Lake Lanier temperatures are in the mid to lower 40s. The lake level remains at a healthy winter level of 1,069.2 feet, which is 1.8 feet below the full pool of 1,071.
Usually the lake gets drawn down about 5 feet during the winter in anticipation for the spring rains, so this higher level has been a blessing compared with recent drought years.
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.
Before the snow was blowing this week my friend commented, “Hey, do you think the bass are rushing to the stores to stock up on food before the snowstorm?” Well, I guess maybe they do, because we caught them well before the weather.
There is actually more to my buddy’s comment than just humor. Predator and baitfish tend to “turn on” before winter fronts blow in.
There is a great myth that fish don’t eat much in water temperatures in the 40s. Lake Lanier’s spotted bass are extremely fat right now and I don’t think they are going hungry.
Cold fish may tend to move slower but they are suckers for an easy meal.
Hopping a jigging spoon or dragging a jig directly in front of inactive bass will usually elicit a bite.
These fish are used to shad fluttering down to the bottom and they will strike a jigging spoon out of instinct.
Bass also look up and if they spot a slow-moving Jerk Bait, they may make the decision to come up to eat what they believe is an easy meal.
We are still targeting the deep drops, steep banks and creek and river ditches with jigging spoons, jigs and drop-shot rigs. I fish most of my deep lures on fluorocarbon line.
There are many advantages to fluorocarbon line as it is denser than water and sinks, and it is also very sensitive which helps to detect these deep light bites. About the only time I will switch to monofilament in winter is when I want my jigging spoon to have a slower fall. I will switch over to a heavy 20-pound monofilament in this situation.
This thicker, floating line will slow the fall of a jigging spoon just slightly, and that slight adjustment may get you more bites.
Keep an eye on your electronics because they are key tools in winter.
This weekend’s weather will warm up a little, so start to target the deeper docks in the creek and river bends and skip a finesse worm on a jig head, or a jig-and-pig up under docks that are in 20 feet or more of water.
The first dock in long pockets can often start to hold large amounts of bass this time of year. If you catch a good one, then pay close attention to where and how deep that bite came and try to reproduce that same scenario in other areas.
The striper fishing has been good and the snow doesn’t seem to adversely affect these cold-water-loving fish.
Some mornings we have seen them rolling up on the surface and my buddy actually got a strike on a topwater plug in 45-degree water. While these stripers are rolling on the surface, they are usually eating small threadfin shad. It often pays to down size your offerings.
A 1/4-ounce SPRO Buck tail worked slowly through these surfacing fish can be very effective.
One other lure that works surprisingly well is a larger jerk bait, like a Bomber Long A or a McStick.
Work these jerk baits with a slow and steady retrieve and the stripers can’t resist this slow rolled presentation.
While the stripers will be up early and late in the day, the majority of fish are still being caught deeper from 25 to 50 feet deep.
Target the backs of the pockets back in the creeks and rivers and watch for the huge baitfish schools to find the best areas. The down lines have been working, but I have seen some of the guides catching a bunch of stripers on Captain Mack 4 arm umbrella rigs.
These multi-lure rigs mimic a school of baitfish and they can be very productive in winter.
The gulls and loons are dead giveaways of most productive areas.
At times there may almost be too much bait but this is where the stripers will be looking for an easy meal.
Crappie continue to target fish in the 20 to 25 foot range. Look for docks that are in 20 to 30 feet or deeper and fish a small crappie jig tipped with a live minnow.
Crappie anglers are also catching a few walleyes in these same areas. There are very few fish that are tastier fish than crappie or walleye!
Trout fishing is picking up and there have been some delayed releases around the Chattahoochee River and up in the mountain WMAs.
Use live bait where permitted as winter fishing can be a little slower.
That being said, trout love cold water and they will bite lures and flies well in winter when properly presented.
Bank fishing: the striper anglers are doing well fishing from the banks but the snow has kept some of the bank dwellers from venturing out.
The stripers can be extremely shallow and if you can find them rolling on top you can cast buck tails and jerk baits to the rolling fish while setting out several live bait rigs at the same time.
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 readers, so please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com. Remember to take a kid fishing!