Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,067.54 or 3.46 feet below full pool of 1,071. Water surface temperatures are hovering around in the mid-60s. Lake Lanier is clear to stained on main lake and clear to stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading out to the river.
Bass: The fall colors are still brilliant, which makes for a great day on the lake whether you are catching bass or not! That being said, when I am fishing, I am there for one reason: To catch fish! Anglers who have the bass figured out have been doing well for numbers of small fish or they may have a pattern for six to seven large bass a day, but the presentations between the two have been very different. Tournament anglers looking to catch a limit of five big bass will do better power fishing and cycling through points and hump areas while anglers that prefer to get a lot of bites can slow down and catch 20 to 30 fish in the right areas.
The big fish seem to be roaming around and following the schools of blue back herring. We have been able to put down the trolling motor and fish a single area and cast at bass breaking the surface, but this can be a “zero or hero” way to catch them. These fish are charging around quickly chasing the herring, and they appear and disappear quickly. At times you can just wait to cast at the bass until they appear on the surface. Then, if they are with in distance and you make a well-placed cast, it can mean success! All too often these fish will be two or three casts away, and anglers may chase them for a while with only a few fish to show for it.
There are also some good fish on secondary points leading into the creek or up in the pockets just off the river channels. Make a few casts to areas that have submerged brush or laydowns with a top water plug like a Gunfish or Red Fin and also try a jerk bait like a Smethwick Rouge or SPRO McStick. The big bass have been coming up to nail these plugs, but this action has also been hit and miss and you may catch one or two or none. After you have covered an area, it is time to move on. Hitting many areas and fishing them effectively can be the way to catch the biggest stringer possible.
There have also been some smaller fish schooled up in the pockets, and these fish can make for a fun day of fishing. If you locate some brush just inside the main lake or creek pockets, you can catch some good numbers of “barley keepers”. A drop shot, Texas or Jighead rigged straight tail worm can work very well. A 1/8-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head rigged with a Big Bites Cane Stick has been very effective around docks and brush. The drop shot and Texas rigged worked up and over shallow cover can also produce some good numbers. There are also some bonus largemouth up in the skinny water too.
Live bait is working well and the striper anglers are catching some 4 to 5 pound class spotted bass. These are trophy bass for sure but if you choose to target big spotted bass with live bait it is a great idea to use a Ganakatsu Circle hook. These hooks almost always hook bass in the mouth which allows for a safe release. There are also some good bass biting Bombers, McSticks, Brank Baits or big spinner baits after dark. Cast these lures around main lake islands or rocky banks in the creeks.
Stripers: Striper fishing is good and they are being caught all the way from the upper Chattahoochee and Chestatee rivers on down to Buford Dam. You will find some sporadic top water activity, but this action has been very hit and miss.
The top water action has really been disappointing this year, and there has basically been almost no combat fishing because there haven’t been any schools large enough to fight over. That being said, you should always keep a Red Fin or other top water plug ready to cast at any random schoolers that appear out of nowhere on the surface.
You can just about choose your favorite method. Other than the top water action, the stripers are biting on a variety of lures and bait. Use your electronics and look for the bait, and the stripers should be close by. There have been a lot of stripers in the creek mouths on back midway into the creeks, and the fish tend to be shallower than 30 feet and are suckers for live bait and trolling umbrella rigs. Depending on where the fish appear on your fish finders, you can catch them on flat lines, down lines or trolling.
You can set out a spread of flat and down lines and cover a wide path of water, which will increase your odds. Set out two down lines toward the front of your boat. Then set out two flat lines at the back and set out two planner boards and you should have the area covered. This setup is similar to “lake raking” for crappie and the only disadvantage is keeping your lines from getting tangled when you hook up with a good fish. You can use all herring or a mixture of herring and other bait fish like trout, gizzard or even threadfin shad.
Trolling an umbrella rig can be a deadly method for catching stripers, and I have personally witnessed a season guide outfish our live baits 5 to 1 (or even more!). Successfully trolling an umbrella rig takes some practice to perfect, and it often pays to hire a guide to start. If you choose to do this, make sure you tell your guide that you want to learn a particular method like trolling and this will help you eliminate a huge learning curve.
Umbrella rigs come in a variety of weights and sizes, and these differences allow you to cover the water column from shallow to deep. The stripers have been being caught at around 15 to 20 feet this week on umbrella rigs. Trolling is also a great way to explore a large amount of water to locate fish where you can slow down and set out your live bait lines.
The Bomber Long: A bite is happening and you may catch several small fish with a few good ones thrown in. Make long casts to the islands around mid-lake and reel your Bombers, McStick or Red Fins slowly, just fast enough to feel the lures wobble. The almost full moon should help the Red Fin bite. Throw a Red Fin to the banks around Lanier Islands or the docks midway back in Flat Creek, reel it on the surface to create and V-wake and hold on!
Crappie: Trolling small jigs or lake racking or spider rigging has been working towards the back of the creeks and also in the rivers. If you fish a lot of fish, you can slow down and use live bait, but why stop if the trolling is good? Pay attention to the areas where you get your bites and the productive colors and go back over them to increase your hook up!
The lights are attracting lots of bait, which brings in lots of crappie. Both your own floating lights and the lighted boat docks are attracting fish. And the good news is you are liable to have that whole area all to yourself. Please note that if you are fishing a dock and the owners come down and start fishing it, this means it is time to move on. You may have been lucky enough to find and catch some crappie from that dock, but we should always show proper manners. Many lake property owners have encountered rude people and some have even had their personal things stolen, so it is up to us as anglers to show the utmost courtesy and good will.
Trout fishing may have slowed if you are fishing tail race waters below some of North Georgia’s lakes. A lot of these lakes are turning over and pea green water color indicates lower oxygen and visibility, which makes for some tougher fishing. Use bright colored inline spinners or larger night crawlers where live bait is permitted.
The many clear streams in North Georgia can offer great fishing, and in winter you may catch some of the biggest trout of the year. Dry and wet flies, small subtle spinners or small minnow imitators like Rapalas or Yo Suri Minnows will all work well in these clear waters.
Bank Fishing: Local farm and subdivision ponds are often honey holes and some seldom get fished! I have found ponds that are in the front of subdivisions that people never imagine hold fish. In fact, my biggest bass (an 11-pound giant) was caught from my less than an acre subdivision pond located right on the main road in the front of the subdivision.
When I mention this to neighbors they seem shocked and say “You mean there are fish in there?” First, always make sure you have permission to fish the waters you plan to target. Carry one or two rods and a few plastic worms. Bream, bass, catfish and crappie can often be present. If you have permission to fish a farm pond, make sure to gather up trash or offer something else to show you appreciation for this privilege.
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.