Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,072.62 or is 1.62 feet above the normal full pool at 1071. The corps continues to pull the water down to get us to more normal levels. The main lake is clear to slightly stained down lake and clear to stained up lake.
The creeks and rivers are clear to slightly stained in the mouths and stained to very stained in the backs. The lake temperatures will vary up or down from the low 50s to the high 40s. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear and the water flows are heavy. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing: January can be tough for bass fishing, but I feel the warmer winter weather up to this point has kept the fish more active. Fishing remains decent, even as the more normal seasonally-cold weather has settled in. This week, the bass have bitten shallow and deep, but the deep bite seems to be the most consistent.
In winter, we always talk about the bass highways, or ditches and creek channels where the bass can travel from the shallow flats into deeper water. In very cold weather, or when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, it is important to find the areas where the transition zones have very quick access to both shallow and deep water. Bluff walls, step drops or any deep ditches or channels are all prime real estate for bass.
In the mornings, we have had some success in the shallow cuts and ditches working a SPRO Little John DD or RkCraw around the rocky areas. The secret is that you must work these lures very slow and make contact with the bottom. If your lure is bouncing around and hitting the submerged rocks, then that is when you will get your most bites. A jig or a Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel on a quarter ounce Alien Head have also been working well both shallow and deep in the mornings.
After the shallow action early in the day, we have been moving much deeper. I love to fish rocky bluff walls in winter. Sunlight warms the rocks and the baitfish tend to congregate in these areas. There are also crawfish that can get active so the bass have a variety of food to target and the steep banks give them easy access to shallow and deep water.
Stair-stepping a jig down the deeper drops is an effective way to catch spotted bass on bluff walls. Use a long to medium heavy action rod and use a jig that allows you to feel the bottom as your lure falls. I like to use a one half-ounce Strike King Pro Model jig with a Big Bites 4 inch Craw Tube Trailer. This set-up looks a lot like a crawfish and will fool the bass extremely well. Wait for a tap or any weird feeling as your lure falls, then set the hook.
A jigging spoon has also been working in the middle of some of the pockets from 45 to 60 feet down. Use a ½-ounce Flex-It Spoon in White with prism tape or a ½-ounce Hopkins Spoon in hammered silver. I always replace the stock hooks with ultra sharp Gamakatsu wire treble hooks for two reasons. First, they are much sharper and will increase your hook ups, and second, because if you get hung up, then you can usually just apply a steady pull and straighten the hooks to get your lure back. Use 14 to 17-pound fluorocarbon line.
Your electronics are key tools when spooning, as you will be working these lures directly below your boat. Make sure you can see your spoon on the screen as it drops. Usually, you will see fish, but if you know the area has been good in the past, make a few drops even if you don’t see fish at first. My Humminbird 1158DI may look devoid of any fish, then after I have dropping the spoon the whole screen lights up. The fish that were tight to the bottom will come up to intersect the spoon. Drop your spoon to the bottom, then snap your rod up, making short hops. Play around with the action until you start getting bites.
If the wind gets up, you can also fish jerk baits on windy points out in the creek mouths and on main lake. Cast a SPRO McStick, Pointer or Smithwick Rogue up around windy banks and work them, with a jerk and long pause retrieve. This type of fishing can catch some of the biggest bass right now.
Striper fishing remains good most days and some of the guides are reporting a strong bite both up and down lake in some of the lower lake creeks. The secret to finding the stripers is finding the bait. Use your electronics and set up your Side Imaging to 120 feet to capture the clouds that indicate large schools of bait. Sometimes, you will see the bait on both sides of your graph, which means the boat is positioned right over the school. You will also often see the bait to one side or the other, which will show you where to start fishing. Also, pay close attention to the feeding gulls and loons, as they will be a dead giveaway to the best areas.
The stripers will often be very shallow first thing in the mornings and this can remain the case all day if it is cloudy or raining. Start your morning in the pockets and set out flat lines and planner boards with either blue backs or trout. If you can net your own Gizzards then the medium sized ones have been working best. Always set one line with a large trout or gizzard shad to tempt those big bites!
Stick with this same pattern until the fish quit biting or when you start marking fish deeper in the water column. The stripers will feed shallow until the sun gets over the horizon. Follow the fish out deeper and drop down lines or troll an umbrella rig.
The umbrella rig can out produce live bait in winter and the reports say this technique is on fire in certain areas mostly up lake. Visit your local tackle store for hardware and advice on how to fish umbrella rigs. Hiring a guide is worth it to learn the proper use of these multi-armed rigs. Of course YouTube also shows some great advice, but nothing beats time on the water and personal success to help you get confidence in trolling or other techniques. Troll your rigs at 10 to 20 feet deep at 2.5 miles an hour and use your electronics to find the most productive areas.
Crappie fishing has started to really heat up even as the weather cools. Both trolling and shooting docks has stated to produce some nice limits of crappie. Winter crappie will usually be fat and full shad and eggs.
Fish the areas both up and down lake in the creeks where the water has a decent stain on it. Make sure to find areas where the large schools of threadfin shad are located. Trolling or lake-raking has been best early in the days, while shooting docks has been good all day long. Troll or shoot 1/16 to 1/32-ounce Hal Flies and play around with colors. Once you have caught a couple on one color, switch over to it, but also keep trying other colors as the preferences may change through out the day.
Trout fishing below Buford Dam remains slow because the corps is pulling so much water. During the slack times, fishing with live earthworms has been best on the stretches or the river that allow live bait or a minnow imitator plug or streamers. There are a lot of shad washing through the turbines. When the corps pulls water, then it is best to stay away from the river. Winter temperatures and high, fast moving waters don’t mix.
Fishing in the mountains’ wildlife management areas has been slow, but the water is clear and fishing should get better soon. Use wet flies and fish the rapids and rocks below the runs above the deeper pools.
For spinning anglers, live worms (where permitted by law) or small minnow imitators worked like small minnow imitators have been working fair. Cast a Rapala Countdown or YoZuri Pinns minnow up stream and retrieve it with a jerk-and-pause action. This will trigger inactive trout into striking and has been an awesome winter technique.
Bank fishing: Take out those same striper rods we spoke about last week and continue to fish for stripers from the shore. This is one of the best times of the year to catch one of these extremely hard-fighting fish from the banks of Lake Lanier. Here are some thoughts to hopefully help you catch that fish of a lifetime.
I can’t stress the importance of using good gear when fishing if you intend to land what you hook. I will never forget watching a young man fishing the same spot on the shore where we had caught over 10 stripers from the boat in the past two days. On the third day, I finally saw him rush to the rod holder as his drag was screaming. He fought that fish for close to 10 minutes and was just about to wear it down when the line broke. My heart dropped and I could feel his pain. It could have just been one of those things. More often than not, when a fish breaks off, it is because of an old line, a bad knot or something else that could have been prevented.
Make sure the outfit you fish with has fresh line. Twelve to 20-pound monofilament (I like Sunline Super Natural) is a great choice for striper fishing from the banks. Make sure your reel is well oiled and that the drag works. If your reel is in poor condition, you won’t be able to cast far enough and if your drag does not work, you will break off if a big fish makes a hard run.
Check your rod to make sure all is in good order and that there are not nicked or broken line guides. Always tie a good knot. A Palomar knot is one of the easiest to tie and one of the strongest. An improved cinch knot is also a great one to know. YouTube will show you how to tie these and many, many more. Also use sharp hooks. A 5/0 Gamakatsu Octopus or Circle Hook are great hooks because they prevent gut-hooking a fish.
Keeping your bait alive is important, so use a quality bait bucket with an aerator or buy one that you can lay in the water. I have found that trout and regular shiners live longer in the smaller buckets that shore angler’s use. If your bait dies you are not necessarily through fishing. Cut bait works very well for striper fishing and catfish will eat cut bait too.
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. I would love to hear from our readers so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at aldrichfishing.com or lakelanierfishing.info. Remember to take a kid fishing.