Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.54 feet or only .46 feet below a full pool of 1,071. Lake water temperatures are from the upper 70s to lower 80s. The main lake is clear, but stained around the banks from boat traffic. The creeks and rivers are clear to very stained from recent rains.
The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing remains strong and several patterns have been productive. The late spring, early summer topwater action has been the main focus for many anglers. Four fishing lures have been staples on the deck of my Nitro Bass Boat this week: 1) A topwater plug like a Zara Spook, Sammy or Big Bites Jerk Shad, 2) a swim bait, like a SPRO BBZ1 6-Inch floater or a 4-inch BBZ1 Shad, 3) a jerk bait like a Redfin or McStick, and lastly, 4) a drop shot rig for picking fish off during inactive periods, or when they appear on my Humminbird Graph.
We have started our days before sunrise by fueling up in case we need to run and gun, and have the boat in the water before it gets light out. While the plan has been to run and gun, we usually have not had to travel far to find schooling fish. The river and creek mouths just off main lake are holding a lot of schooling fish early in the day. Make sure you are positioned close to main or secondary points and humps that have a mix of rock, clay and sand, along with a well-placed brush pile or two thrown in for good measure.
The herring have been spawning, which makes for some awesome topwater action in the morning and past sun up. Lake Lanier’s top water action can be good all day long, and you can bet that the spotted bass are crushing herring on the surface somewhere at any given time during the day. On clear, calm sunny days, you can just about sit in any creek mouth below Browns Bridge and scan the horizon to see spotted bass chasing herring. If the wind is blowing, or it’s cloudy out, it may be harder to see the fish but they have still been feeding over brush piles in 10 to 25 foot deep.
It pays to have a lot of waypoints preset on your electronic GPS before setting out for the day. If you plan to fish more than a few times each month, then you should invest at least a half of a day setting up a milk run of productive areas in the spring and you can add to them as you discover new areas. My Humminbird’s GPS has well over a thousand brush piles or other productive cover marked on my maps, and that number increases every trip. Once you establish a milk run, then the fun begins. Run different areas and cast topwater plugs or swim baits over these productive fish-holding locations. The surface may be calm, but it rarely takes more than a cast or two to discover if the fish are active in an area.
Work a walking lure like a Zara Spook or Sammy and play around with the retrieve speed and let the fish tell you what they prefer. Some days a methodic “walk the dog” cadence works best, while other days, a sloppy fast retrieve will coax more bites. The same theory applies if you choose to cast a swim bait. Ultra-realistic lures, like the SPRO 6-inch floater, look almost exactly like a trout or herring. Some days, the bass will prefer a quick retrieve, while other days a slow stop-and-go retrieve works best.
The nighttime bite has been good around main lake points and also boat docks in the pockets. Work a moving lure like large Colorado Bladed Spinner Baits or a Deep Diving Crank Bait and “slow roll” these lures along the bottom.
Striper fishing has been good, and this action has been strong all day long for anglers that can locate the schools of herring and make the necessary adjustments during the day. The same areas that are holding bass will also tend to have stripers, too, as both of these species chase the same blueback herring that have been spawning.
Early and late in the day, the stripers have been on the surface chasing bluebacks, and as reported with the bass, this action can remain strong all day long. Start out casting a Red Fin, or medium-to-larger sized swim baits. Usually, a slow-to-medium steady retrieve is your best bet. When the surface is calm, use lures like the Red Fin or a BBZ1 Floater and reel them slowly on the surface to create a “V” wake. Predator fish will hone in on the wake to determine exactly where your lure is located. If you see a fish following your lure, do not change the speed or action. It takes nerves of steel to continue a steady retrieve, but more often than not, you will be rewarded when a fish explodes on the lure.
Use live bait, like herring or gizzard shad, and rig these live baits on both flat lines, planer boards and down lines, and let the fish strikes dictate which method is best for that day and those conditions. Very often, a mixture of these three methods will all work, so it may pay to rig two down lines from the front of the boat and two flat or planner board lines from the back. No matter what, make sure to keep a top water plug or other castable artificial lures or flies at the ready for any fish that may surface.
Trolling has started to work well, and there are several different ways to troll for stripers. The most popular is to pull umbrella rigs.
Do a search on YouTube for “Lake Lanier, Striper, trolling, Cannon Downrigger, BBZ1,” and you will find some very cool videos that show some anglers using down riggers and swim baits to fool some of Lake Laniers’ larger stripers into biting.
Anglers have started to target stripers after dark in the lower lake creek mouths, and around the marinas.
Crappie fishing has been hit or miss, and there have been some decent fish on the docks up lake. Shoot crappie jigs up under docks that have brush from five to 15 feet deep, and watch your lines closely for the light taps that indicate a strike. There have also been some crappie biting after dark on the bridges towards the backs of the creeks. Use standard floating lights or HydraGlow lights and fish live minnows on either a float or a downline, depending on where the fish appear on your electronics.
There are plenty of bream to be caught just about anywhere on Lake Lanier. Fish live earthworms or crickets around docks, or on banks that have rock or lay downs located along the shore. The bream are nesting on these banks and they will bite a variety of lures and live bait this time of year. If you start catching only small bream, then try fishing deeper to locate the bigger hand-sized bream that make for better eating.
Trout fishing has been good in the streams and rivers, and all of the recent rains should ensure that these fish will stay healthy and well-fed well into the summer. Artificial lures like inline spinners or Rapalas, and also casting with dry flies has been working well on the rivers and streams. With all the recent rains, try fishing with live earthworms (where permitted by law) on light line with a small hook positioned just a foot or two under a medium heavy split shot.
Bank Fishing: It’s that time of year when it’s time to start targeting the North Georgia redfish — better known as carp to most anglers. While many of my bass fishing friends make fun of these beasty bugle mouths, carp offer a great fish for kids and adults alike. In Europe and Asia, carp are a highly desirable fish, and they are so pressured that many tackle companies like SPRO Europe have entire lines of tackle designed just for catching carp.
In the United States, it’s just the opposite, and carp can be found just about anywhere. In fact, carp tend to be drawn to human activity on Lake Lanier, and they tend to bite during the hottest part of the day. Many anglers have their own recipe for carp dough, but try this. Open a can of corn. Throw half of the can out around the shore of your campsite, or around your boat or marina slip. Take a Zebco 33 or your favorite spinning outfit with light line. Tie a regular small gold Aberdeen style hook, and thread three to five kernels of corn onto the hook, covering it completely. Crimp a 1/8th ounce split shot about one to two feet above the hook, and cast it to where you chummed the half can of corn. Secure your rod and wait. If you’re lucky, you should be fighting a rather generous-sized fish (or several) very soon.
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.