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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Top water fishing getting stronger
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Lake Lanier’s water level is 1071.16, just above full pool. Lake temperatures are currently around 70 degrees.

Lake Lanier is clear, and the rivers and creeks are slightly stained. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.

Bass: Most of the bass are finishing up the spawning process but there are still a few bass making and guarding their eggs or newly hatched fry. Next week’s full moon should pretty much complete the spawn. You can still catch spawning bass by site fishing or randomly casting along shorelines that have sandy or rocky areas. Not all bass spawn in the back of coves.

Some fish, especially spotted bass, will build their nests out on the main lake. Spotted bass often spawn in water 5 to 10 feet deep water, whereas largemouth bass will tend to spawn in shallower water of less-than five feet. It is a good practice to release spawning bass whenever possible. This is especially important with bigger fish so they can pass along superior genes to their offspring.

When bass finish up the nesting process they briefly fall into a post-spawn funk. This can make catching a good limit difficult. The reason bass fishing is slow a few days after they spawn is because the fish are exhausted from building and guarding their nests. They will take a brief period of rest before they get back into the hunting and feeding routine. The good news is this year’s crazy weather patterns have caused bass to be in all three reproductive cycles – pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn. Because of this, anglers have a variety of options to choose from.

As in the past weeks reports, anglers need to keep their options open when bass fishing. In some areas, the blueback herring will start to spawn. The bass that have finished up their own reproduction will look for herring to feed upon to build their own strength. Bass that are targeting bluebacks will provide anglers with some of the most aggressive bites possible. There are several power fishing techniques that will work during the herring spawn.

Top water fishing will come into its prime time in the next few weeks. Ask any angler what is their favorite way to catch bass, and 8 out of 10 will probably say top water. A major reason is you can see the fish attack a surface lure, and few other techniques get an anglers blood flowing more than a surface attack from a big bass.

Use lures that mimic the long slender herring that are now living in Lake Lanier. A Sammy 125, Zara Spook or a Cordell Red Fin are all great choices. I also like to cast a subsurface jerk bait that matches the herring size like a SPRO McStick 110, a soft plastic Big Bites Jerk Shad or a Zoom Fluke. The McStick looks very similar to the bluebacks and it is very easy to fish. I coined the phrase “stupid fishing” to describe how to fish the McStick. You simply cast it out and reel them at a medium speed. When fishing a Jerk Shad or Fluke you need to pause and twitch them just below the surface. Both the McStick and the Jerk Shad look very real and are excellent choices in late spring.

A lot of the post spawn fish will also start moving to the brush piles in 15 to 25 feet of water. I always mark any brush piles or my Lake Master GPS charts so I can return and fish them at a later date. Cast top water lures over these brush piles and move over the top of them to pick them apart by vertically fishing brush with a drop shot or shaky head rig. I also utilize my Side Imaging capabilities on my Humminbird depth finder to find and mark brush piles that are not directly below the boat.

Night fishing has been very good and you can catch both large mouth and spotted bass after dark. Cast a deep diving crank bait like a Norman Little N or a SPRO Fat Papa 75 and dig these crank baits around any rocky points. You can also use a large black spinner bait or a Dark colored Jig N Pig combo in the same rocky areas.

Stripers: This has been an unusual year for catching line sides. Stripers are behind schedule compared to the normal patterns that historically prevail in mid-March. Usually the fish are schooling out on main lake attacking the large schools of spawning blueback herring. This year things seem to be behind from the previous years.

Normally we are experiencing some of the best top water action of the year but the stripers obviously have not received the announcement.

The schooling action will show up very soon, but for now catching one here or there has been the norm. There doesn’t seem to be any specific patterns other than stripers are biting shallow in the water column. Continue to pull flat lines or planner boards and cover water.

My Humminbird electronics are showing small 3 to 5 fish groups and they seem to be relating to the shad or blueback schools. I have also seen some single fish chasing and eating large gizzard shad in the pockets. Don’t be afraid to use larger baits in spring. A larger trout or native gizzard shad will work well for catching the bigger fish.

A lot of the stripers that are being caught are in the creek mouths below Browns Bridge but there are also plenty of fish up in the Chestatee and Chattahoochee Rivers. Anglers can expect the stripers to relate to the deeper holes in the rivers. You can anchor and drift a live blue back or other live bait into these deeper pools.

Look for the shallow action to continue as the full moon should trigger a shad spawn around rocks or other rocky bank areas next week. The top water action should explode very soon so keep a top water plug like a Cordell Red Fin or Super Spook ready at all times. A SPRO McStick 110 or a medium sized Bomber jerk bait are great baits to throw for schooling stripers. Even though these jerk baits run under the surface I have seen many instances where stripers would ignore a top water plug but they would crush a jerk bait.

Crappie fishing is up and down. Most of these tasty fish have finished their spawn and are heading out toward deeper water. Target the boat docks and larger brush piles close to the spawning flats in the pockets. Look for docks around ditch or creek channels that run out of the coves. Crappie will often school up under floating docks and you can catch them by shooting small Hal Flies or Marabou jigs up into the tight shady areas that most anglers cannot hit with a normal cast. Shooting these small jigs takes some practice and time but it will be well worth the effort for future trips.

Pay close attention to the type of docks that you are exploring. Many dock owners will hang Christmas trees directly under their docks while others may sink brush on the bottom within casting distance. The type of dock can often give away the best areas. If a dock has rod holders you can almost bet that owners have sank brush or other fish attractors close by.

Docks with lights that stay on all night are also fish attractors because the lights draw in the bait fish which in turn attracts crappie. If you can find a dock with the old style uncoated Styrofoam floats then look to see if there are sticks and tree limbs lodged into them.

Some anglers are starting to catch fish around lighted boat docks and also by setting out floating lights around the bridges in the back of the creeks. Usually when you set out floating lights the bait fish will show up within minutes of turning them on. Serious anglers purchase Hydro Glow lights to sink around their boat or docks. Hydro Glow lights are very bright and they will attract fish from a long distance.

Trout fishing is very good both on the river below Buford Dam and up in the mountain Wild Life Management streams. There has not been much rain this last week so the water is cold and clear and full of trout from the recent stockings from the Department of Natural Resources.

This makes for some great fishing because the trout can see lures or bait from a long distance. The down side of extremely clear water is trout can see heavy lines, sinkers and swivels or snaps. Anglers should always remove any non-essential hardware so their lures or bait looks as natural as possible.

Continue to use your favorite spinning tackle with a Rooster Tail, Rapala, Mepps or Yo Suri Pinns Minnow. Dry flies are also your best bet and you should match any insects that you see hatching in or flying above the water. Mayflies, Nymphs and Black Ant patterns have all been working well this week. Live red wigglers have been working better than larger night crawlers but make sure to check regulations and confirm that live bait is allowed in the water you are fishing.

Bank Fishing: The bream are starting to build nests in shallow water both on Lake Lanier and also in private farm or subdivision ponds. Next week’s full moon will cause a lot of pan fish to show up around the banks. Bream are easy to catch with a live earth worm or cricket under a bobber. As mentioned above in the trout report, try to minimize any hardware and use small hooks. Try to totally embed your hooks in the baits you use. Bream can be wary of swivels and snaps. Fly fishing is also a great way to catch bream and fishing with a fly rod for bream is a great way to learn how to fly fish. One last not: bass tend to hang just outside of bream bedding areas so don’t be surprised if you catch a big bass in these 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. He can be reached at or through his website at

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