Water temperatures are around 50 degrees, but look for the water to warm with next week’s forecast. The lake level is up again and is at 1,067.38 feet or 3.62 feet below a full pool of 1,071. The main lake water is clear down lake and stained up lake. The lower lake creeks are clear in the mouths and stained in the backs and the upper lake creeks. The rivers are very stained. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear.
Bass fishing is improving and the warmer weather forecasted weather should bring the fish in shallower. One major factor influences fish in spring: Water temperature. Most of today’s electronics have a temperature gauge and I keep a sharp eye on my Humminbird 998c to find the warmest water available. The creeks and pockets will heat up the quickest. If the water in these areas has some color or stain to it, then it will warm faster than the clearer main-lake water.
There has been a decent shallow water bite in the mornings and it can last all day long. The bass are following baitfish into the pockets and creeks as they feed up for the spawn. I have been using three lures to fool the shallow fish: A crankbait, a jerkbait and a shaky-head worm. Other lures like a Fish Head Spin or a Scrounger will also work well in these same areas.
Target pockets that have shallow flats with a deep ditch close by. When the water temperature rises to around 50 degrees, you will want to target docks or clay banks that have a channel swing running next to them. Use a medium running crankbait or a jerkbait or hop a worm down the drops.
As the water warms, the fish will move up onto the flats and suspend around the black-dock floats or other cover like stumps or laydowns. In early spring, the first docks leading into a cove can hold an entire school of fish. I like to cast a SPRO McStick beside the dock floats to entice these prespawn fish to bite. Some days the bass will prefer a jerk and pause retrieve and on others you can just reel these lures slow and steady.
If fish don’t bite moving lures, then switch over to a shaky head rigged with finesse or other type of soft plastic worm. Cast or skip these lures around docks. Bass will often bite a shaky-head worm on the fall, so watch your line closely. When you engage your reel, check closely and set the hook if you feel a tap or resistance. My shaky head rig consists or a ¬-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head with a Big Bites Finesse worm or Cane Stick cast on light 6-to 8-pound Sunline Fluorocarbon on a medium weight spinning outfit. Always be courteous to landowners when fishing their docks.
If the shallow bite is unproductive, don’t be afraid to move out deep and try some of the later winter patterns. Not all of the bass move up at once, so there are still plenty of bass out deep in the ditches, creek channels, timber lines and steep bluff walls.
Striper fishing remains good for anglers who are willing to adapt. The stripers are relating to baitfish and they seem to be shallow in the water column, but not necessarily always in shallow water. Start your mornings dragging flat lines and planner boards around in the creeks and pockets. Blueback herring and smaller trout seem to be the best choice for catching numbers of fish, but don’t be afraid to put a line out with a big trout or even a native gizzard shad to entice a bite from a trophy striper.
On overcast days, the stripers will stay shallow in the pockets. On sunny days it may pay off to get into the mouths of the shallow pockets or out into the creek and river channels. Often you will encounter birds diving and fish swirling on the surface as they feed on schools of blueback herring or threadfin shad. The fish may only stay up for a minute, then disappear. Cast buck tails into the frenzy when fish are rolling on the surface. I use Side Imaging on my 998c unit to locate the schools again after they go down below the surface. This technology can really increase your catch rates by keeping your boat and baits positioned in the strike zone.
The night time Bomber Long A bite has been hit or miss, but it will get much better as the water warms into the lower to mid-50s. Cast McStick 115s, Bomber Long As or Redfins around the pockets and islands around the dam. You can also get some great night action in the back of the lower lake creeks.
Crappie fishing is very good and many anglers are reporting catching their limit of 30 fish per person in a few hours. There are a few methods that seem to be working best: Shooting docks, trolling crappie jigs or fishing live crappie minnows. All of these techniques are productive methods after you have located the fish.
Spider rigs or ‘lake raking’ is common terminology for trolling with multiple rods, while slowly moving your boat with the trolling motor. I like to run my Minn Kota Fortex on 30 percent power or at around 1 mph. You may need to set your trolling motor on a higher speed if wind is present. Standard marabou jigs or Hal Flies will work, but experiment with colors. You can also tip these same jig heads to increase your odds.
Trout fishing is good and a variety of methods are catching trout in the mountains and on the river below the dam. The water quality is very good and the rains will help the trout because it pumps oxygen and food into the creeks and rivers. There is a wealth of trout fishing information at www.gofishgeorgia.com
Small minnow imitators like a Countdown Rapala, Yo Suri Pins Minnow or other small cranbaits work very well for trout below Buford Dam and in the mountain streams. Small silver threadfin shad get washed through the dam during power generation and trout frequently target small baitfish.
Wet flies have been catching the majority of the trout for fly fishing anglers. There have been some afternoon insects hatched, so dry flies may work on warmer days.
Bank Fishing: Crappie fishing should greatly improve for anglers who roam the banks of Lake Lanier and other smaller local lakes. One of the easiest and most productive methods is to cast a crappie minnow on a small hook below a bobber. Set your hook 2-3 feet below a bobber and attach a small split shot a few inches above your hook to keep the minnow down under your float. Cast these around the shallow flats and docks in the backs of the creeks.
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.