Water temperatures range from low to mid 50s on the main lake to the high 50s in some of the shallower coves on sunny afternoons.
I expect the run off from this past week rains to bring the lake to a full pool of 1,071 feet by the time you read this. Thank God! The lower lake is clear and the lower lake creeks are clear in the mouths and stained in the backs. The upper lake creeks and rivers are very stained to muddy in the backs. The Chattahoochee River below Buford dam is muddy after the rains, but clears quickly on sunny days. Wear your life jackets anytime you go boating.
Bass: This past week’s warming trend kicked Lake Lanier’s bass population into high gear. Around this same time last year, water temperatures were almost 10 degrees warmer and the bass were already spawning. This spring’s colder-than- normal weather has kept the fish back out deeper, and the bass are still in a pre-spawn feeding mode. Many methods will work right now, which makes for some awesome fishing.
Until this week, the deeper docks leading into the coves were the most consistent pattern and catching 15 bass in eight hours was a good day. Fast forward to this week where one short trip on a warm afternoon yielded over 30 bass in four hours. Most of these fish are smaller male bass roaming the shallow docks and the newly flooded bank growth. These bass are looking for food and future spawning areas and the larger females will follow them soon. Almost 100 percent of the bass right now are in the pre-spawn phase. They are feeding heavily as they prepare to reproduce, which makes them pretty easy to catch. Skipping 1/8-ounce jig heads with a Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel or other straight tail finesse worms has been my No. 1 producer this week for quantity. A SPRO McStick has been catching some male bass along with some bigger females in the morning. Small crank baits, jerk baits, spinner baits, Scroungers, Fish Head Spins and just about any other lure will coax these hungry bass into biting.
The bigger female spotted bass seem to be a little harder to pattern, but will move shallow very soon. These fat bass are full of eggs and they continue to look for high protein food that will sustain them through the reproductive progress. Crayfish make a big, easy meal for a bass so use lures that mimic them. Jig and Pig combinations or crawfish colored deep diving crank bait will catch these bigger fish. Find the ditches and channels that lead into spawning coves and stair step a jig or dig a deep diving crank bait down the steeper drop-offs. Look for areas that have hard clay and rock to hold the better fish. Also start exploring the shallow flooded grass soon as the bigger female spotted and largemouth bass will be roaming along the edges as water temperatures get closer to 60 degrees.
Striper fishing remains very good and they can be caught on a variety of methods. The majority of striper anglers use live bait, but early spring is a great time to cast artificial lures or even fly fish for these-hard fighting predators. The stripers are roaming the shallow coves and cuts looking for blueback herring, small threadfin shad and the larger gizzard shad. Junk fishing, or using a variety of lures and baits, can be very productive. A 1/8-ounce SPRO Buck tail is a great lure to use while casting for stripers that are keying in on the smaller threadfin shad. Other lures like Bomber Long As, McStick 115s or even the famous Alabama Rig can all catch stripers this time of year.
During the day, I like to pull a couple of flat lines baited with herring behind the boat, while casting lures from the front. If the lures are working well, I will often eliminate the live bait lines because they can actually get in the way. I will also switch over to all live bait, if the herring outproduce the lures. As with all fishing, the key to success is to let the fish tell you what is working and make adjustments.
Many times in spring, I have witnessed large stripers attacking big gizzard shad on the surface. In some instances these gizzard shad weigh over a pound. It takes a while for the stripers to kill and eat these larger native baitfish. If you encounter this, try casting swim baits like a six-inch BBZ1 or Bull Shad to the same area. The stripers that eat gizzard shad tend to be bigger fish.
The birds are still good indicators of productive areas, so continue to watch the gulls and loons. Also pay close attention to your electronics. Some days the stripers will move out into the creek and river channels. You may need to set out down lines, but flat lines or planner boards have been working best.
The night bite continues to be very good and it is not unusual to catch 10-20 fish between sunset and midnight. My No. 1 lure has been a SPRO McStick 115. This is a new version of the smaller jerk bait and it matches the size of the herring we are seeing exactly. Of course you can never go wrong with a Bomber Long A, but try the medium size ones as the hook up ratio seems to be better.
Crappie: Several reputable guides are saying that the crappie fishing on Lake Lanier is as good as they have seen in years. The size and number of crappie has been very good and reports of over a 100 fish in a day have been posted in some of the fishing forums. Now is a great time to load the freezer with these tasty pan fish.
The methods are about the same, but you should find the crappie a little shallow this week. Shooting jigs under docks and trolling multiple rods or ‘lake raking’ continues to produce limits of quality slabs. Live crappie minnows under a bobber have started to work better as some of the fish move into the shallower covers around submerged bank growth and laydowns.
Trout fishing is also very good. The recent and continued Department of Natural Resources stocking efforts are ensuring that people of all ages and skill levels will have the opportunity to catch these fish. You can pick your favorite method whether it is live bait, spin casting small lures or fly fishing and catch trout as long as the water is clear. Just make sure to read your fishing regulations and follow all the laws and you will have a very good chance of catching your limit.
Bank Fishing: With the crazy weather, it has been tough for anglers fishing from the banks, but it looks like we are in for a warming trend. This next week should be a great time to catch fish from the shore. Whether you fish streams, rivers or lakes fishing in spring can produce some memorable catches.
Taking the kids or other family and friends for an afternoon picnic in many of our local parks creates opportunities for all ages, skill levels and even provides activities for non-anglers. The kids can fish with a bobber and worms, wade, skip rocks (please provide life vests for the younger kids) and the adults can grill hot dogs, read, play ball with the kids or just take in the beautiful scenery. Fishing is my passion, but there are many other activities to do outdoors and these friend and family outings build memories that last a lifetime.
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.