Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,068.23 or 2.77 feet below full pool of 1,071. Water temperatures have dropped into the upper 70s. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading out to the river.
Bass: The bass are starting to school out over main lake and they are also moving into the creeks as water and air temperatures drop. Last week the lake temperatures dropped below the 80-degree mark for the first time since spring, and the bass have reacted to the cooler conditions.
This opens up several different patterns so that whether you prefer to fish the banks, the creeks, main lake and even anglers who are looking for largemouth can all do well. Of course, fishing is fishing, so there are always some tough days. Even the pros get skunked sometimes.
The biggest change is that a lot of the bass and stripers have started to chase blueback herring out over open water. While this would seem to be a good thing, it can actually make fishing a little tougher because these fish are not relating to specific areas but instead are following the fast-moving blue back herring all over the surface.
Before this change, you could approach brush piles sunken on main lake points and humps and fish over these manmade structures to get strikes. Now, since the bass are relating to herring, they can school and then sound quickly over deep water, which makes patterning them a little tough.
Anglers can chase these schooling fish and pick off one here and one there. But catching a limit of big fish requires a certain amount of luck, and you must be in the right place at the right time. You can sometimes lead the school by watching which way they are moving after they surface a few times, but even that can be tough.
The good news is that if a school of fish appears within casting range they should be easy to catch. Many lures will work well for schooling spotted bass. Super Spooks, Sammys, Big Bite Jerk Shads and SPRO McSticks are all great choices when targeting fish that chase blueback herring.
If chasing schooling fish is not your deal or if you can’t locate them, then no worries. There have been good fish moving midway back into the creeks, and these fish will bite several different patterns. Skipping a shaky head or a wacky rigged worm up around and under boat docks has been yielding some quality fish.
Pay attention to the deeper docks that are close to ditch and creek channels early in the fall season. These bass can also be caught by running a Fluke or McStick Jerk bait beside the docks, and some fish can even be caught between the docks too. Always look for the docks that have brush for your best results. Docks with fishing pole holders and lights usually have brush planted somewhere under or around them.
There are some other patterns that deserve attention. Work a drop shot rigged Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel around docks and also steep rocky banks. Anglers often assume that you must fish over the fish with a drop shot rig, but that is not always the case. You can also cast a drop shot rig to the banks and work them out deeper like most anglers would work a Texas or Carolina Rig.
In addition, I always leave a drop shot rigged worm at the ready to pick off bass that show up on my Humminbird Fish Finders. You can also cast spinner baits, crank baits or use live spot tail minnows or blueback herring.
Using live bait is one of the easiest ways to catch bass, but be sure to use a circle hook if you plan to release the fish you catch. A Gamakatsu circle hook is designed to hook fish in the side of the mouth where it can be easily removed so that the bass can be released to fight another day.
One last thing deserves mention. The after-dark bite for spotted bass is extremely good right now, and you may not see many other boats on weeknights. Use a SPRO Fat Papa 70 or a Booyah black Colorado Spinner bait and fish rocky banks that are located just off main lake in the mouths of the creeks.
The secret is to keep these lures in contact with the bottom. The last few recently yielded 15 to 20 bass in less than three hours, so it is worth it to stay up late on a work night.
Stripers: Finally a striper report that is not a rerun. In the summertime striper reports are usually very similar starting in late June on through September. That being said, we are approaching October and the stripers are starting to move shallower in the water column. A few weeks ago my Humminbird electronics showed a defined thermocline down around 30 to 35 feet deep. The thermocline is basically where two layers of varying water temperature meet. In the summer the warmer layer of water is on top and the colder layer is on the bottom.
In winter the opposite is the case. Right now those two layers of water are less defined, and when the weather and water get cooler, those layers of water will be interspersed, which is called turnover. Fishing during the turnover can be tough, but the good news is that turnover is several weeks away.
Right now the thermocline is around 20 feet deep depending on which part of the lake you are fishing. The shallower thermocline has allowed the blueback herring, which are the stripers’ preferred prey, to school up closer to the surface, and because of this, the stripers are not far away. Predator fish like stripers and bass use the surface of the water as a wall with which they trap their prey. When stripers look up and see surface disturbance, they will usually move up for a closer look.
Right now the top water bite for stripers is just barely starting, but it will continue to grow and occur all over the lake as water temperatures drop into the lower 70s. No matter what, it’s always a good thing to keep a top water or other casting lure ready to cast towards any fish you see feeding on the surface. We have seen some stripers schooling on top this past week, but they have come up and down so quickly that is almost impossible to target them. It’s still a good idea to keep a lookout for the fish because you can make note of that area and get closer to the schools even if you use other methods to catch them.
Trolling continues to work well, but you can move your offerings up a little shallower now that the fall is here. Umbrella rigs have come more into play as the stripers and the blue backs that they are eating move shallower in the water column. An umbrella rig is a multi-lure rig that holds multiple buck tails or swim baits. This rig looks surprisingly similar to a school of bait as it moves through the water. Troll your rigs at around 2 mph and keep them between 15 and 25 feet below the surface. There are several ways to adjust the depth that your rigs run.
Boat speed, the type of line used, the weight of the rig and the lures attached to it and even the amount of arms on the rig all affect the depth at which they will run. Local bait stores will help you get set up with the right rig. Plus, you can explore the Internet and get helpful hints to speed up the learning curve. Serious trolling involves a lot more than just letting out a lure and dragging it behind the boat. Successful trolling is an art form that can take years to master.
Consider investing in a guide, but make sure that you tell them ahead of time if you want to learn a particular technique.
Down line fishing with herring is still probably the best way to fish this week, but look for flat line fishing with herring and other baits to come into play soon. You can net some native gizzard shad or spot tail minnows and use them on a flat line. As the weather cools, you can use other bait like live trout or medium to jumbo shiners too.
One thing stays constant in any method of striper fishing: You will need quality electronics. Even if you are chasing the stripers on the surface, your electronics will help you to locate the best areas that hold bait, where the thermocline is located, the depth that the fish are swimming and also the water temperatures.
Crappie: Crappie are reacting to the cooler weather and the cooler temperatures will make them easier to catch. There are many fish located around the bridge pilings and they will eat small crappie jigs and live minnows dropped down vertically around the pilings. There have also been some shallower fish up in the rivers and creeks up north where water temperatures are cooler. These fish are relating to docks and brush from 5 to 10 feet deep. These fish are being caught by trolling multiple lures or by fishing live crappie minnows or spot tails under a float or down lined around the docks.
Trout fishing in North Georgia and also on the lower Chattahoochee River remains very good, and they continue to bite on just about any properly presented lure or bait. This has been a good year for fly fishing, and even some novice anglers have been catching them on both dry and wet flies.
The section of the Chattahoochee River from Buford Dam all the way on down to Settles Bridge will be holding some good catchable fish due to the Free Kids Fishing Event at the lower pool park on Saturday (9 a.m.-1 p.m.). The DNR has stocked more trout than the kids could possibly ever catch, and those fish will bite just about anything because they are newly released and are not used to hooks yet. Just make sure if you use live bait that you are fishing areas where it is legal.
Bank Fishing: As fall comes in, the fish on reservoirs like Lake Lanier start to move shallower, where they are more accessible to anglers that fish from the banks. I have mentioned this before, but one advantage shore-bound anglers have over those fishing from a boat is that when they make a cast and retrieve it they will pull fish into the structure instead of dispersing them out over open water. A fish may follow a lure and not bite, but multiple casts can eventually aggravate them into striking.
Bass, crappie and bream will all strike inline spinners and small crank baits, so choosing a finesse lure will increase your odds. A small Rooster Tail, Shad Rap or Rebel Craw are all tried and tested lures hat have been catching fish for more decades than many anglers have been fishing, and they continue to work to this day. If a slower pace and less walking are preferred, then it is hard to beat a worm and bobber combination. Live earth worms have probably caught more fish than all other lures combined.
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.