Water temperatures have fallen into the low 50s. The Corps has decreased water releases while the rainfall remains steady, which is good news. The lake level has actually risen more than a foot and is at 1,057.55 or 13.45 below a full pool of 1,071 and still rising. The main lake water is clear to stained, and the creeks and rivers are stained in the mouths and very stained to muddy in the backs from recent rains. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is stained.
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Bass fishing has been hit and miss throughout the day. On our slowest day, we caught six keepers compared to more than 20 keepers on our better days, so I would classify bass fishing as good. That being said, I can see how some anglers could be struggling because the fishing changes almost as much as the weather.
The shallow water bite has still been decent, but the deep fishing has also been good and historically deep fishing has been the most consistent bite as winter continues and temperatures drop.
We found several schools of both spotted and largemouth bass from 5- to 25-feet deep toward the back of the creeks. If there are baitfish present, then the bass will be close by in the same areas.
Use your Humminbird Side Imaging to scan areas. They have large flats and find the ditches that run into the main creek channels.
Follow these ditches until you find bait and bass. I like to pick apart these productive areas slowly with a dropshot rig with a natural green or pearl colored worm that mimics a bait fish.
Try a Fish Head Spin rigged with a shad body and work it very slowly on the bottom, the same way you would fish a jig head or Texas rigged worm. The small spinner blade under the head with a small shad body mimics a wounded threadfin shad.
You can follow the same ditches on into deeper water around 35- to 55- feet deep and target cover like brush, timber, rock piles and even bridge pilings. Drag a 3/4-ounce football jig with a Yamamoto curly tail over these obstructions and when you feel a thump, set the hook. I have been using some of the soft body swim baits like Storm Wild Eye Shads in place of my jigs and spoons with great results out deep.
These are inexpensive and effective swim baits for probing the depths.
During active feeding periods, the bass have been up against steep wind-blown banks and the fish will strike faster-moving lures like a McStick, spinner baits and even rattling crank baits like Rattle Trap or Aruku Shad in natural shad colors.
Striper fishing should continue to be strong, as long as you are able to travel around to find the active schools. Stripers go through a false spawning run into the creeks and rivers in early spring. Before they start these runs they concentrate all winter on getting fat and healthy, and you can find them both shallow and deep, but the majority of stripers will be shallower in early winter. Flat lines and planner boards are both good methods. Better yet, set a combination spread of both planner boards, flat and down lines to cover a wider area.
Here is a neat trick that I use that will help you to pull multiple lines without getting tangled:
Take a regular flat line (just a hook and live baitfish) and let it out about 20- to 30-feet of line behind your boat. Then tie a balloon to the line right where your line comes out of the tip of your rod. Then let another 50 feet of line out. When you reel in a fish, your line will just slide through and the balloon will just stay at the tip of your rod.
Then you can run a regular flat line out on the same side.
The line with the balloon will hold the free swimming baitfish far enough behind your flat line so they won’t get tangled. I run two balloon flat lines and two standard flat lines (two rods on each side of the boat) at the same time, so I have four rods going at once. I often run two additional down lines from the front of the boat, one on each side. This allows me to fish six lines at the same time without getting them tangled and greatly increases my odds.
Gulls divebombing the surface are a dead giveaway that there are loons or stripers corralling baitfish close to the service. Cast buck tails or spoons to any swirling stripers you witness, or let your offering fall below loons as stripers often school below feeding birds to pick any wounded bait fish.
Loons are very smart, and I have never had one strike a lure but I have caught a lot of stripers around loons.
Trolling umbrella rigs has been working very well this past week and as stated in my past reports, it is an excellent way to cover water. If you catch a striper while pulling your umbrella rigs, then circle back around because you may catch several in the same area. I have witnessed guides who are very proficient at trolling call out to their clients ‘get ready’ because they often spot the stripers on their graph then the umbrella rig follows, then it is ‘fish on’.
Crappie fishing is slow, but I did witness a person catching from inside of his boat house. He had the heater going and the game playing while he lowered his crappie minnows with a split shot directly down to a brush pile 15- to-20 feet below the dock. You can fish the same way, minus the dock, by working small crappie jigs tipped with a live minnow through brush and lay down trees in the backs of the creeks. Look for baitfish in water that is stained for your best success.
Trout fishing has been a little slow below Buford Dam, but there is plenty of holdover trout to be caught, so it’s still worth a try. For better odds, take a trip to the mountains and one of the year-round trout streams.
The fishing has been better in the mountains due to recent rains. Live earthworms, where live bait fishing is permitted by law, are just about the best thing to fish, because rain often washed worms into the streams. Rooster tails fished slowly in the rapids in the rivers or streams work well when the water is slightly cloudy.
Bank Fishing: Many anglers are out fishing from the shores of Lake Lanier and most are targeting stripers. Even if you only catch one of the large, hard-fighting fish in an outing, you can usually make a meal for the whole family. Other species can be caught in winter from the shore. If you are targeting stripers, use large shiners or trout because they will stay alive a pretty long time in a regular 5-gallon bucket when it is cold.
If your bait dies, you can still use cut bait on a bottom rig to catch stripers and even catfish. Smaller bait like crappie minnows or medium shiners will work for a variety of species.
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.