Lake Lanier’s water level is above full pool and certainly rising from the heavy rains at 1,071.47 or .47 above the full pool of 1,071.
The main lake is clear to stained. The creeks and rivers are stained to muddy. The lake temperatures are in the mid 50’s. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is very stained to muddy. Please check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing has been up and down.
Fishing patterns seem to change hourly with the changing weather and time of day.
This has been a unique winter with warmer and wetter weather patterns. The fishing has followed suit.
The good and bad news is that patterning bass has been challenging for anglers. If you have a favorite pattern, it will eventually come into play. Pick your favorite style of fishing and stick with it. Such style should work sometime during a full day of fishing. The problem with that is you will spend hours of fishing and not catching where some versatility could increase your catch rates.
A good method has been to fish docks, both shallow and deep with a finesse worm and jig head.
The better docks will have some type of a ditch or a significant depth change. An ideal dock will have shallow water under the gangplank with a significant depth change where the front of the dock will hang over a ditch. Bottom features with rock, clay and even wood or brush piles sweeten the deal. If the dock is isolated or is the first or last in a line of docks, then pay special attention to these.
I also pay close attention to those old rusty looking docks that have been there for years. They will usually have the most brush, sunken boats or other fish-attracting features.
Some days, I have had success fishing docks all day by skipping a Big Bites Flying Squirrel or finesse worm in green/watermelon flake dipped in JJ’s Magic on a 1/8th to ¼ once Gamakatsu Alien head.
I use a Shimano open-face reel on a 7-foot medium action Kissell Krafts Custom spinning rod with a 5-8 pound light Sunline Fluorocarbon leader with SX1 16-pound braid as my mainline.
This set-up allows for accurate skipping around both the shallow gangplanks as well as the deeper fronts of the docks. The braid/fluorocarbon on a quality rod will detect even the lightest bites.
The ditch bite has been very good. Quality GPS mapping like my Humminbird LakeMaster makes finding the ditches extremely easy both on and off the water, A little research the day before fishing will help to narrow down your ditch pattern fishing greatly. Even a paper map will help you to target the best ditches to fish.
During the winter, target areas that have rapid depth transitions. I call these “bass highways” because a fish can move shallow to deep and vice versa without swimming long distances. The easiest way to find these areas is to pay attention to where the topo lines on your maps “pinch” together.
On your topography maps, look for areas that have lines that look like they were drawn with a fine point pen. Then look for the areas that look like someone came back and drew over them with a wide point Sharpie.
On a digital map, you can zoom in or out to make them show up better. A bluff wall will usually have a single dark area (usually parallel to the shore), where as a ditch will usually have two dark lines (usually vertical to the shore).
Fish the ditches shallow early in the day and then move out deeper as the sun rises over the horizon. This is just a general rule, but this year we have found bass deeper early, then shallow later some days so stay versatile.
Pay close attention to where the bait fish and fish show up on your electronics. Fish those areas thoroughly. Use an underspin or Fish Head Spin with Jerk Shad, Can Thumper or Fluke style plastic trailer and fish it slow and steady down the center of the ditch.
Also, try deep diving crank baits like a SPRO Little John DD in Clear Chartreuse or Citrus Shad colors. Try to bump the bottom with a slow and steady retrieve.
Jigs and finesse plastics on 3/16th to ¼ ounce jig head around deeper dropoffs or brush piles set along depth breaks have been working well on the main lake points and humps.
Stripers: This fishing remains good for anglers that are versatile.
Continue to keep an eye out on the gulls and loons. Before quality electronics came out, the birds were our natural fish finders.
That remains true to this day. Gulls can see deep into the water from a distance and loons will often keep their heads down in the water on the surface as they search for baitfish. They are also are scouts and keep watch over their counterparts to protect them as the rest of the flock gorge on baitfish.
Birds will help anglers to find the most productive areas that contain the bait stripers eat. Once we find the right areas, our electronics will help us to fine tune our presentations. This allows us to know how deep to set out our live bait line or to fish or troll artificial lures.
I speak about using planner boards often, but you may be surprised by how many of the trophy stripers over 30 pounds break apart from the schools and feed up shallow. Stripers use the banks as well as the surface as barriers to coral baitfish.
Running a larger trout or gizzard shad on a planner board in less than 10 feet of water can produce the fish of a lifetime. Plus many 8-15 pound class fish will hit larger baits too. Planner boards in addition to flat lines (just a hook and bait with out a weight) behind the boat allow a single boat to cover a half a foot ball wide area with live baits increasing your odds of catching stripers in the shallow as well as out deeper.
When your electronics show fish down deeper than 15 feet, it may pay to use down lines (lines with weights). You can just simply attach a ¼-ounce split shot to a regular flat line or the more common Carolina Rig style down line that consists of a barrel style weight with a swivel and bead with a long leader and hook.
Many veteran anglers use a very long leader but it seams in he colder months, that a 3-5 foot leader works just fine.
Blueback herrings are a great all around bait but trout, gizzard shad, shiners and even threadfin shad caught with a cast net can all work.
Let the fish strikes be an indicator of what works best. Many times over the year, I have put the boat back on the trailer to go buy more of the bait that has been working best. Some bait stores may even bring you more bait to the ramp either for free or for a small fee.
Trolling an umbrella rig has been starting to produce some great catches.
This method often out produces live bait fishing. Use a multi-arm Captain Macs Umbrella rig either pre-rigged or with SPRO or Chipmunk Buck Tails. Check in with your local tackle store to learn the best set-ups to run your umbrella rigs at the proper depth.
Mainly, 15-25 feet deep at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 miles and hour has been a good starting point. It pays to know how to increase or decrease depth and speeds based on your electronics. The proper combination of each can make the difference between catching and fishing.
Crappie fishing remains good for anglers that troll and can shoot small crappie jigs around docks with brush. Don’t be afraid to fish stained and even slightly muddy water. This type of water holds nutrients and is often warmer, which will increase fish activity.
Rain washes insects and worms into the lake. Crappie and other fish take advantage of these easy meals. Use small crappie jigs and troll or retrieve them very slowly. Shoot small bright-colored jigs and let them just pendulum back. Reel them slowly to the surface.
Live minnows and even worms fished in areas where your electronics show fish can work well to catch a mess of these tasty fish. Remember that the crappie are full of eggs and have been feeding heavily. They will be fat and healthy right now. They are also schooling in tight schools, so when you catch one, you can bet there are many more in the same area.
Trolling or “lake raking” has been working in areas where the water has a slight stain. With the recent rains, target areas in the creeks where the very stained or muddy water meets with clearer water. You can set out several poles and stagger two different color jigs on each.
Troll very slowly around boat docks with brush. Once you start getting bites, fine tune your set-up and switch to the most productive color and speed. Make sure that when you catch a crappie that you go back over that same area, as crappie will be found in tight schools right now.
Trout fishing has been a little slower with the recent heavy rains. The river and streams will be stained to muddy, which may slow the fishing a bit. Streams in the mountains are a little less affected by rains. With the run of and large amount of worms and other forage washed into the water, the trout have plenty of food to eat.
Use bright-colored spinners and larger dry flies that imitate hellgrammites. Live earthworms, where permitted by law, may be productive.
Bank fishing: Many fish including bass, bream, crappie and even catfish are more shallow than usual this winter. Bank fishing can be productive. Visit farm and subdivision ponds for some productive fishing with those new fishing goodies Santa has put under the tree for Christmas day.
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. He would love to hear from readers, so please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com or lakelanierfishing.info. Remember to take a kid fishing!