Water temperatures are up from last week and are around 51-53 degrees. The lake level is up almost two feet from last week and is at 1,060.25 feet or 12.62 below a full pool of 1,071 and is rising. The main lake water is slightly stained, and the creeks and rivers are stained to muddy from recent rains. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is stained.
Bass fishing has been good, but the warmer than normal weather seems to have confused the fish a little bit.
Even our flowering daffodils seem to think it is early spring. Usually in January, the water temperatures are in the mid 40’s, but right now they are almost 10 degrees warmer than the norm. I don’t think winter is over, and bet we will have some colder weather in the near future.
We located bass this past week in shallow ditches adjacent to large flats in the pockets and creeks off main lake.
These fish appear to be staging in their pre-spawn areas, but I expect the cold fronts that are normal this time of year could push them back out into deeper water. As long as bass remain shallow, then that is where we will target them.
Look for pockets that have large flats that are between 5- to 15-feet deep, and then find the ditches or creek channels that connect these areas to deeper water. Bass follow these ditches or channels and use them as highways as they swim back and forth from shallow to deep. Any cover, like brush piles or docks located along these bass highways, are where the fish will congregate. When you locate these honey holes, then you may be able to load the boat in quick order.
Pockets and creeks that receive the most sunlight warm the quickest and are usually the first areas to draw bass shallow. Look for pockets and creeks on the west side of the lake to warm quickest. Finding warmer water in late winter is the key to finding the most aggressive bass. Watch your electronics temperature readings because water that is only one degree warmer may be all it takes to move bass shallow.
We have been throwing a variety of lures to catch both shallow and deep bass. A SPRO McRip is a deeper running jerk bait than the McStick. We had success this week by casting the McRip over and through the ditches.
Sometimes the bass favored a slow-and-steady retrieve, while other times we used a jerk-and-pause retrieve. We also caught bass on a Fish Head Spin, finesse worms or Big Bites Cane Sticks on a jig head, Jig and Craw, and of course the old reliable drop shot.
There are still good fish being caught out deeper toward the main lake in 40-55 feet. Position your boat directly over these fish, so you can watch what the bass are doing with your Humminbird Fish Finders. A jig and craw trailer, a finesse worm on a jig head or drop shot, or even a jigging spoon are all great choices for winter fishing.
Striper fishing remains good and many methods have been productive for catching these hard-fighting game fish.
The striped bass, or rock fish, have a distinct characteristic, which accounts for their name. The stripes on their sides are actually lateral lines that help these fish to feel any movement in the water that is close by. These stripes allow stripers to identify potential prey in cloudy water, or after dark when visibility is almost zero. Lures and live bait that generate movement are good choices for generating strikes from these sometimes finicky fish.
Stripers are eating trout and herring pulled on flat and downlines in the creeks and in the rivers. As with the bass, we have found stripers very shallow in the pockets, as well as out deeper in the creek mouths. My Humminbird 998c Side Imaging actually shows me what is happening several hundred feet out to both sides. With this technology, I can view baitfish, stripers, trees and many more objects below the water on my graph’s screen. If I see that the majority of baitfish schools are located deep, then that is where I start fishing. If I see the majority of bait fish schools are on, or around the surface, then I will start my day pulling flat lines and planner boards.
Trolling an umbrella rig at different depths or using a Cannon Down Rigger to get your baits at the exact level are both good methods to try.
Crappie fishing is starting to pick up and some of these fish have already moved shallow into the pockets. Trolling crappie jigs or ‘lake raking’ is a good technique to try as the crappie start their migration process. Crappie follow the bait fish into the creeks in late winter where they feed heavily before the spawn.
Trolling crappie jigs, Hal Flies or even small crank baits can be effective for the next few months. Locate the schools of crappie with your electronics that troll your jigs at, or slightly above, the level where you mark fish. Anglers can also cast minnows below and float or small jigs around the pockets during the day.
Trout fishing has been hit and miss this past week, and the pattern seems to revolve around the rainy days. When it rains the rivers and streams receive run-off that muddies the water and also washes in earthworms, insects and other food sources for trout. The trout seem to bite less after a hard rain, but you can still catch them.
Bright colored in-line spinners and small minnow imitating plugs are good choices.
Bank Fishing: Because of the warmer than normal temperatures, many different varieties of fish may be caught from the bank this week. Cast medium-to-large shiners below a slip bobber to catch stripers, bass, catfish and other fish this week. Rooster Tails, or shallow running crank baits, are also good choices to try.
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.