Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.32 or .68 feet above the normal full pool at 1071. The main lake is slightly stained down lake and stained up lake. The creeks and rivers are stained in the mouths and very stained in the backs. Lake surface temperatures have risen into the low to mid 50s on main lake. Some of the areas are heating into the higher 50s or even some low 60s in some of the warmer pockets. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing has improved with the warmer-than-normal seasonal temperatures and weather. Bass are biting both shallow and deep and the weather has been awesome, so it’s time to get out.
It always helps me to really think about what is going on with the fish right now before heading out to the lake. Things like water temperatures, what food they are eating, where are they feeding and finally — How and when will they switch their efforts from feeding into mating? The number one thing bass are thinking about right now is feeding up for the spawn, so food is their focus.
Fish are cold-blooded animals. In late winter and early spring, the stained water in the pockets, coves and creeks often warms up quicker than the clearer, deeper water out on main lake. Many bass enter the shallow pockets and feed on shad, small pan fish and crawfish.
While the pockets will hold a lot of bass, a lot of Lake Lanier’s biggest spotted bass remain on main lake year round, even during the spawn. The pockets may be a few degrees warmer, but the main lake is also heating up and the bass out in that clearer water are reacting to the changing season, too.
There are a lot of bass in the shallow areas we fished this week. I saw several docks with surprising numbers of bass suspended right under the dock floats. Once we saw this, the fish most likely saw us, but keep that in mind when you approach a productive looking dock. The first or last dock in a cove, a dock that relates to a ditch or channel swing or a dock with any other fish holding cover can hold several fish. When you skip your jig head worm up around a dock, pay attention to when a bass swims off with it. A bass taking food away from where it is concealed can mean that there are several more fish that it is trying to keep from steeling its “prey.”
We were using 1/8th ounce Alien Head Jig Heads rigged with a Big Bites 5-inch Finesse Worms. This combination on light spinning tackle is a great set up because it skips easy. An 1/8th ounce jig head allows your soft plastics to fall slowly. A lot of your bites will occur as your lure falls. Watch for your line to swim away or to just get mushy. If it feels different, reel up and set the hook.
Other than skipping and flipping jigs and jig head worms, we also had good luck with casting a jerk bait around the same docks we fished with the worms. Casting a SPRO McStick on the sides of the shallower docks and a McRip 85 down the corners on the deeper docks produced some bigger spotted bass than the worms. On sunny days, they wanted an aggressive jerk and pause retrieve, while on the overcast days, just work it with a slow and steady retrieve.
Working a crank bait around rock and clay banks all over the lake has been a good method as long as the shad, crawfish and bass are present. Your electronics are key tools for finding the best areas to crank. Use a crank bait that runs deeper than the rocks or clay bottom you are fishing so that your lure contacts the bottom. Natural shad colors are best in clear water, but try darker colors like red and black or crawfish patterns in the stained water.
Several other methods have been working and we caught bass on just about every lure possible, including a top water plug early back in a pocket, so they are biting.
Striper fishing should be awesome, and some anglers are likely catching them as I write this report. There are also many more who say fishing is tough. With the warming water and healthy populations of bait fish, look for a lot of fish to be moving into the stained pockets.
I witnessed some 6 to 8-inch gizzard shad getting pounded by a huge striper back in about four feet of water yesterday. To go through a spring, stripers can be found very shallow, but as mentioned in the above bass fishing report, there are fish everywhere from the dam on way up into the Chestatee and Chattahoochee Rivers. The stripers actually move up into the rivers and creeks as they go through non-productive spawning run. While this activity will not produce any baby stripers, they still go through the motions and this will bring some big fish up into the shallow water.
Start your day pulling herring or gizzard shad on flat lines and planner boards midway back into the creeks, and also in the pockets has been working well. Make sure your bait is lively, and pull your baits along as slow as possible while still being able to manage your planner boards. You can vary your speed as you run your baits up shallow. Keep an eye on your electronics as you enter and leave any areas, and don’t hesitate to move out deeper and drop down lines when you see fish out deeper. On sunny days, my Side Imaging and also traditional mode have been showing a lot of stripers swimming around in 20 to 40 feet of water over a 40 to 60-foot bottom.
Here is a tip not everyone is talking about. There are some reports that the stripers are striking Red Fins, Bombers and SPRO McStick 110’s and 115’s after dark. There are many traditional night fishing areas around Lake Lanier that hold stripers. Check the backs of the creeks and seek out mud lines or areas where the very stained or muddy water meets the clearing lake water. These areas trap the shad and blue backs, and are striper magnets after dark. Cast these lures around any lighted boats docks where you see shad swimming and hold on.
Crappie fishing is heating up for sure. The better fish are biting in the creeks shooting jigs or down lining minnows up under docks with brush and other cover. Trolling crappie jigs around the medium shallow flats has been working well.
There have also been some crappie biting well on some of the upper lake bridges. Small lures, trolling or anchoring up and fishing jigs or minnows has been the ticket on the bridges.
You can also catch these bridge fish from the bank. Not all of the crappie will be directly under the bridge. Cast minnows under a float or try an old reliable 1/8th ounce Rooster Tail around the rip rap and other bank cover.
Trout Fishing: The DNR will be making sure the rivers and streams are stocked for spring fishing. They can’t and don’t stock all of the hatchery raised trout at the same times so you can bet you will see their trucks out at different times of the year.
Several times over the years, I have arrived at a spot where the DNR released their fish and caught one trout after another. These newly-released trout will eat about anything and they are dumb and hungry. In these situations, just pick your favorite style and go catching.
Right now, you may be fishing for holdover trout. Anything that resembles a small minnow or threadfin shad should work well below Buford Dam and other tail race fisheries. Shad get sucked into the turbines and wash through the river below. Cast a silver and black Rapala Count Down minnow or a silver and grey Rooster Tail on light spinning gear, Fish these with a slow and steady retrieve and try to provide the trout with a slow moving easy to catch meal.
Bank fishing: One thing I probably don’t talk about as much as I should be is fly-fishing. Fly-fishing is an art form I may never master, but I do own a few fly outfits and actually use them on the river and Lake Lanier as well as some local ponds.
Fishing with a fly rod is definitely a cool experience, and since you are fishing from the bank, you can learn secrets from a fellow angler. Then, if they provide more advice then you wish, you can walk away for a moment and do your own thing. There is probably more instruction on YouTube about how to fly fish that any angler could view.
You can catch just about any species from the bank with a fly rod right now and there are a lot of fish moving into the shallow water this week.
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.