Water levels remain high and fishing is all over the charts
Lake Lanier’s water level is still considerably above full pool at 1,074.51 or 3.51 above the normal full pool of 1071.
Some ramps are still closed because of the high water level, but a lot have stayed open or have reopened. The corps is pulling water almost nonstop. The main lake is slightly stained to stained down lake and stained to very stained up lake.
The creeks and rivers are stained to muddy. The lake temperatures are in the lower 50s. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is stained, and the water flow is heavy. Especially over the next few weeks, make sure to check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing is good even with higher water levels and the off colored water. I’ve been out almost every day this past week and we have caught bass shallow, deep and everywhere in between. With the torrential rains over the holidays, the lake rose close to five feet over full pool. Many of Lake Lanier’s bass moved up with the rising waters, and we have been catching them extremely shallow for this time of year. Some fish remain deep, which is more the norm for this time of year. You should be able to pick your favorite depth and do well which has made for some fun fishing.
While there are a lot of bass shallow, the fish are not on every bank. Anglers will need to search out areas that have a combination of bait, slightly warmer water and cover.
Fishing docks has been a good pattern, but make sure you are marking baitfish in an area before deploying your trolling motor. I have been setting my Humminbird Graph to Side Imaging mode and idling through coves midway back in the creeks. The baitfish schools will show up clearly like clouds on your screen. Once you find the bait, pay close attention to the depth they are relating to and fish at or slightly above that same level. Target areas with stained water, but avoid places where the water is very muddy. The stained water will warm quicker than clearer water, which in turn will make the bass more active.
Start your days in the shallower coves with ditches or channels with moving lures like a SPRO Little John DD or a Fat Papa. Also, try an under spin or even a buck tail rigged with a pearl colored Big Bites Cane Thumper. Reel these lures slow and steady while making contact with the bottom. Stick with these same lures until the bass quit striking. This week, the bass have stayed active well into the day.
During less active feeding periods, skip small jigs or finesse worms rigged on a Gamakatsu Alien Head around docks or fish steeper rock and clay banks. Banks with sun and/or wind blowing on them tend to be the most productive because water temperatures are warmer and water oxygen levels are higher. Periodically check some of the deeper brush and ditches both out on main lake, and in the creeks, too.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, as these types of conditions are definitely out of the norm for early January. We even got a strike v-waking a Red Fin slow and steady on the surface. Swim baits, Rooster Tails or even umbrella rigs can also be worth a try.
Striper fishing has been OK to good some days and tougher on others. With all of the recent rains and high lake levels, the stripers have a lot of room to move around so the fish have been scattered. Flat, down and planner boards or balloon lines are all working in different parts of the lake. Just like with bass fishing, finding the large concentrations of bait has been the key.
Use your Side Imaging for determining where the baitfish are located and what depth to target stripers. Because stripers are usually larger fish, they can also show up pretty well on Side Imaging. The narrower you set your width readout, the better the fish will show up. It may be hard to get a clear picture of stripers with Side Imaging set to 180 feet wide or more, but you can usually see them pretty well when you narrow that down below 60 feet. If you have a good idea of which side of the boat the fish are located, set your Side Imaging to one side or the other to almost double your screen view.
It really pays to know everything you can about your fish finders, mapping and GPS. Watching YouTube videos, checking social media sites and attending seminars about your specific electronics will greatly improve your catching abilities. If needed, take a friend out or hire a guide to give you hands-on education. Keep up with the latest electronics for the best features. If your fish finder is five years old or older, you are missing more than you know.
A lot of the stripers are shallow even out over deeper water. That being said, anglers are catching them on the surface all the way down to 50 feet deep. Use your electronics and check several areas including main lake, the creek mouths and the less stained coves and pockets. Avoid the muddy water, but if you locate an area where muddy water meets clearer water forming a mud line, then explore these transitions zones closely. Stripers use the surface, the bottom and some times even mud lines to trap bait where they can coral and eat it more efficiently.
I mention this almost weekly, but always watch for the gulls and loons. Even a single gull circling an area or a single loon diving can give away active schools of feeding stripers. Trolling an umbrella rig has started to work very well and this is a great search method for finding and catching winter stripers.
Crappie fishing has been slower as the fish are scattered. Trolling, or “lake raking” as crappie anglers refer to it, may be your best bet. This fishing usually produces best in the mornings during winter. While that is a good general rule, it certainly is not always the case. Shooting docks is still worth a try, and if you locate one fish, there will be more very close by.
Look for this fishing to improve very soon as water levels stabilize and water clarity improves. When targeting these tasty fish avoid crystal clear water. Stained water has more nutrients and warms quicker than clear water. Even during more normal winter conditions, the crappie will bite best when the water is at least slightly stained.
Trout fishing below Buford Dam has been very slow because the Corps is pulling so much water. Avoid wading or boating on the river any time the water is being generated.
Fishing up in the mountains has been fair. This is not unusual for winter, but there are actually some stream and rivers where winter fishing can be good. Just remember when the water is colder and stained, you will generally need to slow down and fish smaller, brighter colored lures.
Bank fishing: Bass have been biting well up shallow. Fishing from the banks this week can be very good for winter. Cast natural colored lures like a Shad Rap, Rattle Trap or Aruku Shad around any form of cover like docks or lay downs. Green or natural colored finesse worms rigged on an 1/8th ounce Gamakatsu Alien head or your own favorite jig head have been worming well in the same areas.
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. I would love to hear from our readers so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at aldrichfishing.com or lakelanierfishing.info. Remember to take a kid fishing!