is also good where the stripers are feasting on shad and herring closer to main lake. Pulling a Captain Mack’s Rig with either the stock trailers or SPRO Buck Tails with Big Bites Suicide Shad trailer is a great technique for covering water while you search for stripers. 

Trolling may also be the best way to catch these fish right now. The hardest part of trolling this week is to keep your rigs clean of leaves and pine straw.

Not many anglers are trying this but the nighttime Bomber Bite has been very good in the right locations like the lighted docks in the backs of the creeks, along with main lake points and humps both down by Buford Dam and also up around the islands from Three Sisters all the way up to Browns Bridge. Cast Bomber Long A’s, SPRO McSticks and even buck tails to the banks, retrieve them with a slow and steady retrieve and hold on.

Crappie fishing: Lake Raking, or trolling with multiple light rods and lines, has been a productive way to cover water. 

Your main issue will be to find clean enough water to keep your lines clear. Target stained water on the non-windy sides of the coves and move in to where the mud and pine needle/leaf lines meet clearer water.

Use light 4-pound test with light crappie jigs and one-sixteenth to one-twenty-fourth ounce marabou or Hal Fly style jig heads, and troll slowly at around 1 mph. I like to stagger and tie two jigs on each line and mix up colors until the fish let us know their preferences. 

If one rod is outworking the rest then you will know what color to use. It can also be an indicator of one rod running deeper or shallower, or even the difference in line type or jig weights.

Shooting the right docks can produce a quick limit of big crappie. The crappie hanging out around the docks are the big spawning fish, and they will weigh the most. Shoot your jigs under the docks if it’s sunny, or cast or shoot these same jigs around the docks if it’s cloudy.

There are plenty of crappie around the docks in the parks and also around the bridges. Cast a crappie minnow or medium shiner under a bobber. 

Trout fishing is good when the water is clear. Recent rains have been filling the streams with fresh oxygenated water, and lots of live forage for the trout to feed upon. Couple this with any newly stocked trout, and you may have a great day.

The biggest challenge is that after any rain, the water will turn muddy or get stained. The creeks and rivers will run fast and full, which can make for tough fishing. After a dry day or two and the water clears, fishing can be great.

Bottom fishing with live earth worms is a tried-and-true method. Corn or Berkley Power Nuggets will also work, and it’s easy to keep these on hand versus true live bait. Remember to only fish these offerings where live bait is allowed. Rooster Tails, Rapalas or Yo-Zuri Pinns Minnows are all worth a try.

For fly anglers, keep an eye out for any hatches. The warm weather has brought out larger nymphs with some pre-emerging adults. The double drop-rig matches both of these patterns well. Even a wet fly crawfish pattern is worth a try behind the runs and around shallow running rocks.

Bank fishing: Pick your favorite shallow-running lure and hit the banks both on Lake Lanier or around your local pond, lake or river. The fish are shallow this week due to the unusually warm weather we’ve had recently.

Look for trees lying in the water, public docks, rocky banks, bridges and even boat ramps. You will catch bass, crappie and a variety of other fish depending on where you fish.

If you or your kids are just getting into fishing, then go buy some Zebco 33s or other spin-casting reels, some small hooks, split-shot sinkers and some weighted bobbers. Grab a tube of crickets, worms (you can dig these up for additional fun) or a bucket full of minnows and fish from the banks.

If you prefer to use artificial lures, try a shallow-running lure like a Bandit 200, SPRO Fat Papa 55, Texas Rigged curly tail worm or even live bait. I like to cast a ⅛-Rooster Tail and retrieve it just fast enough to keep the blades spinning. This lure has yielded a lot of smaller bass, but it also produced my biggest spotted bass, a bunch of trout and stripers and just about every other species that lives.

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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