Water temperatures have fluctuated this past week but are averaging around 50 degrees. The lake level continues to come up and is at 1064 feet, or seven feet below the full pool of 1071. More rains are forecast for the next week and I believe we could come up to full pool by March if all goes well. The main lake water is clear and the creeks and rivers are stained to muddy in the backs. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear.
Bass fishing has been fair to good. This is the time of year when the bass start to go into an in-between pattern. They make a lot of movements between a later winter and prespawn mode. You may find some bass up shallow and you may find them deep and any range in between and the patterns change daily or even hourly.
I have been resorting to finding fish below the boat on my Humminbird graph and then fishing vertically with a drop shot or spoon, as there have been some fish grouping up in the 30- to 40-foot range this week. These fish are relating to the end’s long secondary points in the creeks and pockets where bait is present. Target the deeper sides of these points where you find brush or timber lines. On days when the fronts are coming in or leaving, I have had some success throwing a McStick 110 on these same types of points that are out in the wind.
These active fish have come up to strike this jerk bait and an aggressive jerk-and-pause retrieve has been working best.
There are also some shallower fish that seem to have remained there all winter. The shallower fishing has been less predictable. One day you may catch 10 bass in an hour out of a shallow creek ditch, only to return the next day to discover they have moved. These fish are targeting bait and eating heavily before the spawn so look for the bait schools and the bass shouldn’t be too far away.
There have also been some shallow fish on warmer days up under dock floats just sunning themselves. Skipping a finesse worm on a jig head to precise areas around the floats has been fooling these dock fish. Make sure to not hit any part of the docks, as these sunbathers tend to be skittish. There are also shallow bass roaming around that will strike crank baits or jigs around ditches that run shallow flats. Remember that ditches and creek and river channels are bass highways as they will follow the depressions like we follow paths.
Stripers: Striper fishing has been fair to good and this is one of the best times of the year to catch large stripers.
Stripers go through their false spawning movement in late winter. A striped bass, or rockfish as they are called up north, is actually a saltwater fish. The Department Of Natural Resources stocks Lake Lanier to provide a hard-pulling sport fish for us to catch. Stripers usually live in salt water, then move into the rivers to spawn almost like salmon. Our landlocked stripers go through the motions of spawning but they don’t actually reproduce. Before they go looking for love, stripers feed heavily and now is the best time to catch a trophy.
The fish are a little scattered so your electronics will help you find where they are located. The striper’s movements are centered around food, so look for bait fish clouds and wavy lines, or arcs around them that indicate feeding stripers on your graph. Areas where loons and gulls are feeding are always worth exploring. Set out flat lines if the bait is up high in the water column or set your down lines to the same depth that you mark fish. Trout and herring are your best baits but some anglers will use a cast net to catch herring, threadfins or gizzard shad, which can work very well because it is an exact match of what the fish are eating. In some of the creeks the bait is so thin that your live bait offerings may get lost in the fray. Pulling an umbrella rig through these areas can often catch fish better than live bait. A four-armed umbrella rig has five places to attach bucktail and they really look like a school of bait. Trolling these rigs at 15 to 25 feet continues to work well. Use SPRO Bucktails with a hyper or curly tail trailer. If you are just starting out it pays to ask advice from your local tackle store or, if your budget permits, hire a reputable guide. Knowing the proper speed, depth and locations will make the difference between catching and just fishing. Also invest in an umbrella rig retriever.
There have been some reports that the night bite is starting. Cast Bomber Long A’s, Redfins or McSticks around areas that have bait in the lower lake creeks and out by the dam. This after dark action will get much better as temperatures warm into the mid-50s.
Crappie fishing is good, and I witnessed a couple of guys loading the boat this week. They were trolling jigs and also shooting them around docks in the backs of a creek pocket down near the dam. The water was stained and about two degrees warmer than out on main lake.
Trolling is an excellent way to catch big crappie this time of year. Finding the warmer stained water where baitfish are present is key for success in late winter. Troll multiple rods and stagger their lengths to set out a wide spread.
Use light line with a single small crappie jig or you can attach two jigs to increase your odds. I have fished as many as 12 rods at a time. Type ‘crappie trolling’ in your search engine or on YouTube to get more information.
Trout fishing has been decent and all of the rains are helping the streams and rivers. The fresh runoff put food and oxygen into the water, which benefits the trout. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam has some holdover trout and we should expect stocking to start soon. Rooster Tails, Rapala Countdowns and wet flies have been catching a few fish. Live earthworms are working very well in the river and up in the mountain creeks where live bait is permitted.
Bank fishing: Anglers fishing from the shore are starting to catch crappie on minnows in the creeks and pockets.
Hook a crappie minnow on a small Aberdeen hook and set it a foot or two below a heavy bobber and cast it around docks, laydowns, bridge pilings or other fish holding cover. You can also use a slip bobber to increase your catching. Cast a slip bobber right next to a bridge piling and feed the line down to catch fish that are suspended next to them.
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.