Like the weather, water temperatures this past week been unseasonably cool and are hovering in the low to mid 60s. Lake Lanier is 2.57 feet above a full pool of 1,071 feet. The water is clear to stained on main lake and stained to very stained in the creeks and rivers.
The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.
Bass: This has been a crazy year for bass fishing due to the cold weather and heavy rains. Different patterns are working than what is normal for this time of year.
The unseasonably cool weather has kept the water temperatures five to 10 degrees below normal. Usually by mid-May most of the bass are in the process of recuperating after completing the spawn. By comparison, this year many of the bass are just now spawning or still in a prespawn mode.
This has made for some interesting fishing and most anglers are struggling during what is historically one of the best times of the year to fish. Keeping an open mind and remaining versatile is the key to catching a good limit of spotted or largemouth bass this week.
We continue to catch bass with many different techniques and lures but have struggled to catch the numbers of fish that were biting so well three weeks ago.
The best results seem to be coming from fishing a combination of main lake patterns as well as docks and flooded brush in the creeks and pockets.
Cast mid- to deep-diving crank baits in shad patterns around rock and clay banks both on main lake and also leading into the spawning coves.
Use a slow and steady retrieve and try to get your crank baits to deflect off bottom cover. The majority of the fish will strike when your lure changes direction or deflects off of submerged objects.
Fishing with finesse worms on a light shaky head or small jigs with a craw trailer will work well around docks or flooded brush lines. Many of these fish are either getting ready to spawn, are spawning or are protecting their newly hatched fry.
They will attack anything that gets near their nests or babies. Sight fishing can be a fun way to catch these nesting fish, but the higher than normal water levels and flooded brush have made it more challenging to see these shallow bass this year.
We have started to catch some healthy post spawn fish on main lake with jerk baits, flukes and top water plugs. The bass that have spawned will relocate just outside the spawning coves and over main lake points and humps with brush as they feed and recover.
Night fishing has been hit or miss, but look for this action to improve greatly as the water and weather temperatures warm up.
Striper fishing has only seemed to improve with the unseasonably cool weather, but the techniques this week are more similar to how we fish in early spring. Usually by the beginning of May, we are seeing some awesome top water action but that has yet to materialize much so far, even though a few flurries of surfacing stripers may be seen here and there.
That could change any day now as the weather warms and the blueback herring spawn gets going into full swing, but for now live herring or shad on flat lines are the best choice for catching both size and numbers of stripers.
The most productive locations for catching stripers vary this week from back in the creeks and rivers, main lake pockets and on out into the creek mouths and main lake. Submerged humps, both in the creeks and also out on main lake are historically good areas to target. Herring spawn on sandy and clay areas on humps, points and on saddle areas in between islands.
Your electronics are essential tools, and finding the blue back herring schools are the key to locating active stripers. I mention this frequently but Side Imaging really speeds up the learning curve for locating bait fish and predators that target them.
Baitfish schools appear as clouds or even clusters of small dots and you can usually see the larger predator fish that relate to these same schools.
You can actually create a way point that will not only show you exactly where these fish are positioned to the left or right of your boat, but you can use that same way point to tell you the exact depth where you place the mark on your screen.
Many non-anglers think that this is cheating, but you will still have to coax these fish into biting. I can assure you that this is easier said than done.
Flat lines are the easiest and most effective way to present a herring right now. Take a Gamakatsu Octopus or circle hook and run it through the lips of your live herring.
Then feed the line directly out behind your boat anywhere from 50 to 150 feet behind the boat. If the stripers are shallow in the water column, you don’t need any weight.
But depending on how deep they are you may choose to add a split shot to get your herring to swim deeper, or even switching to a down line with a heavier weight and fish them directly below the boat. Stripers tend to be shallower early in the day and then they tend to move a little deeper as the sun rises.
Keep a top water plug or a SPRO Buck Tail Jig ready in case you do encounter schooling fish on the surface. Once water temperatures reach the low 70s, be prepared to keep your Redfins, Swim baits and Super Spooks ready all day long and hit the creek mouth and main lake humps and points for some awesome top water action. Stripers attacking a surface plug can make a commotion that is often described as someone throwing a cinder block into the water.
A warning to all anglers: this action can be extremely addictive.
Crappie fishing is usually slowing down in May, but this year they continue to bite pretty well in the shallow coves. A minnow fished a foot or two below a bobber has still been working well around docks, brush piles and laydowns.
Look for these fish to move out around the bridge pilings and deeper-lighted boat docks after dark.
Trout: The bite may be slower when water levels are high or muddy after heavy rains, but trout fishing has returned to be very good when the rain runoff subsides. While the rain runoff can affect the bite, it does not hurt the trout at all.
In fact, the rains have helped the fish population by keeping oxygen levels very healthy.
The creeks up in the Wildlife Management Areas are flowing, and catching has been good on both artificial and natural bait (where permitted by law).
Rooster Tails, Rapalas and dry flies have all been producing well this past week on the river below Buford Dam and up in the mountain WMAs.
Bank Fishing: The lakes, rivers and streams are all full from recent rains. Try fishing shallower when the water is high, because fish tend to move up when water levels increase and then move out deeper when the water levels drop. Flooded bank growth is a great place to target largemouth bass, but it can be difficult to cast a lure with hooks through this thick stuff.
Weedless lures like Texas Rigged Worms, SPRO Top Water Frogs, trick worms or a jerk shad are all good choices. With soft plastics, make sure to bury the hook point into the worm to reduce snags.
Fish these lures on a braided line to enable you to pull bass quickly from this flooded cover.
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.