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Lake Lanier fishing report: Heavy schooling makes for great crappie fishing
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier is still above normal at 1,073.6 feet, or 2.6 feet above the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are hovering at around 49 degrees. 

The main lake and lower lake creeks are slightly stained in mouths and very stained in the backs. The upper lake creeks and rivers range from stained to almost muddy. The CORPs has still been pulling a lot of water. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river below Buford Dam at 770-945-1466. 

The bass are biting well for anglers who are willing to decipher the complexities of high-water fishing. One thing that remains significant is that rocky areas in shallow and deeper water hold fish. Rock holds heat, which helps bass. They are cold-blooded creatures that need heat to remain active. 

Bass and stripers have a lateral line that enables them to feel their forage as it moves through the water. Even in muddy water, bass are still able to find the bait that they need to survive. Lures like spinner bait or wide wobbling crank bait create movement that help bass feel their presence. Bass feel and hone in on a bait moving in the water even if it is muddy.

This tip comes from Jim Farmer. Sunny cold weather is the time to cast crank bait around shallow water points with rock. Most anglers shy away from cranking rock because they may snag or hang up in the rocks. My advice is to pick out the ugliest crank bait in your tackle box and try to lose it in the rocks. Crank your lures slow and steady as you work it over the bottom. Make sure you replace old treble hooks with sharp Gamakatsu hooks and get out and fish rocky structure on the banks. If you lose your lure, it won’t mean a lot, but you just may end up keeping that crankbait, making it your go to lure.

While shallow fishing is good, the deeper water may also yield great results. Find the ditches and work them hard from shallow early in the day to deeper as the day goes on. Start out early throwing and crank bait like a SPRO Little John MD or an underspin like a Fish Head Spin. These lures run from 0 to 12 feet, and they are great lures to trigger active fish into biting. 

As the sun gets higher in the sky, try working jigs or shaky head worms around deeper parts of the ditches. The bass are hitting slow moving lures like worms and jigs in 25 to 40 feet of water. Stair stepping a jig is one of my favorite ways to catch bass in winter.

Striper fishing remains fair to good. Water color is still a major deal on Lake Lanier. The torrential rains from a couple of weeks ago have still affected water levels and clarity. My advice is to fish down lake where water is clearer.

Trolling umbrella rigs has been working well and is a great way to locate stripers in the winter. While the surface debris may be troublesome, it is still a very effective way to fish.

Start your day with a bait well full of medium to large shiners, gizzard shad and/or trout. Deploy your Captain Mack’s umbrella rigs and start trolling as you watch your Lowrance Electronics. The fish are scattered, so keep your options open.

Keep an eye out for gulls diving on bait. Also keep an eye on your Lowrance Fish Finders. My Lowrance Carbon 16 is an awesome tool for locating fish and bait. I can see the baitfish, fish and cover that they are relating too. That huge screen is great for older guys and gals who may not have the keen eyesight that the younger anglers have.

Trolling umbrella rigs is a great way to cover water and to locate fish. Troll your rigs at around 25 feet deep to start and adjust based on what you see on your Lowrance screens. 

The stripers have been located from the surface to around 35 to 40 feet deep. Once you locate a school, deploy both flat lines and down lines and keep your baits slightly above the level where you see fish on your electronics.

Crappie: It’s that time! The crappie are starting to school up in the backs in the rivers and creeks. Use your Lowrance with Structure Scan to find the schools of crappie located around and under docks with brush.

If you do not have Structure Scan then no problem. Get out your trolling rigs or “lake rakes” and troll your most productive areas around docks and steep rocky banks. Troll with light jigs around areas that have muddy water that meets stained or clearer water. When you get a bite, troll over it again. Crappie school up thick, so if you catch one there will be many other fish in the same area.

Bank fishing:  With the water up, anglers who don’t have access to a boat or who just prefer fishing from the shore should target the deeper banks. When the water rises, fish relate more to steep banks because they expend much less energy to move from shallow to deep. Bridges are great areas to target.

Medium or larger shiners, crank baits and other lures will be easier and more productive to fish on these steep banks. Buy some strong rod holders because you may be catching some bigger fish. Stripers, bass, crappie and catfish will all eat shiners. Live bait will all attract multiple species.

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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