Lake temperatures are right around 50 degrees. The lake levels continue to rise slowly and Lake Lanier is at 1,060.1 which is 10.9 feet below the full pool of 1,071. The lake level has risen more than two feet and it looks like it will continue to rise with the late winter and early spring rains. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and stained in the creeks. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: The bass are being caught in water from 5 to 50 feet deep this past week but they are a bit more scattered so you may have to work a little bit to find them. That being said, our best bites have come from deep water or at least around deep water in the 25- to 50-foot range.
We have caught fish on a variety of lures including — in order of preference — drop shots, jerkbaits, jig head with straight-tail worms, Fish Head Spins and spoons. Usually the spoon bite is your best bet this time of year, but I have been concentrating more on the finesse bite.
Start your day with a shallow or deep-running jerkbait and hit the steeper banks outside of the shallow coves and ditches. If you can find where a ditch, creek or river channel runs next to the bank, that is a very good place to explore. I have been casting McStick and McRip jerkbaits parallel to these banks before the sun gets high and have caught some big spotted bass. They seem to want these jerkbaits fished very slowly with a jerk-and-long-pause retrieve.
As the sun rises the fish have been moving off shore into the deeper flats and drop-offs that have submerged timber. Lake Lanier is full of flooded timber, and most of the timber lines start at around 30 to 40 feet deep. Find the productive banks as described above, then run directly away from the bank until you mark timber on your graph. Most of the timber was topped out at 20-30 feet down, but there are some trees that top out closer to the surface.
Fishing standing timber takes some practice, and quality electronics are a must. These submerged trees will show up as multiple lines or arcs stacked vertically on a regular 2D fish finder setting. Some people confuse these 2D images of timber for a school of fish but the dead giveaway is the stacked appearance of the lines or arcs. If you have Side Imaging or Down Imaging, you can actually see a photographic image, and with some custom tuning you can even see fish in the branches.
Not all timber is productive. The most productive standing timber for me are the big isolated trees. You can work a jig head worm, drop shot or Fish Head Spin and work them up and over the limbs. With shallow timber this time of year a lot of your strikes will come at the base of the trees, but on deeper timber you will often get most of your strikes as you work it over a limb or as it falls off the limbs or on the initial drop.
It takes some time on the water and practice, and you will hang up a lure from time to time, but when you find that isolated honey hole way off the bank, it is well worth it.
There have been some reports of big catches coming from less than 20 feet deep. These shallower fish have been relating to docks, ditches, and even the steep banks, just shallower in the water column. The shallow fish seem to be relating to water that has a slight stain to it in the backs of the creeks. A deep-diving crankbait in the mornings is a good start, but switch over and cast or skip jigs and jig head worms around and under the productive docks.
Striper fishing is up and down, but the reports are mostly good. The bite has been pretty good both up and down lake. These strong fighting line sides are on the move and are relating to blueback herring and threadfin shad schools. If you can find the bait, gulls and loons, you are in the right area. Some stripers have been up shallow swirling on the surface in the mornings and on overcast days.
These shallower fish will strike a McStick, Bomber Long As or SPRO Buck Tail Jigs cast out with a slow-and-steady retrieve. They are also attacking trout or bluebacks fished on flat lines and planner boards. A flat line is the term for fishing just a baitfish with a hook and no weight. Flat lines can also be enhanced by adding a planner board which will pull your offerings out to the side of the boat, covering a wider path thn just flat lines directly behind the boat.
There has also been a very good umbrella rig bite. I have seen many times when an umbrella rig with artificial lures out-produces live bait. Use an umbrella rig that runs 10 to 20 feet below the surface and run your boat around 2 mph. Watch your electronics and make adjustments to the depth as needed.
Crappie: Not many crappie reports are being given but I know for a fact that they are biting well in the milder-than-normal water temperatures we are having this year. Keep targeting brush, docks and even timber in the 10-to-20-foot range toward the backs of the coves and creeks. Work a crappie jig tipped with a live minnow slowly through the brush on light 4- to 6-pound test.
The bites are very light, but when you get catch one they are usually fat and healthy this time of year. If you are diligent, you should be able to take some home for dinner or to stock your freezer. Some anglers up lake have also been catching walleyes while crappie fishing, and you can bet these introduced fish get caught and released into hot grease, too.
Trout fishing below Buford Dam just fair, but there are some good holdover fish being caught both on the river and in the mountains and Wildlife Management Areas. Because of the recent rains, the oxygen levels are very good and this helps to support healthy fish.
Lures like inline spinners, wet flies and crankbaits are all working, but it is hard to beat a live earthworm as that is the main forage of a lot of fish with the winter rains. Just be sure to check local regulations to make sure live bait is permitted.
Bank fishing: Both stripers and crappie can be caught from the bank right now. Bridges are a great place to target both species. There are many bridges on Lake Lanier, but the ones in the creeks and rivers are probably more productive than the big main-lake bridges are this time of year.
For stripers, make sure to secure your rods and use a live or cut bait.
The crappie will also relate to bridges, and a live minnow or a crappie jig fished slow and deep can produce some nice stringers right now.
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 email@example.com or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com.