As 2015 begins, Lake Lanier’s water level is up slightly at 1,068.1 or 2.9 feet below full pool of 1,071.
Water surface temperatures continue to hover close to 50 degrees. Lake Lanier is clear on the main lake and clear to stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is slightly stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing has slowed a little shallow but the deeper bite has been steady. The up-and-down weather patterns and temperatures have made for some variable catch rates for anglers who rely on relatively shallow fishing. The deeper bite has remained pretty steady.
There has been a fair shallow bite in the morning in the backs of the coves and ditches from 10-25 feet deep.
Deep diving crank baits, straight tail worms on a shaky head or underspins rigged with a five-inch Big Bites Cane Thumper have all been working before the sun gets up in that ditches close to banks.
Make sure to fish close to the bottom from either 5-25 feet deep or try positioning your boat to fish from the banks. Cast out deep. Retrieve your lures from deep to shallow.
As the sun starts to move up in the skies, the small window of shallow fishing goes away so it’s time to work out deeper.
Fishing deep intimidates a lot of anglers. It does take some homework to find the right areas. The main thing to look for are significant depth changes near timber lines.
Today’s Side Imaging technology, coupled with a quality GPS and Mapping Chip will cut down on the time it takes to find these offshore honey holes. You can also explore a regular quality paper map, like an Atlantic Mapping Chart before hitting the water.
There are also a couple of companies who researched, charted and photographed the lake several years during the record droughts and low lake levels that are offered for sale.
The one I use is the website www.laniermapped.com and it has hours of video and indexes that help to find the best areas.
Once you locate timberlines that are in 35-60 foot of water, then position your boat directly over areas that have bait.
Drop a jigging spoon to the bottom. Reel up the spoon about 1-3 feet then impart a snap-and-drop action to make the spoon rise quickly then flutter down to the bottom.
Use a bait caster with 15-20 pound Sunline Monofilament and use aÚ-ounce Hopkins or Flex-It style of spoon. I replace the standard treble hooks with light wire Gamakatsu hooks. These lighter hooks and heavier line allow you to straighten the hooks and retrieve your spoons when the get snagged on the bottom.
These jigging spoons mimic dying shad and you can catch one bass after another when you find a school of fish.
Sometimes you may not see the actual bass until you start jigging. Looking for clouds of bait fish will help you to find these bottom-hugging bass. You can also use other lures in these same areas like a drop shot, shaky head worm or jig n’ pig combos, too. You can also use these same lures on steep bluff wall banks and stair step them down the drops. Make sure you fish them very slowly.
Striper fishing is good. The stripers are biting a few different patterns.
If you can keep your options open and fish a full day, you should be able to catch a few. On cloudy days the stripers have been swirling shallower in the creeks up and down lake. Look for feeding gulls and loons and you know you will be around fish.
Drag medium sized trout and larger herring on flat and planner boards in the same areas where you witness bird and fish swirling on the surface.
On brighter and sunnier days it can pay to move out deeper towards the mouths of the creeks and midway up in the rivers.
Target areas out over deeper timber and watch your fish finders for clouds of bait and also arcs and wavy lines that indicate the larger predator fish. The timber tops are located from 25-35 feet below the surface and the stripers are hanging right around those same depths and shallower.
When fishing the deeper water, set out two or more down lines at 25 feet from the front of the boat, rigged with herring or trout. Set two flat lines with medium trout with no weight or herring, and a Ú-ounce split shot crimped two feet above the hook to allow the herring to run deeper in the water column.
The trout will usually dig down deeper. The herring may need a little help. Move the boat extremely slow or even on a slow wind drift. If the wind is blowing over five miles per hour, turn the bow into the wind and troll slow enough to barely keep the boat moving, just fast enough to keep the baits behind the boat.
The goal is to keep these fish on slack line so they will run deeper. If you see your trout or herring on the surface, that is also OK because stripers will also see them. Odds are that they may already be being chased by stripers, so be ready for one of your reels to start screaming drag when a striper hits.
If you are getting strikes on your baits without getting a hook up, there are a few things to consider. First, always leave your rod in the rod holder until it bends over and the drag starts to give.
Many anglers will pick up a rod that has a nervous baitfish. It is better just to leave the rod in the rod holder until a fish hooks up. Secondly, if you get a pull down but the fish does not stay hooked up, leave it in place for a minute or longer, if you still see your bait moving.
Stripers will often strike a live bait or even artificial lure one of more times in an attempt to stun it before coming back and eating it. If the stripers rip your bait off the hook, then reel it up and put a similar sized and type bait back on and get it back out into the same position.
If the striper took it one time, there is every chance they may come back again to strike another one. Lastly, keep a SPRO Buck tail or other lure at the ready at all times to cast for fish you see on the surface or to drop to fish you see on your depth finder.
Also, don’t be afraid to cast an artificial back around the baits being pulled behind the boat, as long as you can retrieve them without getting tangled. This can trigger a strike on either the artificial lure, or may pull fish up to strike your live bait too.
Trolling umbrella rigs during the day, casting flies to fish swirling on the surface and fishing Bombers and McSticks after dark are all other methods that are working to boat some stripers right now.
Crappie: The crappie reports are almost non-existent but I have continued to see evidence that they are biting. We have caught them on jigging spoons.
I have seen some on electronics schooled in timber and brush down deep.
Continue to work a small crappie jig, tipped with a minnow on light line around and through the brush piles very slowly. These fish are hanging around timber and brush in the 25-foot range. If you wish to brave the lake at night, try fishing lighted deeper boat docks or deeper bridge pilings in the backs of the creeks like Six Mile and Wahoo Creek, to name a couple.
Trout fishing is good below Buford Dam due to recent stockings. Newly stocked trout will bite readily and can be coaxed with spinning tackle on both artificial and live bait where permitted by law. The creeks and rivers in the North Georgia mountains are also great places to fish in the winter.
Bank Fishing: As mentioned above, there are some bass, stripers and even crappie in the ditches. These fish can also be caught from the banks. Lake banks with deeper water close in are great places to target. Whether it is a ditch, creek or river channel, if you can cast a lure out into 25 feet or deeper, you are probably in a good area.
Cast a Fish Head Spin or other brand underspin rigged with a Big Bites Cane Stick out as far as you can cast and let it hit bottom. Let the lure sink until it hits bottom.
You will be able to tell it hits when the line stops coming off your reel. When it stops, engage your reel and retrieve it just fast enough to stay a foot or two off the bottom. You can check to make sure you are still close to the bottom by stopping occasionally and letting it fall.
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. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.