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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fall brings major changes for anglers
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s level is 1,065.53, or 5.47 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are in the mid-70s. 

The main lake and creeks mouths are clear. The creeks and rivers are clear-to-stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass Fishing: The bass would not be surprised that today is the first day of fall. Late September on Lake Lanier can be a fickle time to fish when the normal dog days of summer linger, but that’s not the case this year. 

Our afternoon water temperatures have warmed up a little, but we also took an almost 10-degree drop after Irma affected the area last week. As a result, the bass and other predator fish have reacted.

The strange thing about bass fishing in fall is that you may have a slow day until the sun gets higher in the sky and you encounter schooling fish. Then you may hear that your buddy, who was fishing different areas, had the exact opposite report. 

That’s because the bass in fall tend to be more pelagic than area-specific as the water cools and the thermocline dissipates. This means the presence of bait will matter more to bass than the normal cover and structure they usually relate to.

That being said, when you find the perfect storm of bottom (structure), cover (brush or docks) and baitfish, then you greatly increase your odds of scoring a few quick bites from bigger fish. Cast a larger lure like a Sammy 115, BBZ1 6-inch Trout or a Pro X Series Tim Farley Swim Bait over brush or deeper rocky banks to trigger strikes from bigger spotted and largemouth bass.

If the bass are not suspended over brush, they may be deeper inside the brush or where the timber meets drop-offs or ditch channels. These fish will strike drop-shot rigs, deeper diving swimbaits, SPRO Little John DDs and other lures that you can fish deeper. 

Switch things up and alternate a Big Bites Suicide Shad or a Lake Forks Flutter Spoon. If the fish are less active, try working a ½-ounce Strike King Pro Model Jig with a Fighting Frog Trailer through brush and rock.

The night bite continues to yield big spotted and largemouth bass. Hit the pockets and docks with shallow runners like a SPRO Fat Little John or McStick for big largemouth feeding shallow after dark. Use a deep diver, big spinner bait or jig out deeper around the bluff walls leading into the creeks and ditches.

Striper fishing remains good for anglers and guides who are able to get out and target these roaming fish. As mentioned in the bass reports, the stripers are mostly pelagic, which means they are relating to bait over both shallow and deeper water.

The stripers have been hanging out around points and humps located near river and creek channel intersections. These fish are targeting both blueback herring and threadfin shad. When Buford Dam opens its turbines, the bite can turn on quickly. Later in the day toward sundown, you may also see schools of bait on the surface with feeding fish close behind.

Start your day casting McSticks, Redfins or buck tails from the bow while pulling herring on flat- and down-lines behind the boat. Pick points and islands from the dam all the way past Gainesville Marina. The stripers have been up schooling in those areas early in the day and also during active feeding periods.

If you don’t find fish right away, trolling an umbrella rig or a large bucktail on a down-rigger is a great way to cover water. Set out your Captain Mack’s Umbrella Rigs on seven-to-nine colors of lead core, or run a 2-ounce SPRO Bucktail with a Suicide Shad 15-to-20 feet deep. Adjust your speeds and depth based on where your Humminbird Electronics show fish.

The down-line bite remains the go-to method when you have located stripers during the day. A lot of fish are still relating to that 20-to-40-feet range, and a controlled depth will make the difference between catching and getting skunked. 

Use fresh herring, switch out baits every five minutes and move if you quit seeing fish on your fish finder.

The Bomber/Redfin/McStick bite has been a little hit-and-miss this week on Lake Lanier. Irma brought in ideal conditions, but the fishing has been slower on calm nights. Look for fishing to be its best when the weather fronts blow through.

Crappie fishing is slow. Only the best perch jerkers have been catching fish on jigs very early in the day. 

Your best bet for catching crappie is to get out after dark and use Hydra Glow lights around the bridges or existing dock lights. Crappie minnows or native spottails will work when fishing the lights after dark.

Trout fishing has been better this week. There have been insect hatches later in the day, and the dry flies have been working better under these conditions. Cast a Mayfly pattern or small midge around current breaks on the streams and rivers.

The normal spin-casting lures continue to work well. Live bait like worms, corn or crickets will work well below the rapids on the deeper pools. 

Make sure live bait is permitted, then hook your offerings on a small Aberdeen Hook with a ¼-ounce split shot placed a foot or two above your bait.

Bank Fishing: A variety of fish will be active in the shallower water located near the banks as fall approaches. This offers anglers that fish from the banks myriad opportunities. Pick your favorite method, species or location, and go fishing.

Stripers on Lake Lanier will be located shallower in fall. Cast large top-water plugs like Bombers and Redfins from the shore around Buford Dam.

Use similar lures for bass both on Lake Lanier and at local lakes and ponds. Cast smaller top-water plugs, spinner baits and worms around any bank cover or rocky drop-offs.

Crappie and brim will bite a variety of lures in the shallows. Crickets, worms or minnows will coax these tasty panfish around docks and trees 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.

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