Water temperatures are right around 50 degrees. The lake level has risen considerably in the last month and is at 1,063.14 or 7.86 below a full pool of 1,071. It will be a little higher by the time you read this article as the recent storms run off enters the lake. The main lake water is clearer down lake and stained to the north, and the creeks and rivers are stained to muddy in the backs. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear.
Bass fishing has been good. The patterns may take a little time to put together if you haven’t been fishing lately, but they are biting well. The good news is that there are some very strong patterns going on right now, and I hope this report can help you to catch bass. The shallow-to medium-depth bite is still good, and the deep water bite has remained strong.
The crazy weather patterns only seem to make fishing better. The wind can be your friend in winter because windy banks warm up quicker and that draws in the baitfish and subsequent predator fish.
Cast buck tails or jerk baits to these windblown banks. I actually caught a five-pound bass in less than five feet of water this past week with a McStick, so don’t be afraid to fish shallow. That one bass didn’t seem to have much company, but we caught some nice fish out of ditches in main lake pockets and feeder creeks less than 20 feet deep. I think the bass move shallow to feed in the mornings, then they either disperse or move deeper as the sun gets high in the sky.
The jerk bait has been catching some quality spotted bass. SPRO McSticks, McRips, Pointers, Vision 110s or Smithwick Rouges are all good choices in the winter on Lake Lanier. These long, slender jerk baits mimic bluebacks very well, and the bass will strike them hard, even in the colder water.
The deeper bass have held steady out on the timberlines and deeper ditches from 35-55 feet. Drop shots, Jigs and jigging spoons will coax the deeper fish intro biting. Position your boat directly above the fish, and use your graph to get your lures down in their faces or back off and stairstep them down the steeper drop-offs.
The catching improves during active feeding periods. You can look at the sun and moon gametimes for a start, but I feel that we can also sense active feeding periods. When the birds are singing, the gulls are diving and the loons are chasing bait, then you can bet that bass and other predator fish will also be feeding below the surface.
Striper fishing is good and the line sides are also biting on several different patterns. Use your electronics to find the bait-fish schools and the larger predator fish that target them. The baitfish will look like clouds on your graph, and the stripers will show up as wavy lines or arcs. Fishing technology greatly helps anglers get on fish much quicker.
Live bait fishing is one the best methods to catch stripers in winter. You can fish flatlines or planner boards when the fish are shallow or you can add weight and drop your baits down to the depth that you mark fish on your graph.
This past week, the down line bite has been a little better that the flatlines. There are a lot of stripers that are hovering around the 30– to 40-foot mark in pockets, creeks and rivers.
Pulling an umbrella rig has been working well this past week. These multi-lure rigs were the predecessor to the Alabama Rigs and they mimic a school of bait fish very well. In some instances the umbrella rigs will outperform live bait. Troll these rigs at around 25-feet deep and keep your boat moving around 2-3 mph. Some anglers have been catching stripers by casting artificial lures. A bucktail jig is a great lure for catching stripers and it is very versatile because you can fish them shallow or deep. We also caught stripers on McSticks while targeting bass. The night bite should start soon, so keep your Bombers and Redfins ready.
Crappie fishing has picked up and there are a few fish moving in shallow water. The recent rain runoff is often warmer that the lake water. Fish this time of year will move toward the warmest water they can find. The majority of the crappie are still relating to brush in 10-15 feet of water, but they will move shallow very soon. Don’t be afraid to shoot jigs around docks.
Another result of the rain is muddy water. Most fish in winter don’t like the cold muddy water, but they do like stained water because it holds plankton that draws in baitfish. If you find a mudline where muddy water meets clearer water, then you may do very well. Fish live minnows, crappie jigs, crank baits or even Rooster Tails. Trolling with multiple rods is working in the creeks, but vary your speed and let the fish you catch determine the best speed.
Trout fishing has been hit or miss, but there are plenty of holdover trout that were stocked last year. The DNR will start their stocking efforts very soon and these newly introduced fish have never seen a lure. They will strike about anything you fish with.
Live earth worms would be a good method this week as recent rains will wash worms into the rivers and creeks. Make sure local regulations allow live bait fishing as some trout waters allow only artificial lures. On warmer days, we continue to see insect hatches, so fly fishing should be better in the afternoon.
Bank Fishing: Live bait fishing is always a good bet when fishing from the banks. Secure your rods with a PVC pipe or other type of rod holder. You can use a slip bobber to cast further out and set your line stop at 15-feet deep. Find the steeper banks that have a creek or river channel that swing close to the shore. Stripers and bass will use these submerged channels to move shallow and deep as they follow the bait fish.
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.