Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,071.80 feet, or 0.80 feet above a full pool of 1,071 feet. Main lake temperatures are in the mid-60s. The lake is looking great and is clear to slightly stained from pollen. Rivers and creeks are slightly stained, mostly from the pollen, too. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: This is the time of year you can have some of your best fishing trips, even if you do not catch a lot of fish. With air temperatures in the 70s and the bass up shallow, it is hard to beat a fishing trip on Lake Lanier in the spring.
The crazy weather changes seem to be behind us for a while. Some anglers say the majority of fish have spawned on last week’s full moon, while others claim the spawn is just starting. I feel we are right in the middle of the spring spawning process. Because of this, fishing has been great for some anglers and tough for others.
Junk fishing is what has been working best. This term basically means that anglers should have a variety of baits ready and should explore different methods and areas throughout their time on the water. Some bass are still relatively deep in the 15- to 25-foot range, while others are up spawning in under 10 feet of water. Keep an open mind and be prepared to explore several techniques, and don’t spend too much time in one particular area unless you are catching fish.
I have caught fish on three specific lures this past week. Skipping docks with a shaky head and finesse worm has worked best for numbers, but the majority of these fish are the smaller males. I use a medium-action Kissel Kraft Custom rod with Sunline braid and an eight-foot leader of Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon. My shaky head consists of a 1/8-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head with a Big Bites finesse worm in any green color. I also use JJs Magic to color the tails or heads of the worm in Chartreuse and garlic scent.
Skipping docks takes practice. Some anglers also “shoot” lures up into tight spots where most anglers can’t cast. Look these techniques up on YouTube for some great videos on how to skip or shoot docks. Just a note: Please be courteous to dock owners. If you see anglers casting, or with lines set out, move around that area and leave that water to the people on the docks.
The second technique that has worked for some of the bigger females is to use a small, deep-diving crankbait and cast to main lake areas with rock. The secret to this technique is to make sure your crankbait makes contact with the bottom. Position your boat in 15-20 feet of water and cast parallel to the banks. Use a lure like a SPRO Baby Little John DD or a Bandit 300. Cast these lures on light line and a spinning outfit or light bait casting outfit. Make long casts and make your crank bait grind on the bottom. Your will get snagged occasionally, but you will also catch some big female spotted bass too. Fighting a four or five-pound spotted bass on a light outfit is about as fun as it gets!
The third technique is to stair-step a shaky head or jig down to areas with rocky banks that are close to spawning areas. There are some big spotted and largemouth bass that have not started to spawn yet, and this technique can yield some big bass. Cast your lure to the bank and work it all the way back to the boat. You may get a bite in two feet or 20 feet. Use a medium heavy spinning or bait casting outfit with 8- to 14-pound fluorocarbon.
The top water action has yet to start, but there are a few fish that will hit a popper or small surface lure back in the pockets.
Striper fishing remains hit or miss, but if we can get some consistent warm weather, you may start to see some fish up on the surface. For now, dragging live baits from the main lake on back into the creek pockets is what seems to be working best. The stripers can be right next to the bank or out over deep water, so it can be hard to put together a pattern. Use flat line and planer boards rigged with a blueback or native gizzard shad, and drag them until you find some feeding fish.
The frustrating part of striper fishing right now is that the fish are not grouped up in any consistent areas. You may catch one shallow on the banks and then catch one deep over open water.
There are still some clues you can look for. Watch for aquatic birds like loons, gulls, kingfishers and even blue cranes. All of the birds feed on the same bait that stripers do, so if you see the birds feeding then the stripers are not too far away. Keep side imaging on your Humminbird units set to 120 feet and watch for clouds of bait, or the bigger oval returns that indicate stripers.
Keep a topwater or subsurface plug ready at all times. There has been some brief schooling activity, so cast a SPRO McStick or a Red Fin to any fish breaking the surface. These same lures will work well after dark, but the night bite is hit or miss right now, too.
Crappie fishing is good for anglers that are adept at “shooting” docks. As mentioned before, there are some great tutorials on YouTube to teach you this technique. Better yet, if you can afford it, hire a reputable guide who will show you how to shoot your lures in to those tight areas.
There are also some crappie around the bridges that are in the back of the creeks. Two Mile, Wahoo and Little River are great areas to target the tasty fish. Set your boat up to “spider rig” or “lake rake,” and troll small jigs up shallow. These terms mean that an angler sets out multiple rods on one boat and trolls around to find fish. Once you catch one, troll back over that area because crappie hang around in schools. Where you find one you will find others.
If your cove has brush or Christmas trees, cast out minnows set a couple of feet below a bobber. This method has been hit or miss based on the presence of fish. Night fishing around the bridges with lights has been working fair, but this action will improve when the water warms up into the 70s.
Trout: Nothing much has changed and the trout fishing is still very good. The trout are biting well below Buford Dam and up in the mountain streams. Pick your favorite method and go fishing! The weather is good, the fish are biting and this is a great time to fish the trout streams and rivers.
An inline spinner like a Mepps or Rooster Tail will work well on most trout waters and they are especially affective in the rapids, as well as the deeper pools. Cast them out and reel them just fast enough to keep the blades spinning.
Small crankbaits or jerkbaits are also worth a try. Cast small Count Down Rapalas and Yo Suri Pinns Minnows above and below the rapids for some great action. Small crankbaits and even crappie jigs will also work fine.
Fly fishing has been very good both in the morning and in late afternoon. In the morning, start out with your favorite fly. In the afternoon, look for insect hatches and match the insect that your see.
Live bait like corn and worms has been working very well. Just make sure you are fishing in unrestricted waters — many rivers and streams are partially or completely artificial-only. This means no live bait, and you don’t want to get a ticket from the Department of Natural Resources. Also, always wear a life jacket when wading.
Bank Fishing: You can catch a variety of fish right now from the banks. The bass are shallow, building nests, or just feeding on the small minnows. There are plenty of pan fish like crappie and brim. Catfish are also catchable from the banks.
Shore-bound anglers have an abundance of choices, so you can also pick your favorite method and go catching. It is hard to beat a live earthworm or small crappie minnow bellow a bobber. A Rooster tail of small crankbait will also work for bank-bound anglers. You can set your rods up in productive areas, but be prepared to make a move to more productive water when he fish aren’t biting.
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.