Lake Lanier’s water level remains right at full pool at 1070.59 feet or .41 feet below a full pool of 1071. The CORP continues to keep the water flowing through Buford Dam. Lake temperatures are very cold in the low 40s. The lake is clear on main lake and in the mouths of the creeks and is stained to very stained in the backs of the upper lake creeks and up in the rivers. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out on the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: Believe it or not, a lot of anglers are still fishing for bass in this crazy weather. Bass fishing continues to be a grind. The bass are very lethargic most of the day, plus they have an abundance of bait that is extremely easy to eat. Anglers will need to coax bites by landing their lures right in front of a bass. If you can catch a limit right now, you are doing very well.
The extreme weather and water temperatures have caused a large shad and blue back herring kill. This is a normal event that happens every couple of years. When Lake Lanier’s water temperatures drop below normal winter temperatures, a large portion of the baitfish population will die. Shad and herring are fragile and the extreme cold will thin out the schools. This event is nature’s way of allowing the strong to survive and the weak baitfish provides an easy meal for many species of fish and animals.
A large portion of the spotted bass population has moved deep and is either hugging the bottom of suspended in the timber treetops. The bass can just sit there and wait for the dying herring and shad to flutter down right into their faces.
This provides the lethargic bass with an extremely easy meal with little or no energy expended. This will make the bass fat and will provide them with energy that will help them through the spawn in spring.
There has also been a brief shallow water bite in the mornings, and you can catch some fish that are targeting herring in the pockets. Cast a SPRO McRip or another mid-to-deep running jerk bait. Cast these lures up to places where the ditches meet the water and reel your lure slow and steady. Allow these baits to dig up bottom and deflect off rocks and other cover. These areas will hold herring all day long and the bass will get up very early for a lively snack before moving back out deeper.
So now we know what is going on, how do we catch them? The answer is, it is not easy.
You will need to land a lure right in front of their faces, just like the dying baitfish do. A jigging spoon, jig or shaky head has been triggering some bites for bass in 30 to 50 feet of water. You may actually be fishing in 60 or more feet because some of the bass are suspended around the treetops that were topped out at around 35 feet when Lake Lanier was first impounded.
Use your electronics to find fish on the treetops. Try swimming a Fish Head Spin or other under spin type jig heads rigged with a Big Bites Cane Thumper as a trailer over these treetops and also around clay bottoms in the first pockets of the creeks. Bass will stage there as they prepare for warmer days. Like us humans, the bass are ready for spring too.
If you want to learn more about your electronics, no matter what brand you use, Bill Carson of Humminbird will teach a very informative electronics class this Saturday, Feb. 28 from noon to 2 p.m. at 4255 Browns Bridge Road (the old Hammonds Bait shop building). It’s free, and prizes and discounts will make this a must-see event. Please tell Bill you read about it in Eric Aldrich’s fishing report in The Gainesville Times!
Stripers: Striper fishing has also been a challenge. Like the bass, the stripers are hanging out deeper and enjoying the herring and shad kill. There are some fish up shallow early and during active feeding periods throughout the day, targeting the lethargic shad and herring that are shallow. Check the ditches in pockets off main lake, and in the creeks both up and down lake.
Both down and flat lines or planner boards are working for stripers. For the shallow stripers, use herring or medium sized trout. Drag them on a flat line and also try a planner board to get your live offerings close to the bank. If you cannot locate any shallow fish, move out deeper into the pockets and use your electronics to find the schools of stripers that are hanging around deeper.
The deeper stripers may be harder to locate, but the good news is that if you do find deeper stripers, they tend to be schooled up in large groups. These schools of fish can provide some action for the anglers that are skilled or lucky enough to locate them. Drop a live herring or trout on a down line just above the fish you see on your electronics. These fish will appear as arcs or wavy lines that a lot of anglers refer to as “sketti”.
Try putting a large trout, hooked through the lips, and let it drop all the way to the bottom. A big striper may be waiting down deep for wounded baitfish. When the fish sees your bigger offering, get ready for a battle.
Some hardcore anglers have been fishing late into the night with SPRO McSticks and Bomber Long A’s. These crafty, or some may say crazy, anglers are landing some big fish. Target the creeks down below Browns Bridge where you locate herring during the day. Cast your jerk baits around lighted boat docks and reel them with a slow steady retrieve.
Crappie: The crappie are fat and full of eggs and baitfish. Even with the crazy cold weather, they will bite when you locate the schools that are ready for the spring spawning ritual. This fishing is an art form, and is harder to learn.
Don’t worry, though. The shallow spring bobber fishing is coming soon.
Look for fish on deeper docks in the creeks up lake, and shoot small 1/32nd ounce jigs up under the docks. There are also some crappie in the coves and bridges relating to brush and Christmas trees. Any brush set out deeper around 15 to 25 feet out in the middle of the coves, around docks and around the bridges can hold some slabs right now. Work your jigs on light line slowly up and around these brush piles.
Trout: Fly fishing up in the mountain streams has been decent, and if you can get an invite or hire a guide to fish some of the trophy trout streams, you won’t be disappointed. Even some of the regular year-round trout waters offer good fishing in the cold of winter. Trout are not as affected as other fish by the unseasonably cold weather
Trout fishing is OK below Buford Dam. Some of the stoking efforts in late 2014 have improved the fishing on the river below Buford Dam on down to McGinnis Ferry Road. A lot of dead shad are being pulled through the water releases at the dam, so try a lure that imitates a shad. Take a silver Rapala Count Down and cast it up stream.
Work it like a jerk bait with a pause and jerk retrieve. This imitates a wounded shad and is deadly when you find the right areas. Target the rapids and just below the fast water in the deeper pools. Fly-fishing with a streamer is also a great option in these same areas.
Bank Fishing: Because striper and bass fishing is slow, bank-bound anglers have an advantage over their boating counterparts. When you have a boat, it is possible to fish to fast in the extreme cold. Anglers fishing from the bank have an advantage now, because they tend to stay in an area longer which offer the fish a longer look at their offerings.
Get a secure rod holder and rod and reel with at least 12-pound test. Take a jumbo shiner or medium to large trout or even cut bait and rig it on a down line. A down line is basically a Carolina Rig with a hook 2-3 foot leader tied to a swivel with a large 1-ounce sinker above the swivel on the main line.
Locate deeper channel bends or banks with a steep drop. Cast your bait out and secure it in your rod holder. Some experienced anglers will set out multiple rods to increase their catch rates. Using this method, you may catch multiple species like stripers, bass, catfish, and maybe even a tasty walleye.
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. Email Eric at email@example.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.