Water temperatures on Lake Lanier are in the upper 40s to around 50 degrees. The lake level continues to rise and is at 1,064.86 feet, or 6.14 feet below the full pool of 1,071. The main lake water is clear to stained and the creeks and rivers are slightly to very stained in the backs. The Chattahoochee River below Buford dam is clear.
Bass fishing remains consistent and the deep bite prevails. The spotted and largemouth continue to feed heavily and this is the time of year to catch some big fish, as they fatten up before the spring spawn. Almost all of the fish we caught this past week have been fat, and they appear to be feeding on shad and bluebacks and some are loaded with eggs. Your electronics are super important when targeting these feeding fish. They seem to be lying on or near the bottom from 30- to 55-feet deep at the ends of long secondary points in the ditches around pockets and midway back in the creeks.
Use your electronics to find the baitfish schools and target these areas for your best catches. The bass are not moving a lot, but they will follow the deeper baitfish schools as they move back and forth between deep and mid depths. Side imaging has really helped anglers put together a pattern quickly. It may be harder to see fish while scanning an area, but the baitfish schools are easy to identify, as they appear as clouds above the bottom.
When you locate bait in the 30- to 55-foot range, you can slow down and inspect these areas closely to identify bass relating to the bottom or suspended in the timber. We continue to use a vertical presentation. Position your boat directly ahead of the bass and drop jigs, spoons and drop shot rigs down to fish that appear on the screen. Even if you don’t mark fish, it may be worth dropping a lure down to explore prime areas as bass will lie close to the bottom where they are hard to detect. Often a quick drop of a lure will make fish rise off the bottom and show themselves to inspect your presentation.
During the active feeding periods we have been catching spotted bass on jerk baits and deeper-diving crank baits around steeper banks both up and down lake. If the wind is blowing in toward the shore that only increases the odds that the fish will be present.
I have also caught a few largemouth bass up in the rivers and upper lake creeks. The largemouth seem to be staying much shallower then the spotted bass and they can be caught in less than 15 feet of water around docks and brush. The stained water seems to be better for the big-headed bass.
Striper fishing has been good and the fish have been both shallow and deep this past week. In late winter you will find fish shallow in the mornings and sometimes on throughout the day. The stripers have been rolling on the surface in the backs of creeks and pockets that are holding bait. These fish will be up in the skinny water early in the morning and move deeper as the sun rises. On cloudy days stripers may stay shallow all day long. Start your day pulling flatlines and planer boards in the pockets. Use trout or herring and pull your live baits slowly. If the sun is up, be willing to move out deeper as the day progresses. Of course fish don’t read these reports, so keep an open mind and be willing to change depths and locations if the fish don’t cooperate. Watch your electronics to find baitfish and stripers, and adjust your presentations to what you see on the screen.
Several anglers are spending all day pulling umbrella rigs back in the creeks. These multi- lure rigs will cover both shallow and deep areas by adjusting the size of the rigs and lures and adjusting the speed of your troll. Usually 1.5 to 2 miles an hour is a good speed to start with. You can troll umbrella rigs around until you find concentrations of stripers, then drop live bait down or continue to troll for successful catching.
Don’t hesitate to use artificial lures for catching striped bass in winter. A streamer on a fly rod or a SPRO Buck Tail cast to shallow fish will work very well at times. Jerk baits like a McStick or Bomber Long A are reliable standbys in the winter.
Crappie fishing has been great for some anglers while others may have to search around for the best action. This time of year it helps to have a well-equipped crappie boat for shooting docks or by trolling multiple rods.
The stained water in the creeks is where the best catches are occurring. Target water that is 1 or 2 degrees warmer than the main lake. If your electronics show surface temperatures around 48 degrees on the main lake, then search midway back into the creeks for water around 50 degrees. Water temperatures make a huge difference in late winter.
Troll small 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce crappie jigs on light 4-6 pound test line. Use your slowest speeds on your trolling motor and speed up or slow down to determine the best speed to troll. Usually, when water temperatures are around 50 degrees, a slow troll will work better. On warm sunny days you will find crappie relating to docks.
Shoot small crappie jigs up under docks for your best success.
Trout fishing is OK and they are starting to bite better. This action will greatly improve as the Department of
Natural Resources starts its spring stocking efforts on the river and up in the Mountain Wildlife Management Areas. Casting a Rooster Tail around the rapids in the streams and rivers is always a great way to catch trout. Retrieve these inline spinners slowly for your best results. Live earthworms (where permitted by law) have been working well with the recent rains.
Bank fishing: Use store-bought minnows fished below a float around bridges, docks and in the creeks. These minnows will catch a variety of fish this time of year. Crappie, bass and even walleye will strike live minnows fished a couple of feet below a 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. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.