Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,067.15 feet, or 3.85 feet below full pool of 1,071. Water surface temperature are dropping into the mid 50s and surface temperatures can rise and fall significantly based on weather patterns. Lake Lanier is clear to stained on main lake and clear to stained in the rivers and creeks.
The Chattahoochee River is stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading out to the river.
Bass: The leaves are quickly being blown of the trees, but there are still some beautiful colors showing through. With the weather that is forecast for this weekend, most normal folks may prefer to stay home, sitting in their easy chairs and watching the game.
Then there are the hardcore anglers that will be on the water fishing for the bass that they know continue to feed up for winter. The colder weather definably affects anglers more than fish.
Lake Lanier’s spotted bass are still in full feeding mode. There will most likely still be some topwater action even with the crazy cold weather. Look for this action to occur first thing in the morning and later in the day. Cats Zara Spooks, SPRO McSticks, buck tails or even a Rooster Tail to any schooling fish you witness. The schooling will be more hit and miss, but I have caught spotted bass on Lake Lanier in water temperatures below 50.
The bass are showing signs of moving deeper and we have started to see some pretty large groups of fish in the 30 to 45 foot range. If you look down and see wavy lines overlapping on the screen of your fish finder, this is usually an indicator of predator species like bass and stripers.
These fish can be caught with jigging spoons, drop shot rigs and the old reliable jig. Drop a Hopkins Spoon to the bottom, reel it up a crank or two and work it with a hopping action. This spoon gets jerked up quickly, then it falls slightly slower, which mimics an injured shad. Most of your spoons bites will come on the fall. When the bass are schooled up this thick, you can literally load the boat and catch one on almost every cast.
If you can’t find them schooled up thick in the deep stuff, search out steeper banks and work a jig, Texas Rig or try cranking a deep running crank bait like a SPRO Little John DD down the dropoffs. Try to keep your lures on the bottom and vary your speed until you start getting bites.
Live bait continues to catch some of the biggest bass, but most are being caught by anglers that are targeting stripers.
You can also take a live nightcrawler and thread it onto a Jig head and drop it down around the docks for some decent spotted and largemouth bass.
Striper fishing continues to be good and the fish are moving a little deeper into the creeks and rivers. We used to start moving up-river when the cold front blew in and there are some good fish moving in the area around Gainesville Marina and Holly Park.
Right now I keep my eyes peeled for three types of birds: loons, gulls and my Humminbird fish finders.
The loons and gulls eat the same forage that stripers do so if they are in the area you can bet the stripers will also be close. Sometimes you can see gulls diving in an area the size of the front deck of a bass boat. Loons will corral the baitfish like this stripers do, too.
Cast a small spoon or SPRO Buck Tail right into the middle of this action and hold on. If the stripers are there they will usually eat the spoon on the drop.
I have heard some anglers that get excited to see birds diving only to say “Darn, they are only loons!” This is a big mistake. If the birds are there, then often the stripers are feeding below. If you prefer to fish live bait, still keep a lure tied on so that you can cast quickly into any surface action that appears.
Stripers will eat a variety of live bait and they are opportunistic. If you get a live baitfish in front of them, they will bite.
Many die-hard anglers will only use live bait that they have netted that same day. These anglers are out at dawn to net up herring, Gizzard Shad and Threadfins and no one can argue that native fish work well.
A cast net can save you some money in the long haul, but it is nice not to have to rely on this. Most local stores carry a variety of trout, bluebacks and various sizes of minnows and almost all of them will lead you in the right direction.
I have always tried to keep two types of bait and let the fish tell me which work best. Day in and day out you can’t go wrong with blueback herring and trout. Just make sure that you have the means to keep them lively all day.
The colder weather makes that easy. Hook your bait through the lips and either set them out on a weighted down line or an unweighted flat line. Use your electronics to tell you how deep to feed. It is always best to present your bait slightly higher than it is to set it below the stripers.
Some guides are catching 10 or more stripers per day right now with Umbrella Rigs. These multi-armed rigs present several lures at the same time, which resembles a school of baitfish.
Check in with your local shop and they can tell you the best way to present them. You can buy a semi lightweight umbrella rig and outfit it with buck tails, then fish it on lead core. Lead core allows you to adjust the depth and you do so based on how many colors you let out.
Right now 7 to 8 colors at a speed of 2 miles per hour is a good start. Let out more line to get your rigs deeper, or less to bring them closer to the surface. Use your electronics and base your depth on where the stripers appear on the screen.
The stripers are eating Bombers after dark, but the weekend temperatures may slow this action and keep some anglers inside. We usually get a flurry or action after the cold spell, but this bite may be waning.
Crappie: Trolling small jigs is still working, especially in the rivers and the backs of the creeks. The crappie are fat and healthy and continue to feed before winter. There are also some fish relating to brush around and under docks. These fish can be caught by downlining live crappie minnows or working small jigs in and through the brush.
Trout fishing is slower below Buford Dam, but it is good in the mountain streams. Many streams have plenty of holdover trout, just make sure the waters you fish are listed as year round fisheries.
Some of the streams in North Georgia just get better and better and some of the trophy steams may yield the biggest trout of the year in late fall and winter. This is because most trout spawn in fall.
Live bait like nightcrawlers or salmon eggs are very good choices right now. Just make sure that the waters you fish allow live bait. A minnow imitator like a Rapala or Yo-Suri Minnow is also great. Fly Anglers can use a variety of egg imitators or choose between wet flies and dry flies based on the waters they fish.
Bank Fishing: We are starting to see anglers setting out their fishing poles for stripers. Many areas on Lake Lanier offer good bank fishing for stripers. Mary Alice Park, the Dam, 6-Mile, Vanns Tavern, River Forks, Holly Park and on and on.
No matter where you choose to fish, make sure you come equipped with quality reels and line and a very good rod holder. Catching stripers from the bank takes skill and patience and nothing will break an angler’s heart more than to lose a big stripers due to old line or a rod that is not secured properly. Use at least 12-pound test and buy or make a secure rod holder.
There are some great ones on the market, but if all else fails you can make your own from PVC pipe that you pound into the clay banks.
Use live trout or gizzard shad and rig these on either a bottom rig (basically a Carolina rig) or use a slip bobber and set up and a bank where you have the wind at you back.
This will allow you to get your lure way off the bank. Set your slip bobber to 10 to 15 feet and get ready to catch one!