Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.75 feet, or 0.25 feet below a full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake surface temperatures have risen again and are in the low 50s. The lake is clear on main lake and in the mouths of the creeks, and stained to almost muddy in the backs of the creeks and up in the rivers. The Chattahoochee River is clear to slightly stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out on the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: The water temperatures have risen into the low 50s and the bass fishing has picked up a little which many anglers are happy to hear. The late winter bite has been tough and bass fishing has still been a bit of a challenge, but the good news is that better fishing is right around the corner and the bass are biting better this week.
The bass are still deep in the mornings, as they relate to steep rocky banks and the inside timberlines that are located close to the ditches of creek and river channels. Start your days fishing deeper with a drop shot, shaky head, jig or even a deep-diving crank bait. A DD22 or a SPRO Little John DD will run from 15-20 feet in optimal casting conditions, and these will attract some bites from the active fish before the sun gets overhead. You can crank all day long and you may not get as many bites, but the fish you catch will tend to be bigger ones. Use your electronics and fish jigs or finesse lures directly below the boat where you are marking fish in the 15- to 35-foot zone, or cast cranks baits in these same areas.
As the sun gets up, the bass have been moving shallower. On sunny afternoons, target the inflow areas midway into the creeks where the water is slightly stained. Stained water tends to heat up quicker than clear water. Slightly warmer water makes a big difference to the bass and the forage fish they eat. A small difference of 1-2 degrees is significant. On sunny afternoons you may find some fish shallower than you would expect in the stained water.
Fish a Scrounger or Pulse Jig Head with a Cane Thumper or Wayne Baits Trailer and fish them slowly around docks and areas close to the ditches. Allow these vibrating jigs to hit bottom and slow roll them through brush, stumps and rock. You will get snagged occasionally, but you will also catch some big spotted and largemouth bass.
Fishing shaky heads around both shallow and deeper docks has also worked well. A 1/8-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head or other brand of jig head equipped with a regular finesse worm will work well for skipping docks. Switch over to a heavier 1/4-ounce jig head with a Big Bites Flying Squirrel around deeper docks close dropoffs with rock.
Keep an open mind in late winter and early spring, because fishing conditions can change from day to day or even hour to hour. My Humminbird electronics are my eyes under the water. It can’t be stressed enough how important your electronics are for locating any species of fish or the baitfish they prey upon. Make sure to learn the features on your units. You can attend free classes at stores like Bass Pro Shops, and most of the local tackle shops have knowledgeable people to provide advice. Also consider hiring a professional guide for some on the water instruction. You electronics will make you a better angler.
Striper fishing has been good, and they have been biting both day and night. If you live near the lake, we have an awesome fishery where most anglers can work an 8- to 10-hour work day, still come home and go fishing and still get home in time to get a good night’s sleep.
I received a photo and story from a proud father, reader Bob Benson, showing a 40-pound striper that his son, Charles Benson, caught recently. She was a click over 40 pounds, 45.5 inches long and was released with anticipation of getting a Replica done. They caught stripers with threadfin shad and blueback herring that they caught with a cast net earlier in the day.
There are still plenty of gulls and loons that will give away the best locations to fish. There have been schools of threadfin herring in the pockets and in creeks, schools of blueback herring in the pockets and also out in the mouths of the pockets, as well as over deeper parts if the creeks. As mentioned above, conditions can change daily.
The stripers targeting threadfin shad have been staying put in the pockets for the better part of the morning. You can use a cast net to get threadfin and bluebacks or use store-bought trout, medium minnows or blueback herring on flatlines and planer boards. Use your trolling motor on a very slow speed, just fast enough to keep the lines tight. You can rig your baitfish on a Gamakatsu Circle or Octopus Hook through the lips for a more natural swimming presentation.
Some days the stripers will be out deeper and these deep fish seem to prefer larger baits. Watch your electronics and use blueback herring, trout or even native gizzard shad, and set your lines to the depth that you mark fish.
You may find that flatlines are working well even over deeper water when the stripers are shallow in the water column, or you may need to drop weighted downlines to the level where you mark fish. Remember to use lively bait and switch it out often as needed. Not many anglers do this in fresh water, but you can cut up your dead baitfish and chum an area to attract stripers and other predator fish.
The stripers have been eating Bomber Long A and McStick 110 or 115 jerk baits in the backs of some of the lower lake creeks and even around the dam. This action will continue to get better as spring approaches.
Crappie fishing is on fire for the anglers that can find the large schools of prespawn fish. These crappie are fat and healthy, and they are one of the best eating fish. Use your electronics and find the large schools of fish around shallower bridges that are back in the creeks and also in the pockets around docks with brush pile.
I use the side imaging feature on my Humminbird 998c and I can see schools of fish that are not directly under the boat. In 30 feet of water, set the side imaging distance to 60 feet and you will be covering a 120 foot-wide area, which will greatly cut down on time spent locating fish.
Cast or troll small jigs on very light line or shoot small jigs up under and around docks. The crappie are not quit shallow enough in the past week to catch them with a minnow under a float, but I bet this action is starting to heat up somewhere on the lake,
Trout: The Department of Natural Resources is starting to beef up their stocking efforts, so trout fishing is getting better. Here is a great way to find some of the best water to fish-Get in touch with the DNR and volunteer to help them release stocked trout. See www.gadnr.org for contacts to find out more information.
Trout are biting very well in the mountain streams, and the bite on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is also picking up. If you fish below the dam, please check for generation schedules. Wet flies with a strike indicator are working well in the rapids. The old reliable inline small Rooster Tail and Mepps Spinners will always work on spin tackle. Earthworms on a weighted line have been working very well where live bait fishing is permitted.
Bank Fishing: Shore-bound anglers should be able to start catching some good fish on Lake Lanier. Fish around the bridges and also in the local parks. One method will out-produce all others in late winter as spring approaches: A live minnow under a bobber. You can purchase a minnow bucket that has hole to let fresh lake water keep your bait alive and a door equipped with a spring to keep your bait from escaping.
Use crappie minnows or medium-sized minnows and hook them through the lips or under the dorsal fin, and cast them out to any cover you can see. Brush piles, trees laying in the water or even rock banks. Fish an area for 30-45 minutes and move if you are not catching any fish. If you locate some fish that are biting, don’t leave because the fish are schooled up this time of year.
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.