Water temperatures continue to hold at around 50 degrees with some slightly warmer water in the coves. The lake level has risen again this past week and is very close to full pool of 1,071 at 1,068.08 or 2.98 feet below a full pool. The main lake water is clear down lake and stained up lake. The lower lake creeks are clear in the mouths and stained in the backs and the upper lake creeks and rivers are very stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford dam is clear.
Bass fishing is up or down, depending on who you speak to. The prespawn period, or the time before the bass spawn, is the predominant pattern right now. This period offers anglers one of the best chances of the year to catch a trophy spotted or largemouth bass. The fish are stuffing their bellies with food and the females are full of eggs. The bass will continue to feed heavily until water temperatures reach between 60-70 degrees. This is the temperature where males will start to fan out little holes or beds where they can entice females to lay their eggs.
One of the main things that anglers should seek out this time of year is warmer water. Bass are cold-blooded animals that target warmer water in spring for several reasons. The sun warms the shallow water in the coves, which in turn attracts the baitfish and crawfish that bass feed on. It also triggers the bass to start thinking about the reproductive process. Anglers should keep a constant eye on our fish finder’s temperature gauge. Areas that are just one or two degrees warmer than the main lake can hold large schools of pre-spawn bass. The coves on the west side of the lake tend to get the most sunlight and therefore are prone to warming the quickest.
Just because the coves are warmer than the main lake does not mean all of the bass will move up there immediately, but you should expect that these fish will start heading in that direction. The bass have been deeper in winter and with spring right around the corner they will start to follow the creek channels shallow to where they intersect with ditch channels that run into the spawning flats. These key intersections, areas where ditches run under docks and channel swings that have brush or rock piles, can all be secret honey holes that hold large amounts of fish. These ditches and channels are routes that the bass use to move from deep to shallow.
Use your electronics and lake maps to find these key areas. Cast jerk baits, crank baits or Texas and Carolina Rigged worms to these honey holes and you may encounter some fast and furious fishing. Once you catch a good fish, slow down and work the same area over carefully because there are usually more where that one came from. Even if you don’t catch any more from that area, make a mental note and return later in the day to see if the fish have moved in.
This past week, we have caught bass both shallow, deep and intermediate depths, but the most consistent action seems to be coming from depths between 10-and 20-feet deep. The docks are holding some decent bass, and these fish will hit a shaky head worm on a 1/8-ounce jig head skipped under or around deeper docks that lead into the coves.
Casting a SPRO McStick 110 or other jerk baits around the dock floats has been a good pattern for catching the bigger spotted bass. Small crank baits worked around rocky banks both on the main lake and back in the creeks has been working well for both spotted and largemouth bass.
Striper fishing is good and some big striped bass are being weighed in right now. Stripers 30-40 pounds are not all that rare to catch in early spring. Stripers are feeding heavily as the go through their false spawning runs. Stripers are saltwater fish that the Department of Natural Resources stocks in large impoundments. These stocked fish go through the motions, but don’t actually reproduce on Lake Lanier. They still go through the reproductive motions and feed heavily. In spring, they are often at their heaviest weight of the year.
Stripers will run into the lower lake creeks and also into the rivers this time of year and it is not uncommon to catch them in very shallow water. Pulling live baitfish on flat lines and planner boards in the shallow coves, creek pockets and even in the river is a good pattern for catching a large striper. Blueback herring and small trout seem to be the best offerings for numbers of fish, but there are a lot of larger gizzard shad that move around in the coves and this larger prey can tempt these large females into biting. You can purchase trout, herring and occasionally gizzard shad from local bait stores or you can use a cast a net and catch your own to better match the native forage.
Several patterns are working well in addition to the shallow bite. There have been some deeper fish relating to the creeks and river channels during the day. Pulling live bait on a flat and down lines where you mark fish out deeper from 15-to 30-feet deep has been working best for numbers of fish.
Trolling a four-arm umbrella rig outfitted with SPRO Buck Tails with a Hyper Tail trailers midway back in the creeks or up in the rivers is a good method to use in spring. Casting Bomber Long As or McStick jerk baits after dark has been working great some nights and just fair on others. Look for this action to really heat up in the next few weeks.
Crappie fishing has been very good and should remain that way for about another month. Some anglers I have spoken with are catching limits of crappie very quickly, while a few others have had to work a little harder. The trick to successful crappie fishing is to make sure you are around the active schools that are feeding on threadfin shad. If you do not get a bite in the first 30 minutes, then it pays to move on and find active fish that will bite.
Trolling has been working OK, but the best bite seems to be coming from shooting crappie jigs under the docks. This method takes some practice but being able to shoot a small jig up into the areas where fish are holding is the key to great catching.
Fishing with a live minnow under a weighted or slip bobber has also been working well. Successful live bait fishing is much more than just casting a bobber. First, you will need to find the level at which these fish are holding. Your depth finder is a key tool for figuring out the best depth. Pay close attention to the fish that bite and make a note of what caught the fish and try to duplicate it on your next cast. Some days the fish will bite at three feet deep and on other days five feet deep may be your key depth. Nothing tells us that we are fishing correctly better than catching a fish.
Trout fishing remains fair to good and the catches should only improve as the DNR continues to stock new trout into the streams and rivers.
Very few lures or baits can beat a live earthworm for catching trout. Worms get washed into the streams and rivers by spring rains and almost all fish will eat them. Use a small hook threaded with a live worm and attach a small-to medium- lead split shot weight placed about two feet above the hook. Cast this worm rig into the deeper pools just below the rapids. By law, you can only use one fishing rod per angler at a time when fishing for trout and make sure to check local regulations before using live bait. Some streams are designated for artificial lures only. Fly fishing and casting small inline spinners or minnow imitating plugs will also work well.
Bank Fishing: Take your kids fishing. Very few of the anglers I know learned how to fish by jumping into a 70 mile per hour bass boat with a $1,000 worth of equipment on their first trip. Most of us started out learning about the sport of fishing as kids by roaming the banks of our local streams and lakes. We often caught crawdads by turning over rocks or we caught minnows using a bath towel as a net. We were just as interested in catching the bait or skipping rocks as we were about hard core fishing.
This is something I stress to adults who are just starting to teach their kids how to fish. You can buy some worms or minnows, but it is also a great idea to start out the first fishing trips by digging up your own worms in the garden. Make sure your kids have an easy-to-use outfit to cast with like a Zebco 33 and start out with a bobber and hook instead of lures. Kids will get bored quickly so allow them to skip stones or grab a snack when they want to. Remember fishing is not all about catching and the experience is what is important. Fishing instills patience, confidence and outdoor values that will last a lifetime.
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 email@example.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.