As the new year approaches, Lake Lanier’s water level is at 1,067.70 or 3.30 feet below full pool of 1,071 and rising steadily at the time of this report from Christmas week’s heavy rains.
Water surface temperatures are right around 50 degrees. Lake Lanier is clear to stained on main lake and stained to muddy in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is moderately stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading out to the river.
Bass fishing continues to be fair to good for some and just flat-out fantastic for others. This has been a banner year for catching both spotted and largemouth bass.
I know as well as many anglers that you will find 95 percent of the bass in 5 percent of the water. Because of this, it takes some time and effort to find the best fishing areas and techniques. There is just no replacement for time spent on the water.
It sure would be great if we had that one fishing buddy that would say “Go here (insert GPS Coordinates) and fish this lure and you will catch the heck out of them!” then share this valuable information freely. Then all we would have to do is show up and load the boat. Very few anglers will tell you their best areas for fear that the word will get out and that area will get overfished.
That is one of the reasons I seldom give exact locations. Instead, my hopes are to provide some clues that will help anglers to find their own areas. Few things are more satisfying to anglers than to put together a pattern and area with big fish that they have found on their own.
Right now the largemouth are biting well in the backs of the creeks both up and down lake. With the recent rains, these areas may get blown out, so avoid areas that are very muddy from the recent hard rains. The water will clear up soon and the shallow fishing will improve. For now, start in the back of the creeks and head out deeper until you locate the area where the muddy rain run off meets the clearer lake water.
Fish the banks with laydowns and docks with a one half ounce jig in darker colors.
I use a Strike King Bitsy Bug with rattles in a dark green color with a Big Bites Yo Momma trailer.
I dip the claw of the Yo Momma in a red or orange JJ’s Magic. The rattles will attract the bass and the JJ’s Magic creates a scent trail and the dyed claws match the color of the local Craw Dads that bass eat on Lake Lanier.
This exact Jig and Trailer will work well for spotted bass both in the creeks and out on main lake.
Target areas with rocks and steep bluff walls. Bass relate to deep drop-offs, especially in winter. If you know where the bass are located, then there are a couple of things that will improve your odds.
If the bass are deep, you can get directly over to top of them and work a Jig, Drop Shot or Jigging Spoon with your electronics and “video game fish.” If the bass are up shallower, you can position your boat in about 15 to 25 feet and make diagonal casts to the bank with a deep diving crank bait like a SPRO Fat Papa, Jig or even a Carolina Rig. These two methods are intended to keep your lure directly in the strike zone.
Stripers: The striper fishing is also very good and they are being caught a few different methods. These reports probably sound like exact repeats, but that is because when the water temperatures start to level out the same methods will work well. This is a good thing because if anglers only get to fish one day a week or a couple of days a month then they can still put together a successful pattern.
Let’s start with something that does not get mentioned a lot: casting artificial lures. When you are in an area where you see stripers swirling on the surface or you see evidence of fish like diving birds or on your electronics, then catching stripers with artificial lures can be an awesome way to fish. Using lures is also a very satisfying way to catch stripers.
Some anglers consider fly fishing an art form. Anglers who fly fish have an advantage over live bait fishing as they can present an ultra-small streamer or Clowser Minnow to cast to stripers that are keyed into the massive schools of threadfin shad.
Other artificial lures can be cast to stripers on spinning and bait casting rods and reels. A quarter ounce on up to a one ounce buck tail is a great lure to use. You can cover any depth of water.
A one half ounce SPRO Buck tail in all white or Bunker color is a staple in my boat. Cast these to any stripers schooling on the surface and let it fall, then reel it slow and steady or impart a reel and pause retrieve.
Live bait anglers are still enjoying some great catching. Continue to use a flat lined live trout, herring or Gizzard shad behind the boat and use a planer board to get the bait out to the side of your boat and put a couple of down lines in the front rod holders too. Experienced anglers can easily run two flat lines, two planner boards and two down lines.
Some run even more! When you offer stripers several options and one works, then it will pay of to switch the other lines to increase your hookups.
Lastly but not least, the stripers are eating buck tails trolled on an umbrella rig.
Use a three- or four-armed umbrella rig with one quarter ounce SPRO Buck Tails. Start out troll these at 15-20 foot deep at 1.5 to 2 mph.
Crappie: The crappie are biting and like the bass they are both shallow and deep. Look for brush or timber from 10 to 50 feet deep. Work a small crappie jig on light line around and through the brush piles very slowly.
Try tipping your jigs with a small crappie minnow to increase your chances. The bites will be very light and often your rod will just feel mushy. Look around channel areas with brush or timber.
You can also make a down line rig by using an Aberdeen hook tied on with a quarter ounce split shot placed a foot or two up your line. Drop the minnow rig to the same areas mentioned above.
Trout: Jeff Durniak of the Department of Natural Resources tells me that one of Santa’s elves was busy over the Christmas holidays stocking trout on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam. These newly stocked trout are dumb and hungry, so you should have a great day fishing on the “hooch.” These trout will hit Rooster Tails, Rapalas, Live earth worms or corn (in the areas that permit live bait) and an assortment of dry and wet flies.
The fishing up in the mountains is also producing some trophy trout.
I saw one post of an angler who caught a trophy brown trout on a stone fly that he tied the night before.
The trout in the mountains are fat and healthy due to the abundance of rain. Fly fishing with terrestrial wet fly imitators is a great way to trick a trophy trout!
Bank Fishing: Fishing from the bank on Lake Lanier is still a good idea. Anglers who do not own a boat can still catch some great fish from the shore. Instead of just concentrating on stripers, bank anglers have the opportunity to catch a variety of fish.
Purchase some large minnows. Set these fish on a down rig, which is basically a Carolina rig. Use a 14-pound monofilament main line.
Place a one-ounce lead weight and a plastic bead on the main line.
Tie these to a swivel and a two-foot leader of 12-pound fluorocarbon tied with a Gamakatsu Octopus hook. Hook the shiner through the nose and cast your line out from a steeper bank and secure your rod. You will catch a variety of fish. Catfish, Stripers, Bass, Walleye and several other species.
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.