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Lake Lanier fishing report: Striper fishing right now as good as it's going to get
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water remains above full pool due to recent rains. Currently the water level is at 1,071.71 feet, or .71 feet above the normal full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures are holding steady around the low 80’s. The main lake is clear, and the rivers and creeks are slightly stained to almost muddy in the back after heavy rains move through. Up above Brown’s Bridge, the water has a little more color to it, and the rivers are very stained.

The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing has been good, and the fish are finally moving around into the offshore brush. In past years, the brush pattern has historically already been going strong by this time, but this year it has taken a little longer to get going. This may be due to the rainy weather or lower air and water temperatures, but I expect that this pattern will stay in play for at least the next month.

This is the time of year when power fishing can pay off big time. Lake Lanier’s spotted bass have healed from the spawn, and they are now hungry, aggressive and mean. To employ the technique of power fishing or “running and gunning,” you ideally need to have plenty of offshore brush already pre-marked on your electronics. Always keep an eye out and place way points on any new brush you see that is not already marked on your electronics map. A lot of local anglers are busy beavers, and you can expect that 95% of the humps and points will have brush located somewhere on them. If you do not own a quality graph with detailed mapping software like my Navionics Maps, then you are at a distinct disadvantage. You can purchase a very good graph with a quality mapping system for under $500.

Once you have a milk run of brush pile waypoints set on your graph, then you are ready to go power fishing. You will usually have to hit several unproductive areas before you locate an active school of fish. This type of fishing is not easy, but it is well worth the effort. It’s simply a numbers game, and you will probably have to go through several unproductive spots until you eventually locate active bass. You can quickly make up for the less productive areas and go from zero to hero in just a few casts.  

The top-water bite has lasted well into the day and sometimes all day long, especially when the weather is overcast. Larger top-water plugs like a Saltwater Chug Bug, Super Spook or even a hand painted Emerald Popper are all good choices for pulling Lake Lanier’s spotted bass up from brush located in 15 to 30 feet deep. 

On any given day, other lures like swim baits, crank baits and drop-shot rigs may work as well or better than a top-water plug. That being said, most anglers I know would prefer to get a single top-water strike than two or more subsurface bites.

Once you have worked the surface over the brush pile you have pre-marked, move on in and scan the brush with your Lowrance Electronics. If you see wavy lines or arcs that indicate fish, employ a drop shot rig or a finesse shaky head rigged with a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm or a Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel. With my Lowrance HDS Carbon 12 unit on the bow, I can literally see my lure dropping and also can see the bass as they rise to intersect the lure on the fall. Sometimes your will see your lure disappear as the bass takes it on the fall, but most of the time the fish will follow your lure as it falls to the bottom. Bass will trap their prey against the bottom before they eat it. Shake your rod gently and set the hook when you feel weight or a subtle “tick” that indicates a strike.

Other lures like crank baits, spinner baits, swim baits or finesse techniques like a Neiko Rig, Ned Rig or Whacky Rig are all good choices when targeting bass. The brush bite is often your best, but other cover like boat docks, steep rocky banks or even bridge pilings are all worth casting to. After dark, target rocky banks in the creek mouths. These rocky banks can hold numerous bass after sundown on Lake Lanier.

Please email me at esaldrich@yahoo.com if you wish to book a teaching trip on how to pattern Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass.

Striper fishing: Just about the time that it seems like striper fishing can’t get any better, it has! Fishing actually picked up from last week and it currently rates as excellent. That being said you must trust your modern electronics, as they are your eyes under the water. My Lowrance HDS Carbon 16 allows me to find the best areas and to quickly eliminate unproductive water. That 16-inch graph is like having four seven-inch graphs all in one unit. It allows me to see everything under the water, even with my poor eyesight.

Start your day by securing several dozen blueback herring from your local bait shop. Your bait retailer can help you with setting up your bait tank to keep your bait lively all day long. The proper set up with chlorine free ice and either salt or bait chemicals to keep your herring healthy.  The difference between heathy and dying herring can be the difference between just fishing and actually catching.

Be on the water early, right at day break, and try to make it to your best areas before the sun gets up. It is still a great idea to keep several artificial bait rods at the ready in case you encounter fish feeding on or just below the fish. Top-water plugs like a Redfin produce a v-wake on the surface that will pull fish up from deeper water. A SPRO Bucktail works extremely well for both surface feeders and also deeper fish. The spoon bite has also improved. Just drop a Nichols Lures Ben Parker or Lake Forks spoon down through the school you see on your electronics. Once your lure falls below the fish, power reel it back up through the school to trigger arm breaking strikes from these hard fighting fish.

If you are not marking fish, then cruise around and watch your electronics. This will allow you to eliminate unproductive water and locate both bait schools and actively feeding stripers. This past week, the best locations have been from the main lake on into the creek mouths and then half way back into the creeks. Target the inside timber lines where the bottom is 40 to 70 feet or more. The stripers seem to be congregated around feeder ditches in between the timber.

The best bite by far has been occurring on down lines set from 25 to 50 feet deep. When you see bait and stripers, set your lines out just above where you are marking fish on your Lowrance Graphs. Setting your lines out just above the level where you mark fish allows the stripers to see your baits better. Fish usually look up but seldom look down to locate their prey. 

Locate docks with Hydra-Glow Lights in the creek mouths after dark. These docks can pay off with actively feeding fish for months or even years later. Fly fishermen can often entice more strikes than even live bait anglers by casting small streamers or minnow imitators to these bright green dock lights. For other anglers, try casting an SPRO McStick, Sebile Swimbait or even a live herring to the edges of the lights to entice bites from these nocturnal feeders.

Crappie fishing is good in the early mornings and also after dark. Remember that these tasty critters are much deeper than they are located in Spring. People who are used to catching them under a bobber will need to change their fishing setup so that their baits run much deeper in the water column. 

First of all, it pays to have several good deeper docks already located that have brush either around or up under them. If there is a beaver hutch under the dock, then it just makes it that much better. Cast or shoot your jigs up under the dock and allow it to free fall or pendulum back to the boat. Most of your bites will be very light and will occur from 15 to 25 feet deep. 

You can also utilize a slip bobber or even a down-lined crappie or native spot tail minnow. After dark, target these same docks or set out lights around the bridge pilings and put out bobbers with a minnow while casting small jigs. Once you find the most productive depths, dial in the rest of your baits at that same depths.

Bank fishing: When fishing from the bank in late spring or early summer, it pays to start out around the steeper drop offs. I always keep a paper map in my “reading room” so that I know beforehand which areas to start out my fishing day or night trip. There are literally hundreds of areas like state parks or bridges that bank anglers can fish.

The ideal starting point will have deeper water located within a cast from the bank. Set your rods up with either a slip bobber set to 15 or more feet deep or a bottom rig. Bait your hooks with live herring, store bought shiners, cut bait or even native gizzard shad. The herring are harder to keep alive, so shiners may be your best bet.

Secure your rods in either store bought rod holders or by some PVC pipe that is large enough to hold your rod handles. Many bank anglers can greatly increase their odds by setting out multiple rods and reels. You can also put store-bought bells that will alert you to a strike. You can also purchase high end laser strike indicators that have a built-in buzzer so that you know when a fish has bitten your bait. If you do not get a bite within an hour, consider moving to another productive bank. You can also chum the area with any dead or dying bait to draw in fish than may otherwise not be there.

Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist and bass angler. He is currently booking teaching trips for Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass. 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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