Recent rains slowed the falling water, and hopefully more are in store. Lake Lanier still fell about a quarter of an inch this past week. Lake levels are currently at 1060.79, or 10.21 feet below the normal full pool of 1071.
The main lake and mouths of the creeks are clear-to-stained. The creeks and the rivers are stained-to-very-stained. Lake surface temperatures are currently in the low 50s. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is stained-but-clearing. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing has been good this past week. In a recent tournament, we saw six teams with five-fish limits over 18 pounds. That’s an average of 3.6 pounds per bass and is an awesome day for anyone, showing how strong our fishery can be in winter.
The ditches have been the prime areas this past week, and it’s no secret that the ditch bite is on. So where do we find these “ditches?” Invest in a detailed hard-copy typographic map of Lake Lanier and take it wherever you are most likely to look at it.
I keep mine in the “reading room”. Even if you have a detailed Lake Master chip on your electronics, these old-school, hard-copy maps can allow you to plan a trip in advance to make the best use of your time on the water.
A prime ditch will run from the bank all the way into the creek or river channel. These ditches are bass highways, and they allow fish to easily move from shallow to deep. They also provide an ambush point where the bass can coral bait.
Not all ditches hold bass but the ones that do can produce day after day.
Use your electronics and look for the presence of bait. Early in the day, bass will usually be located in the shallower areas of the ditch. Cast moving lures like a SPRO McStick jerk bait or an underspin with a Suicide Shad trailer.
Crank baits or swim baits that mimic shad or blueback herring are also good choices.
Some days, the fish may stay shallow, but usually when the sun gets up you should back out deeper. Drag a jig or a Big Bites Flying Squirrel rigged on a quarter-ounce Alien Head from shallow to as deep as 40 feet.
Use a quality fluorocarbon line like Sun Line Sniper in 12-to-15-pound test. When you feel the bite, set the hook. Once you get a bite at a certain depth, continue to fish that same cast again. The bass can be grouped up, and you can go from zero to hero in just a few casts.
Anglers can target bass with many different patterns in winter. There are always some fish up shallow. Skipping shallow docks and targeting shore-line cover around main lake docks, in creek pockets or up in the river can yield both largemouth and spotted bass.
On the other end of the spectrum, spooning the deeper ditches around timberlines out in 30-to-50-foot water may produce. You can’t go wrong fishing the steeper banks with rock in winter. Pick your favorite pattern, and you may catch fish that others are missing.
Striper fishing is good, and winter is a great time to catch them. If you are just learning this type of fishing, it may pay off to go with an experienced angler. Most of the popular guides are booked up, but call anyway as some may still have openings or cancelations.
If you own a boat pulling, herring, trout and medium sized gizzards or minnows on flat lines or planner boards have been producing. Target areas midway back into the creeks or in pockets up in the rivers.
The gulls will give away the best locations. Move around and look for the birds or watch your Humminbird Electronics to locate shad and fish. Don’t hesitate to set out a down line to locate any deeper fish.
Sometimes you will see fish rolling on the surface. Make long casts to these fish with a one-half-ounce SPRO Bucktail Jig and reel it slowly and steadily through these active fish. Add a small trailer for extra action.
Try this trick I learned years ago: cast a big silver and black Bomber Long A to stripers you see even if they are eating small shad. Something about that Bomber triggers a reaction bite from feeding stripers.
Speaking of the Bomber, the night-time Bomber and McStick bite continues in certain areas of the lake. Put on your cold-weather gear and always wear your life jacket after dark. Target areas that you have seen stripers shallow during the day. Lighted boat docks in the pockets and backs of the creeks are great areas, but there are still a few fish being caught around the islands.
Crappie fishing has been a little slower for anglers as the crappie start moving deeper with the cooling weather. The good news is when water temperatures drop, the crappie really group up.
Docks, brush or laydowns can hold schools of fish. You can clearly see these fish with the new Side Imaging electronics on the Humminbird Helix units.
Target slightly deeper brush near creek or ditch dropoffs in 15-to-25-foot of water. Fish small crappie jigs tipped with a crappie minnow and work these slowly through the brush. If you are fishing correctly, you will lose a few jigs, but the crappie you catch will make up for it.
Fishing docks, especially the ones with brush, can be very productive. If you have permission to fish from the dock, you can down line live crappie minnows from 10-to-25-feet deep. Shooting jigs under docks takes some practice, but learning to do so will pay off for years to come.
Trout fishing has been fair-to-good in the mountains and on the Chattahoochee River. The rains have helper fish activity, and hopefully there are many more in our near future.
Reports state that both dry and wet flies have been working. A Woolly Bugger standard fair works for most fly flingers, and an Adams Fly is also worth a try. Wet flies are also a standard in winter. A sinking Caddis or Nymph are good choices when the trout are not rising.
If you had one lure to use when spin-fishing for trout in winter, what would it be? Email me and let me know. A one-eighth- or one-sixteenth-ounce silver and white Roostertail is a great choice no matter where you fish. Cast it out and retrieve it with a slow and steady pull, just fast enough to keep the blade spinning.
Bank fishing: Because the stripers are moving shallower, you can catch these brutes from the banks. If you were fishing from a boat, you would look for diving gulls and loons. The same goes for bank anglers. I have seen active birds and even schooling stripers near many of the public parks.
You can fish from the shore at Mary Alice Park and West Bank down-lake, or Holy Park and River Forks up-lake. These are just two examples of the many other parks where anglers can fish for stripers from the shore.
Bridges can be “pinch points” where fish move shallow-to-deep and are also worth a try.
Set out very secure rod holders. Small trout or medium shiners are fairly easy to keep alive in a five-gallon bait bucket. Invest in a battery powered aerator. Cast your live offerings out on either a bottom rig (basically a Carolina rig) or 5-to-15 feet underneath a slip bobber.
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 his readers, so please email him at email@example.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com or lakelanierfishing.info. Remember to take a kid fishing.