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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Rising temps, water levels create rapidly changing conditions for bass anglers
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Lake levels are very healthy. Presently, Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.59 or 0.41 feet below the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are rapidly rising with main lake temperatures in the lower 50s. 

We actually found water temperatures in some of the stained pockets that were approaching 60 degrees, which is about 10 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. The main lake and creeks mouths are clear to stained. The creeks, pockets and rivers everywhere are stained to muddy. The Chattahoochee River is clear but will get muddy quickly if we have heavy rains. 

Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing: Consider that water temperatures have risen around 10 degrees in just the past few weeks. Couple that with an almost 4-foot rise in water levels, and this has created rapidly changing conditions for bass fishing. Anglers must be willing to adjust during the day to stay successful.

The good news is you can just about pick your favorite method of shallow- or deep-water fishing to catch fish this week. We have caught fish on just about every lure in our tackle boxes except top-waters, and I bet even those are working somewhere.

Your go-to lures should include a moving lure like a SPRO McStick, Little John DD, spinner bait or a Chatter Bait for catching fish during active periods. Anglers should also have an assortment of bottom-bumping lures like a jig, shaky head, Texas or Carolina rig, and, of course, the old reliable drop-shot.

Some deeper fish are still out there, but a large influx of bass is moving shallow. There are lots of smaller spotted bass on the docks, but your better bites are coming from staging fish around rocky secondary points near creek or ditch channels from 10 to 25 feet deep. Use a jerk bait or crank bait shallow early.

Switch to a jig or worm during less active feeding times. For the best results, try dragging these lures instead of hopping them. Remember crawfish crawl around slowly on the bottom, and you want your jig to mimic these freshwater dinners.

We found some very shallow fish in the stained and murky water that will hit shallow-running crank baits, spinner baits and even a shaky head, but you will need to place your lures very close to where the bass are to ensure a strike. Bass are sight-feeders, but they also can feel vibrations through the lateral lines on their sides.

Lastly, very few anglers are fishing after sunset, but there are some magnum spotted bass moving shallow on the rocky points both on main lake and back into the pockets. My go-to lure for catching these fish is a black and blue SPRO Little John DD. Though this deep-diving plug will drop almost 20 feet, you can still cast them very shallow and work them over and through the rocks for some big bass after dark.

Striper fishing continues to improve, and there are plenty of stripers from the from Buford Dam all the way up into the creeks and rivers. 

Very stained conditions have made the bite in some areas up-lake a little tougher. Target the mud lines and clearer water for your best results.

I encountered some large schools of 5- to 15-pound fish down by the dam during the cloudy, foggy conditions earlier this week. I suspect these fish are enjoying the current flows created by the increased dam generation. Trolling umbrella rigs and pulling flat lines has worked well for these fish. Casting spoons or SPRO Buck Tails to fish on the surface has been a high-percentage method to pick up a few extra bites.

Target the humps and points from Buford Dam and around the mouths of Bald Ridge, Shoal and Young Dear Creeks, and keep an eye out for diving gulls. These birds and your Humminbird Electronics are the key tools for locating these schooling fish.

Stripers also go through a false spawning run in early spring. Stripers do not actually reproduce in Lake Lanier, but they still go through the ritual of this process, and that means they will move shallower into the rivers and creeks. Areas like the Chestatee River, Chattahoochee River and feeder creeks like Wahoo and Little River are prime places to check.

These fish up-lake are eating the same offerings as mentioned above. Dragging herring or medium shiners of flat lines or planner boards has been effective in the hard-to-find, clear to stained water. 

Pulling a Captain Mack’s Umbrella Rig is also an effective way to cover water while seeking out the best locations. Always keep a SPRO Buck Tail at the ready to cast to any surfacing fish.

As with the bass, stripers have started to bite well after dark down around the dam and in the back of the creeks. Cast a SPRO McStick 110 or 115, or try a Bomber Long A or Redfin for some awesome strikes after the sun sets.

Crappie fishing: The crappie are on the move. 

You may find a prime dock one morning, only to hit it again later in the day to find it devoid of fish. Couple this with docks that are being moved as much as 50 yards away from where they sat just a few weeks ago, and this means anglers must rely on their electronics and be willing to stay and play or move and groove along with the fish.

In the past trolling, or “lake raking,” with small crappie jigs up to 10 or more rods has been a great method when water temperatures are between 50 and 60 degrees. It’s still a viable method, but all of the leaves, twigs and pine straw on the surface have made this very difficult after the recent rising water levels. If you can find the banks away from where the wind is blowing, then you may be able to employ this method.

Shooting or casting small jigs has been the go-to method this week. Seek out docks and brush close to ditches and creek channels for your best locations. Your Side Imaging will greatly increase your odds of seeing the schools of crappie.

Some anglers have started to catch fish from the banks. Minnows under a float, or casting crappie jigs, will work OK around the bridges, riprap banks and areas that have laydowns.

Trout fishing is picking up, and the Department of Natural Resources is ramping up its trout stocking efforts all over North Georgia. 

These newly released trout are dumb and hungry. Most of the stocked trout are 8 inches to 1 foot, but the DNR will also throw in some larger broad trout to make things interesting.

After heavy rains, trout fishing can be tough, but remember rain runoff washes food into the creeks, rivers and smaller lakes. On top of that, it increases oxygen levels, so it’s actually a good thing.

Live earth worms, corn, salmon eggs and Berkley Power Nuggets are all good choices where live bait is allowed. The old reliable Rooster Tail is a time-tested producer for any trout waters.

A dry and wet fly double drop rig is a good choice because trout are eating both subsurface terrestrials and newly hatched insects on the surface. With the record-high temperatures, there have been some very early insect hatches. Small nymphs on the top fly and a woolly bugger down below have been a great combo if you are a fly flinger.

Bank fishing: The crappie are moving within casting distance around many of the smaller creek bridges and around laydowns in local parks. Grab a few dozen crappie minnows and a lead-weighted float, or some light crappie jigs and a spinning outfit with 4- to 6-pound test, and take your kids or parents fishing.

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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