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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Catfish an option any time of year
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Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level actually rose slightly this past week to 1,067.27 feet or 3.73 feet below full pool of 1,071. Water surface temperatures remain in the mid 50s. Lake Lanier is clear to stained on main lake and moderately stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading out to the river.

Bass fishing rates good to great, but the fish are kind of like the weather. They just don’t seem to know what time of year it is. Because of the up-and-down weather patterns, it’s hard to pattern the fish. You may catch them in one area one day only to return the next to find them gone. The good news is that the weather has been mild and the fish continue to bite well as they store up food for the cold winter ahead.

Anglers would do well to pay particular attention to the bass highways. If you read these reports, you know that these are the ditches and creeks channels that run from the large shallow flats on out into the ditches, creeks, river channels and eventually the deeper main lake.

A quality lake map or an advanced GPS fish finder will show these locations clearly. Mapping systems like my Humminbirds Lake Master software make it easy to find the concave areas that bass use to run from shallow to deeper water. You can basically zoom out with your depth finder and look for areas that have solid black lines indicating where the topo lines meet indicating steeper dropoffs.

A wide variety of lures are working for catching spotted and largemouth bass right now with an emphasis on jigs, Fish Head Spins, crank baits, drop shot rigs and spoons. You will want be able to cover all depth levels and to do so you need the proper lures. An assortment of rods also will help you to be ready and to switch between presentations quickly.

In the mornings fish will have an active period, so start your day slow reeling a deep diving crank bait around the same ditches as mentioned above. If an area has rock, docks, lay downs or brush near deeper channels, that just adds to the equation. As the sun comes up this crank bait action will slow down and you’ll need to move to lures that cover the ditches and creek channels in deeper water. Slow rolling a fish head spin down the middle of these dishes or hopping a spoon in the middle of the deepest parts of these highways where they meet the timberline has been a great method to use right now.

Your electronics are key for locating fish anytime you cannot see the bottom, which is most of the time no matter what waters you fish. Use your electronics to find arcs or wavy lines that indicate concentrations of fish. If you are experienced or lucky enough to find fish grouped up, then you can catch a good limit quickly with a jigging spoon or drop shot rig. Right now there are some schools of bass relating to underwater cover and structure in the 30-50 foot range.

Do not rule out shallow water as there are also some good fish up in the skinny water. The largemouth fishing has been good and you can catch them up on the banks and around docks in the backs of the creeks. Jigs, worms, crank baits and spinner baits worked around bank cover will coax bites all day long. You may even catch a magnum rouge spotted bass up shallow, too.

Striper fishing has been good. The stripers are active and water temperatures are conducive to keeping them that way for a while. As winter approaches stripers historically head up into the river and creak arms off of main lake. Many of these fish can be found shallow, but don’t rule out the deeper fish. While the water temperatures remain in the 50s, the stripers are active and fishing should be good for the most part if you are around fish and have the correct bait.

Fishing should remain until good until the temperatures drop down into the upper 40s, and even then they will bite.
This past week the stripers have been feasting on three types of bait — the smaller threadfin shad, the longer skinny blueback herring and the medium to extra-large gizzard shad. There are advantages to motivate stripers into eating each type of bait, but you can bet they vary their diets based on opportunities. Smaller threadfins are everywhere and they are easy for stripers to catch, but it takes a lot of them to sustain these big, hard fighting fish. Blue backs are also abundant and offer a larger meal, but they move quickly and it takes more energy to catch them. Gizzard Shad offer a large meal which can satisfy a striper for a little while, but they can be hard for stripers to locate and they also put up a good fight before surrendering themselves to a hungry striper. Anglers should consider all of these options when selecting lures and live bait before hitting the water.

An umbrella rig mimics a small school of either threadfin shad or blueback herring. The size of your jig heads and trailers or swim baits and the speed at which you troll are all factors that help you to match natural forage. Trolling speeds and depth control are very important and mastering them is not easy, but it is worth the investment. Right now a three- or four-arm rig fished higher in the water column is a great match to the threadfin shad up closer to the surface. Use smaller 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jig head or SPRO Buck tails and your trailers should be around 3 inches in length. Use a lighter umbrella rig and slow down your trolling speed to 1.5 miles per hour. Experienced anglers can troll two rigs at once, but pulling one is a lot easier and will still catch plenty of fish when done correctly.

Live bait fishing is probably the easiest and most productive overall method, but you should consider having two types or sizes of baits. A good start would be several dozen blueback herring and a dozen trout. Buy some small and large trout as a striper will often show a preference for a certain size.

There are not many trout in Lake Lanier and the ones that are in the lake are only there because anglers empty out their bait tanks and they survive, but Stripers love these tasty fish and I believe they are a close match for Gizzard Shad. Jumbo Shiners or an actual gizzard shad are good choices, too.

If you see stripers up close to the surface, nose hook your baits on flat lines (a line and hook with no bait). You can bump the trolling motor every now and then to keep these fish high in the water column. If the stripers are deeper down, rig up a down rig (basically a Carolina rig with a hook tied to a leader tied to a swivel and weight and the main line). Drop your baits down to just above where you mark fish on your fish finders.

There have been some obscure reports of a night bite happening after dark in some of the upper lake creeks. Cast a Bomber Long A, SPRO McStick 110 or a SPRO Buck tail with a Hyper Tail Trailer around lighted docks near deep water mid-way on back into the creeks.

Crappie: I have been marking some large schools of crappie with my Humminbird Down Imaging Sonar. These fish are intermingled with trees, brush and near docks around 20 feet deep in the down lake creek arms. Up lake they can be found shallower around 10-20 feet deep. Down line small crappie minnows or use a cast net to catch some threadfin shad and use them, too. You can also crawl a small jig through the branches but keep close watch out to detect the light bites right now.

Trout fishing is anywhere from fair excellent in the North Georgia mountains and fair to OK on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam. Up in the mountains you can use wet flies, inline spinners and live bait where permitted by law. On the Chattahoochee River bright inline spinners and live earthworms have been working well where live bait is permitted.

The action will vary depending on how the streams and rivers you fish have been stocked. Most of the fish right now are hold over trout. This means that these fish were stocked during spring and summer and that they have survived the barrage of anglers that have now thinned due to football and hunting season. Some of the better managed trophy streams retain plenty of trout due to almost 100 percent catch and release.

Bank Fishing: Catfish are an often overlooked fish on Lake Lanier and in local smaller lakes and rivers. These fish tend to stay active all year and if you can put a chicken liver or cut bait in the deeper holes where they lie in wait, then you can often load up a stringer for a tasty dinner of catfish fillets.

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 or visit his website at 

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