Lake temperatures remain in the low to mid 40s. The lake level continues to hold steady at a level of 1,069.13 feet, which is 1.7 feet below the full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake Lanier is clear to stained on the main lake and stained in the creeks and the rivers.
Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing remains tough, but we will have a warming trend this weekend and that may bring some bass up shallower to eat.
This is the time of year where you may have to work all day to get a limit.
While the bite is slow in the cold of winter, your chances for catching a trophy spotted and largemouth bass go way up. The bass are sitting on the bottom gorging themselves on wounded bluebacks and threadfin shad as they await warmer water and longer days.
The jigging spoon continues to be our go-to bait as the majority of Lake Lanier’s spotted bass are out deep around the timberlines. If you have an area that produced good fish back in December, then try turning your boat out toward the main lake and ride until you hit 45 to 60 feet deep.
This should be where the bass are hiding, and catching them requires a quality fish finder along with some patience. You may go hours without catching any and then load the boat in 15 minutes.
Use a 6/10th-ounce Flexi Spoon and drop it directly below the boat when you mark fish and hop this spoon up and down very close to the bottom. Often you will see a fish rise off the bottom as your lure drops down. This is “video game” fishing at its best.
Here are a couple tips that will help you while fishing a spoon: I like the Flexit Spoons because you can bend the spoon slightly to create a slower fall. This will work when these bottom dwellers are less active.
The bent spoon has a side-to-side fall that gives the fish something different to see. Sometimes it pays to not bend your spoon because bass will often react to a faster drop.
I also switch out the thicker stock hooks with No. 4 Gamakatsu wire treble hooks. The hooks are very sharp, but you can bend them loose if you get snagged in the timber.
Use at least a 12-pound test because heavier line will enable you to retrieve a spoon that gets hung up. I use 15-pound monofilament, and this tough, heavy line will almost always pull a spoon free. Just take a dowel rod and wrap your line around it and use a slow steady pull to straighten your wire hooks. Then you can just bend them back into place with a pair of pliers.
Other methods will work, especially when we have warming trends like the one forecasted for this weekend.
Cast a jerk bait around any steep banks and use a stop-and-go retrieve. Allow your jerk bait to sit still for as much as 15 seconds. This slow stop-and-go retrieve will often bring bass up from deep water. Target the windy bluff walls from the main lake on back into the creeks. Deep-diving crank baits, Fish Head Spins, buck tails and even casting spoons can work well in winter.
If you want to go catching instead of just fishing, then stripers are going to be your most consistent fish to catch in winter. Unlike bass, stripers get more active in cold water and they will often be shallow in the coldest water. If you are new to the sport or if you just want to improve your skills, hiring a guide is a great way to up your odds.
The umbrella rig is a great invention and it allows an angler to troll many lures on one rod. The result is a mass of jigs that looks just like a school of shad in the water.
These multi-lure rigs can often out-produce live bait, plus it allows you to move around while keeping your line in the strike zone. Often anglers will troll an umbrella rig to find the stripers. Once they find the fish, they will drop their live bait rigs down on top of the school.
One of the best setups for trolling is a four-arm rig equipped with several one-ounce buck tails.
Use a Hyper Tail on your jigs for added action. Some of the local tackle stores sell these umbrella rigs already equipped with buck tails and trailers. Getting snagged is something that will happen, especially when you are just learning, so make sure to invest into an umbrella rig retriever.
If you don’t like to troll, then pay close attention to the birds. Gulls, loons and electronics all help to find the active fish. Most of the stripers are in the 20- to 40- foot zone, but you can find them up shallow on the surface during major feeding periods.
If the stripers are down deeper, then drop a live trout on a down line and position your bait just above where you mark fish. Stripers will often swim up to eat a bait, but they seldom notice a baitfish that is below them. If you find the fish swirling on the surface then switch over to a flat line and drag these unweighted baits behind your boat. Make sure to cast a lure like a buck tail or a jerk bait from the front while dragging your baits behind.
Not many anglers are talking about the crappie, but they are starting to bite. Crappie start their spawning migration early in the year.
They can be stacked up thick in winter as they stage before the spawn. Target the inside of the standing timber and also deep brush piles in the 25-30 foot zone. Down line a crappie jig or Micro Spoon tipped with a live crappie minnow. You may not catch a huge amount of crappie but most of the ones you do catch will be fat and healthy.
Here is a tip from Keith Pace of Micro Spoons: When using a regular style jig hook, bend them out a little and it will give you a better hook set.
By widening the gap of the hook, you will hook the crappie farther back in the mouth instead of the softest part of the lips.
Trout fishing is just OK, but look for the bite to get much better as the Department of Natural Resources starts its spring stocking efforts. Trout that are raised in a hatchery are very ignorant and that makes them easy to catch. Use live earthworms (where permitted by law), wet flies and small jerk baits fished with a pause-and-jerk retrieve.
Bank fishing: Many anglers continue to fish from the banks for these hard-fighting stripers. Position your poles near the waters edge and make sure you have very strong rod holders. A piece of PVC pipe works very well.
Pound these into clay banks for a cheap and effective rod holder. You can also purchase quality rod holders that work even better.
Try to find the banks that have deep water or a channel close by. Cast live shad or trout out into the deeper water on a slip bobber or a bottom rig.
If you use a slip bobber then set the bobber stop to 15 to 20 feet and make sure to be in an area where your bait is not dragging on the bottom.
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. He would love to hear from our readers so please e-mail him at email@example.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.