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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Chattahoochee River yielding great trout
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Lake Lanier’s water level has been steady and is around 1,069.95 or 1.05 feet below full pool of 1,071. Water surface temperatures have remained in the upper 40s.

Lake Lanier is clear to stained on main lake and is stained to very stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is slightly stained below Buford Dam.

Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading out to the river.

Bass fishing has been fair to good. The majority of fish are out in the creek channels, timberlines and deep ditches either hanging out deep except for some brief excursions up to eat any baitfish schools that come around the areas where they hang out.

These fish are staying down deep from 34-55 feet and will eat a jigging spoon, jig, drop shot, SPRO Buck Tail or other lures that you can work down deep where the bass are located. Not many people fish a buck tail, but it is a very productive lure for bass and stripers.

You will need a medium heavy casting rod like my Kissel Kustom Craft 7-foot, 6-inch fishing rod equipped with a 5 to 1 Bait Caster with 14 pound Sniper fluorocarbon Sunline. Heavy line does not seem to bother these deeper fish and you can move up to as much as 20-pound fluorocarbon if needed.

Instead of fishing straight under the boat, cast your buck tail out along the timber line or channel, let it hit bottom and slowly crank it along the bottom or hop it and let it fall. You may be surprised at how hard the bass will hit a bait in colder weather.

If you choose to fish a spoon or drop shot rig, then use your electronics and get directly over the best areas. Fish directly under you boat and watch your electronics to look for active fish or schools of baitfish.

Sometimes you may not see arcs or lines that indicate fish, but drop your spoon or other rig to the bottom anyway. If the fish are present, they may show themselves pretty quickly! It should only take one or two drops to tell if the fish are present. If you do not see fish or get a bite, move on to more productive water.

Stair stepping a jig and pig or other jig trailer option down bluff walls is a technique that has been time tested and true for anglers on Lake Lanier or other southern impoundments. Find a rock bluff and fish it slow and steady with your jig or other lure and work the areas from shallow down to 30-55 feet deep and repeat until you find a wad of fish. Then concentrate on that area to see if here are any more willing fish to catch.

The last thing to mention for bass fishing to try is to target the same bluff with a Float and Fly. This is a crazy technique that I have used to catch fish in winter, and not many anglers use it that much, including me. You will need a much longer rod than most.

Try to find an 8-12-foot crappie rode or a rod that is specifically made for float and fly fishing, which holds a small spinning reel spooled with light fluorocarbon line. Put a small crappie jig or buy some “flies” made specifically for this fishing like a SPRO Phat Fly. Tie on your “fly” and add the bobber 5-7 feet above it.

Make a long cast up close to the drop-off and engage your rod and just allow the jig and bobber to stay in place. Then, just wait until the bobber drops or starts to move. This method takes great patience, but you may be rewarded with some great action when other angers struggle.

Striper fishing has been good most days with a couple slower days thrown in to confuse and humble even the best anglers. Being a fishing guide is a lot of work. Fishing is fishing and fish change from day to day and even hour to hour. Just because a guide does not load the boat does not mean they are doing anything wrong. Watch a guide carefully and they will teach you many things even on the slowest of days.

It is the same for all anglers. Many of us have been humbled, especially when we have been “gill raking them” one day, then we brag to our friends to join us on the next day, only to duplicate the same things on the next day without getting a bite. Fish can deflate an anglers’ egos quickly no matter if you fish twice each year or more than 300 days a year.

The good news is that most anglers are reported that the fishing is mostly good this week. The striper anglers are having some good action with both live bait, and a few are also doing well trolling or casting to fish they see on the surface.

Down lined trout or herring have been working well from the creek mouths on halfway into the creeks. The fish have been hanging out from 30 feet all the way up to the surface. Keep a couple of down lines and also a couple flat lines out and let the fish strikes dictate where you fish. Troll an Umbrella Rig at around 1.5-2 miles an hour and use a rig that covers the water between 15 and 25 feet deep. Keep a SPRO bucktail or a larger Fish Head Spin with a fluke trailer ready to cast at fish you see on the surface.

I usually give detailed descriptions on several techniques, but let’s simplify things this week. You don’t have to own a bass boat or center console with a thousand dollars or more in electronics to catch these hard fighting fish.

You can fish from a ski boat, large cabin cruiser or even a house boat and do well. Get a decent-sized cooler that you can attach one of those battery operated aerators to and you should be able to keep a dozen medium-sized trout alive for a day on the water.

Take a standard bait caster or heavy spinning outfit and make sure you have some good line attached. If you have not changed your line for a few years, then it is time to change it out. String your rods with 12-14-pound test Sunline or other brand of monofilament. Make sure you get a line in a greenish, brownish or clear color. Simply attach a trout on a #2 to #4 Gamakatsu Octopus hook and you are ready to fish.

Drive around until you find an area where you see seagulls diving or excited loons that surface or diving and you will probably be in the right area. Shut off the big motor and pay attention to the direction which your boat drifts.

Take out a trout and hook it through the nose and cast it out. If there is no wind, then cast a trout out back. If you have two poles ready, cast your bait out on each side of the boat. If the wind is blowing, then cast your lines out on the side where the wind is blowing.

As the boat drifts, your trout will move along slowly, which allows you to cover water. Secure your rods well. Some boats may not have rod holders, so either buy some before you go or look over your boat to find something that will hold a rod securely. I stress the word “securely” because I have had a big striper break my rods’ reel seat and have seen other anglers rods yanked off the boat and pulled off the bank into the water.

Even a small striper can steel your rod if it’s not in a secure place. It is a shame when you finally have a big fish on and to lose your rod on top of that is absolutely no fun!

Crappie: I have heard a few crappie reports and some anglers are catching them. I can also see the telltale signs from my Down Imaging and Side Imaging on my Humminbird electronics that show some big schools of crappie grouped up in brush from 20-30 feet deep. These schools are very tight to cover. This stresses that anglers should pay close attention to where and how deep their bites are occurring.

If you catch one crappie, then do not leave that area until you have dissected each branch or piece of cover that the one fish came from. Years ago a man named Keith Pace taught me how to fish for crappie both in the heat of summer and some of the coldest days of winter. He would work a crappie jig or one of his Micro Spoons deep over every tree or brush limb before moving, and that remains the case, especially with the weather we have had recently.

Work a 1/16th or 1/32nd crappie jig on the lightest line possible. Allow time for your jig to hit bottom and work it slowly through any brush you feel. If you are in the right place, you will lose some jigs, but you should also snag a few tasty slabs too!

Trout fishing is good and we are blessed with one of the best rivers in the south for catching trout right in our back yards. The Chattahoochee has a great population of trout from where it starts up in the mountains near Helen on down to where it warms up too much above Lake Lanier. Then the river gets cold enough again below Buford Dam on down below Morgan Falls and on down into Atlanta.

I have fished every foot of this river and have caught trout over 20 inches inside the 285 in Atlanta. You can catch trout year round with any of your favorite flies or light spinning tackle. Wet Flies (sinking) or small inline spinners or small crank baits will all work in this stretch of the river. Live bait is also allowed along certain stretches. Sop worms, corn or Power Nuggets are all OK, but check to see where before you head out.

Bank Fishing: While anglers fish the waters of Lake Lanier, fishing from the banks may be more suited to hardcore anglers that know how to fish for stripers and bass. Because of this, let’s talk about some easier places to try. Many people live in subdivisions that have small ponds.

Some of the best fishing can occur on the small bodies of water, and if you combine that with an area that is right down the block, then you have a great resource for the kids and even Mom and Dad to explore and expand on the sport of fishing.

There are also some parks and farm ponds (if you have permission, of course). On these ponds the water temperatures make the fish a little lethargic, but they also warm up much quicker on sunny days.

If you prefer to fish plastic worms or other lures like crank baits or spinner baits, then you may just have to slow down your retrieve to get a bite. Take these lures and/or dig up some worms or buy some crickets and you are ready to go!

Because you may be close to home, it makes it easier if Dad and Mom or the kids can go home if they get bored while the other anglers can stay if they prefer. A lot of us grew up fishing these small ponds, and the fishing can be so good that the bigger lakes will be harder to get to know.

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 esaldrich@yahoo.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.

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