Water temperatures are in the upper 50s to the mid 60s and will continue to warm up with the unusual summer-like weather. Lake Lanier continues to fill up with the recent rains and the water level is 1065.06, which is 5.94 feet below a full pool of 1071. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and stained to muddy in the creeks and coves. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: I looked back over my records of past years’ fishing reports and the unusually warm weather has allowed water temperatures to be five-to-10 degrees warmer than usual. Bass start to build their beds or nests when water temperatures rise into the low 60s. They will continue to spawn until water temperatures rise into the mid 70s. Pay close attention to water temperatures in spring as the forage and bass will find the warmest water to feed heavily before they spawn. My Humminbird Fish finders, as well as most other brands, come standard with water temperature readings. If the main lake surface temperature is 55 degrees and you move into the coves you can often find water temperatures five degrees higher. These warmer areas are usually the most productive.
For most anglers shallow fish are the easiest to catch, and that is why I feel that fishing has been so good this year. Many of Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass have remained in the skinny water all winter. Shallow water is also where a large majority of the bait has remained. Bass will relate to their forage, which is great for anglers because all we have to do is find areas where the bait fish are located and fish there. These past warm winter months have allowed plankton and other food sources to grow for the baitfish in the shallows. In addition, the water temperatures never got cold enough to kill any of the shad so the bass are used to chasing down their meals, making for great shallow water fishing.
I have been relying on one lure all winter for bass and stripers. As you may be able to tell from past reports, my SPRO McStick 110 has been the go-to bait. This lure is what anglers refer to as a jerk bait and it was designed to be worked in a jerk and pause retrieve. Many anglers, including myself in the past, complicate the way we work these lures, because they are really very easy to use. Try to jerk and pause retrieve and then try casting them out and retrieving them with a slow to medium steady retrieve and let the fish tell you which method works better. I call the steady retrieve “stupid fishing” because it is so easy and it seems to work as well for my grandson as it does for me. Other jerk baits like a Bomber Long A or a Smithwick Rogue will also produce some nice bass right now.
The spotted bass, along with a pretty good number of largemouths, are biting worms, jigs, jerk baits and other lures around the docks. Target the coves that have large flats located next to deep ditches. Bass use the ditches, creek and river channels like we humans use paths or roads. Target docks that are near the ditches in early spring and move up into the shallows as later in spring arrives.
The bass are biting very well after dark. We have caught really big spotted bass while targeting stripers. These big spots are eating Bomber Long As, McSticks and also BBZ1 Swimbaits. Cast out your lures and reel them back to the boat with a slow and steady retrieve after dark to catch some lunkers.
Stripers: Striper fishing has been good this past week. We have caught them up shallow both before and after dark on lures, but live bait has also been working very well for the local guides. McSticks, Bomber Long As and even a large « ounce white and silver Rooster Tail will all work if you get in the right locations. Your electronics are your eyes under water and they will show you the best areas to target. Also watch for active loons and gulls. Make sure to look for bait fish and the bigger arcs that indicate stripers on your graph. As with the bass, the stripers will find the warmer coves that are full of bait fish.
Don’t be afraid to use larger lures and live baits. The stripers’ natural forage includes gizzard shad and blue back herring and these baits can be very large. The gizzard shad on Lake Lanier often grow to be 1-2 pounds and I have seen blueback herring that were 10 inches long. Pull these larger live baits around the coves on a flat line behind the boat while casting to fish with lures from the front.
The night bite has been very good at times and we have caught over 20 in a four-hour trip recently. We also went out last Wednesday night and only caught three or four, but the bass hit enough to make up for the slower action. Most of the stripers we catch after dark are 5-15 pounds, which are the perfect size to eat.
Crappie: Crappie fishing just keeps getting better and better. Some anglers are reporting catching 50 to 100 in a day, including some big and small ones in the mix. Shooting small crappie Jigs and Micro Spoons up around and under docks is a very productive method. Just remember to respect the dock owners and retrieve any snagged lures. Docks that have Christmas Trees or other brush below them will be the most productive and you can often catch a bunch of fish off one area. Crappie run in schools, so once you catch one stay in that area and pick it apart with accurate casts.
Trout: Trout fishing is very good and the trees are starting to bud. When the dog woods start to bloom then you can bet the trout will be biting. We like to put in our canoe below Buford Dam and float down to Settles Bridge.
This is about a three-hour float unless you stop a lot to fish. I like to cast lures while the boat floats with the current, because this method allows your lures to run naturally with the current. Cast small minnow imitators and small in-line spinners. You can use live bait like earth worms but I feel we catch as many if not more when we float down. Dry and wet flies are working well and there have been some decent hatches later in the day on sunny afternoons.
Bank fishing: You can catch a variety of fish right now from the banks. Just about every species is biting. You may often target one type of fish and end up catching another, so keep your options open. Casting a crappie minnow or medium shiner below a float is a great way to catch almost every species. Bass, stripers, crappie, brim, catfish and even the recently stocked walleye will all strike a minnow below a float. Try fishing around the bridges in the creeks and there are also plenty of parks that are good areas to fish from the shore.
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.