Lake Lanier came up ever so slightly this week, but we will take it Lake levels are currently at an even 1061, or 10 feet below the normal full pool of 1071. The main lake and mouths of the creeks are clear-to-stained. The creeks are and the rivers are stained-to-muddy from recent rains.
Lake surface temperatures are currently in the mid-to-upper-50s but should drop with the colder weather forecast for this weekend. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is stained due to lake turnover. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling 770-945-1466.
Bass fishing is up and down for bank beaters, but you can find some decent fish up shallow. A lot of time these bass will be grouped up when you find them. While the shallow bite may work, anglers who target the prime ditches that contain shad and herring have been scoring some of the better action.
My LakeMaster Map enables me to clearly see these submerged ditches. Some ditches are evident by looking at the bank, but some of the best ones are completely submerged and can’t be seen without a quality lake map. If you see bait in the ditch on your fish finder’s screen, then thoroughly fish that area. Bass may not show up on your electronics. They may be tight to the bottom, in toward the shore or out to the sides or back of the boat.
Several lures can catch fish both in the ditches and also in shallow locations. I use a SPRO Little John DD or MD, or a McStick in Clear Chartreuse to explore for active fish up shallow out into the 20-foot range. If you catch a couple of decent fish, it is usually worth it to come back later in the day and drag a jig from the 10-to-40-foot zone. Target the rocky drop-offs on the sides of the ditch.
The shallower pockets that anglers usually fish may almost be empty with the lake being down 10 feet. The fish and the shad they are eating have been grouped up in new areas. If your favorite cove is high and dry, don’t discount the area leading into it to hold bass. A Gamakatsu Alien Head rigged with a Big Bites Shakin’ Squirrel skipped around docks or fished through shallow ditches has been a good bait to catch numbers.
Bass may be caught on a variety of lures when you find them. Fish Head Spins, Jerk Baits, Crank Baits or Spinner Baits will all produce spotted and largemouth bass. Even with the cold weather, an occasional top-water strike can still occur. Keep your confidence lures handy and move until you find a productive area.
A couple of other patterns have been reported for bass fishing. Spooning around timber lines and deeper ditches from 35 to 55 feet can produce fish. Targeting shallow cover in the backs of the creeks like stumps, laydowns and docks can all hold decent largemouth. Use a Texas rigged worm or pitch, or flip a jig and cover water for your best odds.
Stripers fishing has been decent, and there are plenty of fish around the massive schools of shad in the creeks. There have also been some fish schooling out deeper in and outside some of the main lake pockets chasing herring and shad. Pay attention to your electronics, and when you observe clouds of bait, then it’s usually a good place to start fishing.
Pulling live trout and herring continues to be the go-to method this week. Fish your live baits on 12-to-15-pound Sunline Natural Green Monofilament and use a Gamakatsu 3/0 Octopus hook. Hook your baits through the nose to present them in a natural way while you pull them slowly behind or beside your boat. Flat lines and planner boards are the best way to target shallower fish. If you see fish on your electronics down deeper, be prepared to switch over to weighted-down lines.
You can use lures and even flies when you see stripers swirling up shallow on the surface. Cast a Suicide Shad on a Fish Head Spin, a jerk bait or use an 8-weight fly rod with floating line baited with a small Clowser Minnow. These are all good choices when you can find schooling fish. Bomber fishing has slowed a little after dark, but there have been a few fish in the pockets and backs of the creeks around lighted boat docks and rocky banks.
Crappie fishing remains productive as long as you can find the schools. You will continue to find crappie schooling close to the shad schools in coves and in the backs of the creeks and rivers.
With the recent rains, there may be some stained-to-muddy water, so look for any hard water color changes like mud lines around the banks or in the backs of pockets and creeks where the rain has washed into the lake. Mudlines can be hot spots for crappie and other predator fish. Shad mistakenly get trapped in the clearer water next to a mudline because they can’t see as well in muddy water. This will concentrate the shad and also the crappie that are eating them.
Troll or cast small crappie jigs. Use darker jigs where the water is dark and change to more natural colors where the water is clearer. A lot of fish are suspended in areas just chasing shad. You can use a slip bobber with either a crappie jig or a minnow to cast around brush, docks or even into open water for suspended fish.
Trout fishing remains strong up in the mountains and good on the Chattahoochee River. Recent rains continue to fill the rivers and streams with welcome fresh water. When stream flows start to come up, the trout will spread out a little from where they had congregated in the few pools that had higher oxygen due to lower water from the drought.
Use wet flies that you can present close to or scrapping the bottom. You can add tiny BB split shots to get your lure to contact the bottom better. A Woolly Bugger or a Hare’s Ear wet fly are both worth a try.
Keep a Rapala Count Down Minnow, Yo Suri Pinns Minnow and a variety of Rooster Tails to hit the rivers and streams this week with your ultralight spinning or spin casting rods and reels.
Bank Fishing: Last week we talked about live minnow fishing from the shore. Live minnows will catch almost any fish big enough to eat your bait. Fishing with live minnows is one of the most consistent methods for catching fish. There is a tool that was mentioned in the crappie report that will elevate your ability to put your minnows directly in the fish’s face.
A slip bobber is an excellent tool for anglers that bank fish because it allows you to set a depth at which your bait sinks. If you know the fish are half a cast away in a brush pile that tops out in 15 feet deep, then you can preset the bobber stopper to that depth so your minnows sink to the top of the brush. This same feature will allow bank anglers to fish deeper for suspended fish. Slip bobbers come in various sizes. Whether you fish for brim or hard fighting stripers, there is a slip bobber setup for you.
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 would love to hear from our readers, so please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at aldrichfishing.com or lakelanierfishing.info.