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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Working light jigs crucial for crappie anglers
Eric Aldrich
Local bass angler Eric Aldrich poses with a fish he caught. - photo by For The Times

The CORPS continues to pull water almost 24/7 to get lake levels down to normal full pool. The lake is 1,072.56, or 1.56 feet above the normal full pool of 1,071. 

Lake surface temperatures are in lower 80s, while the main-lake and lower-lake creek mouths are clear to stained. The upper-lake creeks, pockets and the rivers are stained to very stained. The heavy afternoon showers continue to add water to Lake Lanier.

The CORPS is still running water through Buford Dam 24 hours a day due to the high lake levels. During water generation, it’s unsafe to be on the river or to fish from the bank below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing is good, and there are a lot of fish roaming around the high water levels. The hardest thing about fishing right now is finding the fish, but once you do, it can be easy.

Running-and-gunning is the deal this week unless you have a productive area that always seems to produce. For this angler, it has been feast or famine. The areas that produced yesterday or even just hours ago dry up, while new areas may be on fire. This type of fishing is not for everyone, but it works for many anglers looking for the right bite.

As we often discuss, having a milk run of points and humps with brush is key. Many anglers are using older electronics that don’t have Structure Scan, Side Imaging or even GPS with mapping systems like LakeMaster or Navionics. Working at West Marine allows me to talk with these anglers looking for new electronics, and I can tell you if you have a fish finder from 2005, then it’s the equivalent of owning a flip phone in 2018.

You can start with your new electronics by scanning good-looking points and humps with Structure Scan, or Side Imaging marked waypoints. Brush, rocks, docks and anything else that stands out are worth laying down a waypoint for future trips. Once you have a milk run, then it’s time to get to work.

Brush piles are the main thing you’ll be looking for right now. Cast a top-water lure or a subsurface swim bait like a Big Bites Suicide Shad and swim it over the brush. You will often pull a big school of fish from this cover that will attack your lures. After hitting the prime spot with aggressive lures, then move over the brush, slow down and sink a drop-shot rig to the less aggressive fish that you mark on your graph.

Night-fishing has been very good for numbers, but the big fish are a little harder to come by. Cast a SPRO Little John DD or RkCrawler to any rock banks and slow-roll them back to the boat. This week, a lot of our bites have occurred right at the boat, so these fish may be suspending a little more as water levels and temperatures rise.

Striper fishing is good, but the fishing is starting to change. The stripers are between their spring and summer locations, so finding actively feeding fish is key. The thermocline is just starting to set up at around 26 feet deep, and this is where the stripers can be found.

Early in the day, you can still catch a few fish on top-water plugs. The surface activity can also occur later in the day, but it seems like these are mostly smaller, 1-to-2-year-old fish. 

Still, keep a swim bait, SPRO Buck Tail or top-water plug ready to cast to fish you see schooling.

Early or later in the day, pulling flat-lined herring will work well around the points and humps close to the river channel. As the sun rises, watch your electronics and adjust to down-lines to get your live bait down to the level the fish are located. Herring, gizzard shad and larger shiners have all been working, but the herring are the best baits to use. Lake Lanier’s herring population tend to swim at the same depth the stripers do.

My down-line setup is as follows: I use an 8-foot Kissel Krafts Custom Rod with a light tip and a parabolic bend, and I string my reels with 20-pound Sunline Natural Monofilament with a 2-ounce sinker with a bead and a SPRO Swivel. 

For my leader, I use 12-pound Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon with a Gamakatsu Octopus hook at the business end of the line. I like to use a very long 8-to-12-foot leader to get the bait away from the mainline and sinker. These longer leaders become more important as the summer moves on for fish that grow line shy.

After dark, set out your Hydro Glow lights and place down-lined herring to the level that you mark fish. This action is best in the creek mouths down-lake. Baldridge, Shoal Creek, Big Creek, Six Mile and Flowery Branch are all great areas to explore after dark. Always wear your PFDs anytime the big motor is running.

Crappie fishing has been tough for most but great for anglers that can work light crappie jigs in brush from 15 to as much as 30 feet deep. 

Working a one-twenty-fourth-ounce jig through deep brush requires light line and a patient angler. Cast your jigs to this deeper brush, eat a sandwich and drink a Coke as the jig falls to the bottom, then reel it slowly up and through the brush. This technique takes patience and a sensitive rod to feel the light bites, but it can pay dividends with a cooler full of tasty fillets.

Night-fishing around the bridges and lighted boat docks has been good. Crappie will move shallow in search of bait that is attracted to lights. 

You can place a Hydro Glow or old-fashioned floating light out to attract baitfish and the predator fish that follow them. Cast a live minnow or swim a small jig at the level you mark fish.

Trout fishing: Note that the CORPS continues to pull water below Buford Dam all day and that the lower pool park remains closed. This high water is very dangerous and the fishing is very poor, so plan to pick another location until the water releases level out.

The good news is that the North Georgia streams are leveling out, and fishing has been good in most of the North Georgia trout streams and rivers.

Dry flies have been working well, especially during insect hatches. The mayflies are out in force, and an Adams Parachute or a Light Cahill dry fly are great options when the mayflies are hatching.

Live earth worms are the go-to bait (where live bait is permitted) because of all the rain we have had. These trout are tuned in to eating earth worms, so work your worms on a bottom rig and remember that, by law you, are allowed only one hand-held line per angler on designated trout streams.

Bank fishing: We have caught several catfish recently up shallow. Despite popular belief, these fish are not only bottom-feeders, but they will also attract live shad and even the occasional lure.

Start out casting live shad or cut shad from the banks close to the channel swing. Secure your rod in a good rod holder and consider attaching a bell to the tip of your rod to help signal bites. You can increase your odds by using multiple rods.

Other bait like chicken livers, dough balls, commercial catfish bait or even hot dogs are also worth a try. Hook your bait with a Gamakatsu Big Cat Circle hook and then set your rod in the holder. If you get a bite, let the fish load up and just start reeling.

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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