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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fall signals changes
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Water Conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level has dropped slightly for normal drawdown and is at 1,067.91 feet, or 3.09 feet below full pool of 1,071. Water temperatures are in the mid 70s. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and stained in the rivers and creeks.

The lake is starting to show some small signs of turnover. The Chattahoochee River is slightly stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules at (770) 945-1466 before heading out to the river.

I want to give a big shout-out to Lee Dodgen of HD Marine for putting on another great tournament at Laurel Park last week. This event raised $48,000 for Camp Sunshine, a camp for kids with cancer. Lee has organized this event every years since 1996. He and the many sponsors, including some of mine who donated to this event, and the huge team of volunteers who helped all deserve praise!

Bass fishing is changing as the temperatures drop and the days shorten with the onset of fall. Traditional fall is the time we humans harvest crops, can and preserve vegetables and meats, gather wood and prepare for the eventual cold days of winter.

It’s a little less complicated for bass, because all they think about right now is eating as much as possible to fill their bellies and store as much food as their bodies can hold. These fish are schooling both on the surface and below so many methods are producing fish.

If you sit back and take an assessment of what happens to a large reservoir in fall (and spring) it seems very complex.

The lake goes through a process of turnover, or lake stratification. These terms basically say that the defined warmer layer on top of the lower cold layer also begins to cool. Because of this, the layers start to fall apart and intermingle.

You can understand the thermocline if you have ever jumped into the lake and gone down deep enough to feel colder water.

In summer these different water temperature layers mean a lot to fish, and the bait fish they eat seem to congregate right above or right below the thermocline, making it easier for anglers to target them at the proper depths. When those same layers of water start to fall apart, it enables the fish to swim just about anywhere, which can make a feast or famine type day for anglers.

The good news is that thermocline is not going on everywhere right now, and anglers can choose their favorite method and probably catch fish.

The best thing an angler can do this time of year is to be ready and efficient with a variety of lures. Getting efficient with a lure or technique takes practice, but there is no better time to learn a lure than your next bass fishing trip. If you never throw a jerk bait but own a few, try casting them to schooling fish that would normally bite your topwater plug. A lot of fish are schooling, and a jerk bait is an excellent herring imitator.

Same goes with a deep-diving crank bait. If you and your fishing partner catch bass in 10 feet of water on worms, tie on a deep-diving crank bait that dives a little deeper than the depth you are fishing and work it through the same area. You may just catch the biggest bass in the area. Being versatile also helps you fish different parts of the lake. If fish are schooling on the surface, you probably shouldn’t throw a deep diving crank bait. If fish are relating heavily to the bottom, then a topwater may not work. There are always exceptions, but try to learn something new that you can retain and use for the rest of your life.

We have had a few tough days for catching big fish and some banner days, too. We have not had a day when we have gotten skunked, so there are a lot of fish available to be caught this week.

The lures that have worked while casting from my Nitro Z8 Bass Boat have mostly been caught out on main lake and partially back into the creeks below Browns Bridge. We have been using a large Sammy or SPRO McStick for schooling bass and have also kept a drop shot rigged Big Bite Shakin and Squirrel on a medium weight Kissel Kraft drop shot rod to catch the fish we see on my electronics.

We have also caught several bass on deep diving crank baits and the SPRO little John Baby DD and regular DD have been working well when fish quit schooling.

There has been a good report of the largemouth biting up-lake. Start your day with an all-white Lunker Lure Buzz Bait and don’t put it down until the bass stop hitting or the sun gets up over the hills. Throw a Jig N’ Pig or 7-inch Texas Rigged worm around docks or bank cover in the backs of the creeks.

After sunset, the spotted bass fishing remains good for both numbers and sizes. Continue to use a SPRO Fat Papa 70 or Little John MD and fish rocky banks both in the creeks and out on main lake. The most important thing is to target rocky areas and make contact with the bottom as much as possible.

Striper fishing has been off and on, but you can bet they are always biting something somewhere on Lake Lanier.

There are some rumblings that the stripers have started to appear in schools on the surface. I have been out a good deal and have caught a few small fish on topwater plugs like a Sammy or Zara Spook, but the big quarter-acre-sized schools are probably only one cold weather snap away.

And the weather is supposed to get very cool this weekend. For topwater fishing for stripers, I keep three lures at the ready and only one is a topwater plug. A Red Fin topwater plug for v-waking slowly on the surface, a SPRO McStick that swims about 3-4 feet down and a SPRO Buck Tail with a Wayne’s Bait Wild Goby trailer which can be worked high or low in the water column. When the big fish appear regularly, the boats will show up and follow and pandemonium will occur. We lovingly refer to this as “combat fishing.” It’s not here yet but get ready!

We have also seen some big fish showing up that anglers are catching on native gizzard shad and bluebacks, and there is also an OK bite for numbers when you locate a willing school. Because many of the stripers are moving up in the water column, these fish may strike a flat line, which is a free lined hook, baitfish and no weight. The majority of stripers are still a little deeper during the day and a down line set out to 30 or 40 feet deep may be the ticker for the fish. Use the liveliest live bait possible, whether you net your own or if you purchase from a reputable dealer.

The Bomber Long A fall night-time action is also getting close. The better fishing usually occurs on nights with less light from the moon. Tie on a Bomber Long A or Red Fin and fish the Islands below Browns Bridge. Anglers that find this bite early in the season will enjoy almost no other boats.

Crappie fishing should get better, but it remains pretty tough for all but the best “perch jerkers.”

Jigs fished slowly down around brush and wood cover is working best for catching them. Docks near deep water with brush piles will hold some decent schools, but you must work your jigs through the branches to coax a bite.

After dark and very early in the morning there have been some fish coming up shallow that will hit a minnow under a float and the upper river regions are better for this action. If a dock has brush, lights and a channel close by, it should hold some crappie.

Trout fishing remains good in North Georgia and this upcoming weekend’s cold front will only trigger these fish in fast clear water into action, Use both both dry and wet flies, but try to match the hatch. If you have a good eye and the proper size fly, you should be able to see fish rising on the surface all day long. A well-presented dry fly will coax these fish into biting.

The Chattahoochee River and other tail race fisheries may be experiencing a lull, but the fish are present. When lakes begin their turnover, as mentioned in the bass report, the water that runs through the dam takes on a greenish tint or even pea green soup color during the middle of lake turnover and this does two things to the trout.

The first seems easy, the fish cannot see as well, so you have to land a lure or bait directly in front of them. Second, the water has less oxygen and that makes the fish less active. The good news is the fish are there and they are catchable.

Bank Fishing: Bank anglers are starting to show up with the beautiful weather and this is a time when you can pick your favorite species and your favorite lures and catch a few to show off in a selfie. I can never get the angle right for a shot but if you can all the better.

Bass and brim will hit a Rooster Tail. Crappie and even stripers will eat smaller minnows fished on a floating cork with the depth set to 15 feet. Catfish and the occasional stripers will bite chicken livers or cut bait fished on the bottom near banks that have a channel swing nearby. Pick the species and method and get out and enjoy the beautiful weather!

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 esaldrich@yahoo.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.

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