Lake Lanier’s water level has risen again and is at 1069.92 or 1.8 feet below full pool of 1071. Water surface temperatures have dropped into the upper 40s. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and is stained in the rivers and creeks.
The Chattahoochee River is slightly stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: With this week’s extreme cold, many anglers will stay home where they can huddle up around the fire with a warm cup of soup.
Besides, we all know the fish don’t bite in the extreme cold. Right? Actually, that’s wrong. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t stop eating when it’s cold.
It may be good to look at how humans react to these extremes and relate that to our finned friends. Fish also huddle up but instead of soup they will be feasting on shad, herring and crawdads.
With temperatures in the low teens, you can bet that the weather will affect fish. Cold temperatures push the bass out away from the banks into deep water from 35 to as much as 60 feet or sometimes deeper. There can also be a shad die off that provides an easy meal for the bass. These dying shad will flutter down to the bottom to provide an easy meal without having to expending a bass’s energy. There is one lure that works best when the shad die off – the old reliable jigging spoon.
Jigging spoon fishing is relatively easy, and because bass get grouped up so tight, the action can be non-stop. The hardest thing is finding areas that hold fish. You will also need a high quality fish finder with GPS to locate and stay over the schools of fish.
At times, the bass may be so tight to the bottom, you may not even see them on your graph. If you find a prime area like a timberline or ditch that looks good, make a couple of drops and the fish may show themselves. If not, move on to a new location.
It is best to match the size of the shad with the size of spoon in your tackle box. You can usually find some dead or dying shad on the surface, but if you don’t, a half-ounce Hopkins or Flex-It spoon in silver or white is a good place to start.
Fishing spoons is a vertical presentation. Just drop the spoon until it hits the bottom, then pop it up and let it flutter down and repeat. Keep an eye on your graph as it will show the spoon and any active fish that are drawn to it.
If using a jigging spoon is not your preference, you can also fish jigs, worms or a drop shot rig. Find rocky steep bluff walls or submerged ditches and stair step your jig or worm down the drops.
Striper fishing has been good some days and fair on others. The same patterns that have been working continue to produce this week. The cold spell may change things a little, but stripers are accustomed to cold water, so they can be surprisingly active on even to coldest days.
There has been one consistent thing this week: When it has been sunny out, the stripers have tended to be deeper towards the mouths of the creek. When it has been overcast, they have been coming up into the coves both in the creeks and around main lake.
The seagulls, loons and even the smaller king fishers are all swimming and flying around with one goal – to eat as many bait fish as they can find. You can bet when you see these aquatic birds that stripers and bass will be included in the mix.
Stripers will sometimes be right up in the middle of this activity, but a lot of times they will hang out below the birds and wait for an easy meal of wounded shad or herring.
If you can launch a SPRO Buck Tail Jig, McStick or a spoon to where you see fish rolling, you will probably end up hooking a few. Alternate between a slow and a sporadic retrieve and let the fish tell you which they prefer.
Because of the varying depths and locations, many methods are working well. Trolling umbrella rigs, casting jigs or jerk baits to schooling fish and flat or down lining live bait all have merit. It pays to have several options ready for the changing conditions.
There are a lot of stripers working in the creek mouths and these fish seem to be more keyed in on herring down deeper in around 30 to 50 feet. Use a down line and hook your herring or also try some medium-sized trout through the lips with a 3/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. I have found that trout will stay lively longer, whereas you may need to replace the herring more often.
Crappie: The crappie fishing is slow but if you can find them, you may literally have over a hundred fish schooled up in one small area. Side Imaging has really made a difference in how anglers can locate fish. Run into the creeks where the bottom depth is around 20-30 feet.
Set your side imaging to 40 feet, turn up the sensitivity and run your boat slowly, and you may be able to see the harder returns around timber and brush. You can literally lay a way point directly where you see the fish.
Return to that new way, point and drop a crappie jig or minnow with a split shot down to where you mark fish, then crawl your jig or minnow extremely slowly until you get a bite. This type of fishing is rather technical, but may reward you with a secret place that nobody else fishes.
Trout are another fish that do not mind the cold. In fact, trout often spawn in late fall and early winter. Plus, you may have some of the best creeks in Georgia all to yourself when it’s cold. Fish with wet flies and light spinning gear, but downsize your offerings.
A hellgrammite imitator is a good wet fly to try. If you prefer to spin fish, then try casting a No. 5 Rapala Countdown minnow up stream and work it like a jerk bait with a stop and go retrieve.
Bank Fishing: There is one fish that most people never see and it is one of the best eating fish you will ever catch – the walleye. Walleyes are mostly a northern fish but in recent years the DNR has been stocking them in several North Georgia lakes, including Lake Lanier.
These tasty fish are more prevalent up lake, and they love cold water. Walleye will stay more active than almost any other species. Walleyes will eat the same things that crappie and bass do and live bait is at the top of the list.
Find an area where the lake narrows down that is near deep water and cast out a light weight Carolina Rig with a No. 1 Gamakatsu hook rigged with either a night crawler or medium sized minnow.
Make sure to secure your rod. You can also cast small deep running crank or jerk baits while watching your live rig. You will probably catch other fish like bass, stripers and catfish, but when you catch a walleye make sure to keep them for an awesome meal.
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.