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Lake Lanier fishing report: Warm days and mild nights expand your fishing opportunities
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

Water Conditions: With last week’s rains, Lake Lanier’s water level is up over a foot from last week to 1,073.18 feet or 2.18 feet above full pool of 1,071. Lake surface temperatures range from the upper 60s to low 70s.

The lake below Browns Bridge remains clear in the creek mouths and stained from all the pollen and recent rain inflow in the back of the pockets. The upper lake creeks are stained in the creek mouths and very stained to muddy in the backs of the creeks and up in the rivers. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river below Buford Dam at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing is strong, and the fish are in all stages of spawning. These bass have only two things on their minds – eating and mating. Bass that have already spawned or that are in their pre-spawn mode are eating just about anything, so lots of different methods will work if you are in the right areas.

There has been a good top-water bite in the mornings and throughout the day. Smaller plugs like a Pop-R or a Zara Puppy are great choices in the shallows, both in the pockets and also the points and humps out on main lake. Bass will strike these lures either because they are hungry or because they are protecting their nests. Bedding bass have to ward off the predators that will eat their eggs.

A Zoom Fluke or Big Bites Jerk Minnow cast to the back of docks and also out over open water points and humps continues to be a strong pattern. The great thing about fishing these weightless, soft jerk baits is because they skip really easily. This makes it a lot easier for an angler to place a lure in front of bass that are using the docks as cover for ambushing or building nests.

Cast or skip a Gamakatsu Alien Head rigged with a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm or a Big Bites 5-Inch Straight Tail Finesse Worm both around docks in the pockets and also around clay and rocky banks out in the creek mouths and on main lake. A lot of your strikes will occur on the fall so keep a close eye out for your line. Often, a bass will hit these worms on the fall then swim away from the area you were fishing. This is often an indicator that there are more fish in that area. Make multiple casts to the same spot for some bonus bites.

Crank baits, spinner baits, Chatter Baits, jerk baits and just about any other technique you have confidence in will work during spring. The top-water action is just getting rolling, so look for surface lures to really turn on in the next couple of months.

Stripers fishing is good as long as you can locate the active schools that are chasing spawning shad and pre-spawn herring in pockets and out on main lake points and humps. There is a major feed going on early in the morning, so make sure to have your boat in the water and ready to go by safe light.

If you can find rip rap banks just off the main lake, then these areas will hold spawning shad and the stripers and bass that feast on them before the sun gets over the horizon. The shad are spawning around rocky banks and docks, and the longer herring will be spawning soon. When this occurs, the stripers will be feeding aggressively.

My Lowrance Carbon 12 and Carbon 16 make finding the schools of stripers a whole lot easier than my previous electronics. The images these units display are essential tools for finding and catching stripers. I can see the banks that have rock well below the surface. With a well-trained eye, an angler can also see fish holding structures plus the fish and bait schools that can be out to the sides of where traditional 2D sonar would miss them. Set your Structure Scan out 50 feet to each side of the boat when fishing shallow. As the sun gets up and you move away from the banks, set your Structure Scan out deeper to locate stripers and baitfish over a wider area in deeper water.

Many of Lake Lanier’s stripers are still going through their false spawning runs. Stripers are like salmon. Before the CORPS built all the dams, stripers would leave saltwater to enter fast, cold running fresh water streams and rivers, lay their eggs, then return to the ocean. The water in the Chestatee and Chattahoochee Rivers does not provide the proper water current or temperatures needed for true reproduction. Stripers still go through the motions, but Lake Lanier’s anglers rely on the Department of Natural Resources to keep up the population numbers of stripers by stocking these hard-fighting game fish.

After attempting to spawn, the stripers will move to main lake and secondary points and also the shallower humps in the creek mouths and in the rivers. The bait fish will all be spawning about the same time the stripers and bass finish up the reproductive process. This is God’s way of timing things just right. The predator fish will be worn out and hungry just about the time the baitfish will be most vulnerable

Start your day around rocky banks where the shad are spawning. Medium to large store-bought shiners or blue back herring will all produce bites where shad spawn. Make sure to put one bait out on a planner board and pull your free lines up shallow close to the bank.

There are also plenty of stripers around shallow points and humps in the creeks and rivers. Drag a spread of flat lines while casting a top water plug like a Sammy or Spook for some explosive action. The stripers are really close to their prime top-water time so keep a top-water plug or a SPRO Buck Tail to cast to any schooling fish you see.

Crappie fishing has been good to fair, and there is a fair amount of smaller fish up shallow. Fishing a minnow under a float has still been a good bet for numbers. The shad are also spawning on rip rap around the bridges in the backs of the creek and up in the rivers, so you can bet the crappie will be biting up shallow early in the day.

For your better fishing, target docks in 15 to 25 feet close to spawning coves. If a dock is located close to a rip rap bank, that is even better. Shooting small Hal Flies or Marabou Jigs around the productive docks will produce some bigger crappie right now. Lighted boat docks and bridge pilings are producing some decent crappie after dark.

Bank fishing: Now is a great time to take a kid or adult fishing. The weather is great, and a lot of fish are up shallow where bank anglers have easy access to them. I meet people daily in my job at West Marine that either used to fish but haven’t gone in years and would like to get back into it or people who have almost no experience but would like to just try fishing.

I often suggest to people that they purchase a good old fashion close face spinning outfit like a Shakespeare or Zebco 33 with a pack of hooks and bobbers, some small inline spinners or small casting lures and a can of worms or a minnow bucket full of small to medium shiners.

There are too many public parks on Lake Lanier for me to list, but you can Google Lake Lanier parks and find one within driving distance. You can also fish your local farm or subdivision pond. When fishing with kids or new anglers, make sure to have plenty of drinks and snacks, and don’t be afraid to stop fishing and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s not all about catching. That’s why we call it fishing!

Bass fishing is great. Book a trip with me at esaldrich@yahoo.com

Reports are based on personal experience and permission from a close network of friends. Aldrich 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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