By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Fish fill their bellies as winter approaches
Placeholder Image

Water temperatures are in the mid-50’s. The lake level dropped less with this week’s rain and is right around 1,056.49 or 14.51 below a full pool of 1,071. The main lake water is clear and the creeks and rivers are slightly stained. The river below Buford dam is stained.

Bass: Temperatures cooled down a little this past week, but the long-term forecast indicates that we will still have warmer conditions than normal for this time of year.

This weather has helped to keep some bass shallow, but the majority of fish are moving deeper where they normally reside in the colder months.

We have caught bass all fall in the ditches from 20- to 30-feet deep. That bite remains strong, but it would be wise to target the deeper depths from 30- to 55- feet this next week.

Spotted bass on Lake Lanier gravitate to the underwater timberlines in winter, and we have already been catching them deep. This pattern will prevail all winter.

Fishing timberlines can be intimidating, but it will reward anglers with some fat spotted bass. Quality electronics are a must, and my Humminbird Down and Side Imaging feature makes deep fishing easier.

Look for areas in the coves that have depressions, ditches or creek channels and follow those out to where you mark the first submerged trees.

With a standard two-dimensional view fish finder, you can still find these same trees, but a well-tuned Side or Down Imaging allows you to see the actual fish and where they are positioned.

There are a few different techniques and lures to use when targeting deeper timber fish. I usually position my boat directly over the fish and drop jigging spoons or drop shot rigs to catch fish that are visible on my electronics.

These fish will show up as arcs or lines in the standard two-dimensional modes or white oval shapes with Down Imaging. Most quality electronics will allow anglers to see lures as they drop. It is not rare to watch the fish actually intersect the lure on your screen, which is a whole lot of fun.

You can also position your boat and cast to the timber. Work a jig head worm or a jig and pick around the timber.
Most of your bites will occur as the lure crests the top of limbs, or as it falls to the bottom. If you feel a tap or lose contact with your bait, then set the hook.

Deep fishing is not for everyone. Some spotted and largemouth bass often stay shallow in winter. Beating the banks or backing out and fishing drop-offs or ditches from 15- to 30-feet can be very productive.

SPRO McSticks or other jerk baits fished with a pause and retrieve will work well when fish are active.

Deeper running crank baits, like a Little John DD or Rapala DT-16 slowly retrieved along the bottom, can yield some big largemouth bass. You can never go wrong with worms or jigs around docks, rock and sunken brush.

Live bait makes fishing easier, especially when taking kids. Try a live minnow or even a night crawler on a jig head to coax bites when the fishing is slow.

Striper fishing is very good and the fish are biting on a variety of live baits and lures. Stripers move fast and their movements are directly influenced by the type of forage they eat. During the winter, stripers often move very shallow in search of prey, but they will not hesitate to chase baitfish deeper.

If you can figure out where the forage is, then that will greatly increase your odds of catching them. Your electronics are key tools to turn fishing into catching.

In the mornings and throughout the day, you may witness stripers swirling on the surface as they attack baitfish. The majority of them are targeting schools of smaller native threadfin shad.

The good news is that these large schools of threadfins tend to congregate and remain in an area for days or even weeks. You can often fish the same cove or creek for several trips.

The hard part is finding lures or live bait that are small enough to mimic this small forage. Fly fishing with smaller streamers or minnow imitators is a great technique.

A fly rod can present a much smaller streamer or minnow imitating lure than just any fishing outfit. Anglers who successfully fly fish for stripers are artists in my opinion.

You can’t go wrong with live bait. Day in and day out, it is the most successful option for stripers.

Flat or down lined blueback herring, trout, store bought shiners or gizzard shad will all work because stripers are opportunistic feeders.

Anglers who prefer artificial lures can have success casting small jerk baits, Rooster Tails or bucktail jigs.

These lures can be presented successfully on medium-weight spinning tackle, but you will definitely have a fight on your hands.

Many anglers have landed stripers over 20 pounds on very light line, but it takes some skill and luck to land these hard-fighting fish.

When using heavier bait casting rods, there is one technique that has really gotten a lot of attention this year: Casting an Alabama Rig on a heavy-bait casting rod.

An Alabama rig is essentially just the same as an umbrella rig, and it imitates a school of baitfish very well.

You can use SPRO Buck Tails, curly tail jigs or small swim baits on these multilure rigs, or by themselves without the multi-rigs with surprisingly consistent success.

Trolling Umbrella rigs had also been working very well this past week. This method allows you to cover a lot of water.

Crappie: Not a lot of anglers are talking about crappie fishing, but if you can find the deeper schools, then you can load the boat when conditions are right. Your electronics will let you see the deeper brush piles around docks.

Once you locate crappie, you should be able to fish the same area for a while as they will congregate in large schools in winter. Target brush piles or bridge pilings from 10- to 30-feet deep. Drop small jigs or down line live minnows and fish slowly for your best success.

Trout: Fishing below Buford Dam and up in the mountain streams has picked up a little with the recent rains. Use live earthworms, where live bait is permitted by law, because rain washes worms into the creeks and rivers.
Fly fishing, spin casting are all working fine too.

Bank fishing: Live or cut bait is your best bet when fishing from the banks.

Because a lot of the stripers are moving shallow, your chances of catching fish is very good right now. Target areas where you see seagulls for your best success.

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 or visit his website at

Regional events