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Lake Lanier fishing report: Like Fall leaves, fishing patterns begin to change
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is holding steady at 1069.42 feet, which is 1.58 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake surface temperatures are in the upper 60s to low 70s. 

The main lake and lower lake creek mouths are slightly stained to stained, and the backs of the creeks are stained from lake turnover. The upper lake and rivers are slightly to very stained from lake turnover and rain inflow. The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam remains very stained from lake turnover.

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

Bass fishing rates from fair to very good based on how well anglers can adapt to changing conditions. It actually takes Lake Lanier two to three months to complete the process of stratification or turnover, because the warmer surface layer cools down and mixes with the cooler bottom layers. This scatters the fish throughout the water column and makes them harder to pattern.

The bass continue to feed heavily on small threadfin shad, medium sized herring, small brim and crawfish. The top-water action has slowed down, but it is still a very good idea to keep a top-water plug tied on for any bass you see chasing bait on the surface.

The ditch bite is just starting to get going, and this action will only get better over the next month or two. Cast subsurface lures like spy baits, SPRO Little John DD crank baits, McSticks or even jigs to target the bass in the ditches.

Fishing the ditches is a time-tested pattern in late Fall and early Winter that can really pay off. You should spend some time studying a lake map the night before hitting the lake to identify the best ditches. Take a moment and watch the video we shot showing details on how to fish the ditches and other techniques on my YouTube channel “Eric Aldrich Fishing”.

Start out early in the day casting to the banks up shallow where ditches enter the lake. The best ditches will have rock and clay banks and you will want your lures to contact the bottom and deflect of rocks and other structures. Work lures like a SPRO deep-diving crank bait, Fish Head Spin rigged with a Big Bites Suicide Shad or jerk baits like a McStick 110 or a McRip 90. The bass will be up feeding shallow close to the banks early in the day.

As the sun rises, these bass will vacate the shallow areas and move deeper in the ditch where they lay in wait to ambush a jig or a shaky head rigged with a Big Bites Cane Stick or a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm. Work these bottom bumping lures and let them stair step down the sides of the ditches or work them in brush and rocks that you see on your Lowrance Electronics.

Other techniques are worth a try, especially if you have confidence in them. Casting spinner baits over brush and to points and humps has been a strong pattern on windy days. Skipping worms under docks or working them around shallow cover in the pockets will catch both small and large bass that are up in the skinny water feeding on shad. 

Night fishing still remains strong, plus the lake is all but deserted after dark on the week days, so you will have your choice of prime areas to fish. I usually use only two baits for catching nocturnal bass on Lake Lanier. The first lure that I throw 80 percent of the time is a SPRO Little John DD for digging up the bottom. I switch to a SPRO McStick when the bass are feeding up off the bottom.

Striper fishing has been good, and we are seeing a lot of fish schooling on the surface. Stripers can be seen busting bait from a distance, and they are schooling in several different areas all over the lake. Humps and points that swing close to the river or creek channels are prime areas to explore. 

Start your day with a bait well full of herring, gizzard shad, medium shiners and/or small to medium sized trout. In certain locations, medium shiners will more closely match the natural forage of threadfin shad. You can also try running larger baits like trout, herring or gizzard shad from 4 to as much as 12 inches long. Lake Lanier has plenty of forage and gizzard shad. 

You will often approach prime looking areas without seeing any surface activity. It’s still a good idea to cast a surface lure like a Redfin, Zara Spook, Sammy or even subsurface lures like a SPRO Buck Tail or McStick. There are few things in life more exciting than seeing a striper come from nowhere to crush your top-water plugs or subsurface lures.

Checking for both surface activity and for fish on your electronics has been a good way to start your day. The fish are moving around, and most of the action has been occurring in the creek mouths close to the river channel from Young Dear, Big Creek, Flat Creek and north of Browns Bridge around River Forks Park and further north. Continue to trust your electronics, and when you encounter a large school of stripers below the surface on your screen, slow down and deploy flat and down lines. The fish this week have varied in depth from the surface all the way down to 60 or 70 feet. Use flat lines for fish shallower than 25 feet, and deploy down lines for fish deeper than that depth. 

The night Bomber and McStick bite remains strong so get out after dark and beat the banks on main lake islands and points. Cast your lures to the banks and reel them slow and steady.

Trout Fishing remains good, and there are plenty of newly released fish in our North Georgia trout waters. This makes for good fishing and even better catching. During recent rains, worms and insects get washed into the streams. You can match the hatch by using live earth worms or crickets where permitted by law.

For fly anglers, try using small nymphs or ant patterns around the rapids and just above or below deeper pools. For spinning anglers, try casting a Yo Zuri Pinns Minnow or a small, silver and black Countdown Rapala. Cast these small minnow imitators upstream and use a jerk and pause retrieve to imitate a wounded shad.

Bank fishing: Catfishing is often overlooked by anglers on Lake Lanier who target stripers and bass instead. These whiskered fish are hard-fighting, good eating and readily available. Lake Lanier, local farm and subdivision ponds and small rivers are all great places to target these hard-pulling fish.

Contrary to popular belief catfish mostly dine on live bait fish. Catfish will often hit lures, and they will hit them hard. While catching them on lures is not unusual, live or cut bait fish are a better choice for bank anglers. Take your cut or live gizzard shad and place them on a bottom rig with a one-ounce weight with a 3-foot leader. Hook your shad through the back, under the dorsal fin and cast it out. Secure your rods in strong rod holders. 

Target banks that have the creek or river channel close by. Channel swings, bridges, boat ramps and other deeper water close to the bank are all good choices to try.

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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