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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Unlocking puzzle of late spring, early summer fishing can be challenging
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Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,068.68 or 2.32 feet and above the normal full pool at 1071. The main lake is clear and clear to slightly stained in the main lake creeks. The backs of the creeks and rivers are slightly stained to stained. Lake surface temperatures are in the 80s. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466. 

Bass: The morning top-water, jerk bait and swim bait bite has been your most consistent way to score strikes from Lake Lanier’s spotted bass. This is not a normal year, and it seems the best bet may be to locate an area where bass are schooling, then wait until you see fish breaking the surface within casting distance. Making accurate casts to actively schooling fish has been key.

In the morning and later in the day when the top water bite subsides, a drop shot, jig, Texas rig or even a light Carolina rig are all viable options around man-made brush and rock piles. Use a quality rod, a reel set up, and use either braid or fluorocarbon like the ones offered by Sunline to feel those subtle deeper bites. Most anglers would cringe if they could see how often a bass inhales and blows out our lures before we ever even know they have them. When in doubt, set the hook.

Man-made brush piles are mentioned frequently in these reports for good reason – They hold fish! Brush piles attract a variety of bait and hence the predator fish that eat them. Local anglers are like eager beavers and there is no shortage of man-made brush on the bottom of the lake. There are rules for placing brush so check local DNR regulations before you venture out with a boat load of recycled Christmas trees.

Not all brush piles are as productive as others. The features on today’s electronics like my Humminbird’s Side Imaging, Down Imaging and Lake LakeMaster GPS Mapping Software make finding and marking brush easy. Finding the prime brush piles can also be much simpler if you know what to target. New brush will tend to be more productive than older brush, because the decomposing leaves are targeted by microorganisms and smaller fish at the bottom of the food chain.

With Down Imaging, you can see that the leaves are still intact on newer brush. Brush piles located close to ditch, creek and river channels are prime restaurants and resting areas along these “fish highways.” Isolated brush tends to concentrate fish better than multiple piles that spread out the schools on flats and other structure.

Deep diving crank baits like a SPRO Little John DD or fast sinking swim baits worked around rock ledges and drop-offs from 10 to 30 feet have worked for producing bigger fish towards dark and on into the evening hours. Stair stepping a jig down these same ledges will also work in these areas both during the day and at night.

If you prefer to fish for largemouth bass, we have found a good jig and spinner bait in the backs of the creeks all day long. Target lay downs and willows in water as shallow as three feet, if running water is present. The creek and river bends with wood and lay downs will hold bass that will eat these same lures or try a Fat John, prop bait or buzz bait, especially if smaller brim or gizzard shad are present.

Stripers: The stripers have really started to show up in the deeper haunts as they migrate towards the cooler water well below the surface. Stripers prefer cold water and blue back herring also thrive in the same areas. This provides Lake Lanier’s striper population with a constant food source for the hotter summer months.

There has still been some top water action for smaller stripers in the early morning hours, but the majority of these fish are one to two years old. The bigger fish have been hanging out below the juveniles, picking off wounded fish or other prey that is being herded deeper down from the surface. Stripers from eight to 15 pounds and bigger will be above the thermocline earlier in the day, so flat lines with bigger nose hooked herring with a Gamakatsu Octopus hook and a quarter ounce spit shot set about 6 feet behind the hook. Pulling these lines out behind your boat while casting top water lures to the smaller fish will be a great choice for early day fishing.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, get out your down lines or umbrella rigs and target the water column around or below the thermocline. My electronics have showed a thermocline around 20 to 25-foot mid lake. That can be shallower or deeper, depending on if you fish up lake, closer to the rivers or down lake around the dam. If in doubt, look for the location of the bat fish and larger arcs or wavy lines that indicate stripers and set your offerings just above where you mark fish.

In the warmer months, it is important to use heavy weights on your down lines to get your baits through the warmer surface layers to the cooler water below quickly to prevent stress to your herring. Bait tank preparation is extremely important, so use a high quality bait tank with quality aeration and non-chlorinated ice and sea salt or commercial bait chemicals. Visit your local bait shops that sell herring for information on how to keep your herring healthy. Switch out your baitfish frequently. Lively herring catch stripers.

HydroGlow Lights have been a good bet for drawing in stripers after dark both around docks and below your boats in the mouths of the creeks. There are a lot of smaller bass, stripers and larger crappie below the dock lights after dark. For bigger stripers get set out a light below your boat offshore and down line herring for some bigger bites.

Crappie and Brim: Fish crappie jigs and down lined spot tail minnows in brush from 20 to 25 feet during the day light hours. The lights have been pulling the crappie in much shallower after dark. Casting small jigs and letting them fall five to ten seconds, then reeling them slowly from the dark areas towards the lights or vice versa will work for these nocturnal feeders. You can also fish live crappie minnows or spot tail minnows five feet below a float around lighted boat docks.

Brim will bite a variety of live baits, inline spinners or flies around laydowns, docks and rocky banks. Pick your favorite method and enjoy some action all day long on Lake Lanier or your local ponds.

Trout Fishing: The trout fishing has been decent in the mountain streams and rivers below Buford Dam, the Chattahoochee River, and up in the mountains. The best bet has been to hit the water at dawn and to be the first angler to the hit the best pools and runs.

If you want to quickly learn fly fishing, consider hiring a guide and fishing one of Georgia’s private trophy trout streams like the Souque River, or if you are already a fly fishing aficionado, hit a public trophy stream like Dukes or Waters Creeks.

A guide will let you know the rules but check local regulations and make sure you follow all the rules because the DNR patrols these waters closely. Practice catch and release!

Bank fishing: Many people think you can only catch bass with a boat from Lake Lanier. A lot of bass move shallow early in the day so they are accessible from the banks. Find public access areas with points located close to deep water.

Make long casts with a top water plug, swim bait, SPRO McStick or the old reliable Rooster tail to coax strikes from these shallower schooling bass. Anglers that cast from have an advantage as they will pull the school in closer to the shore.

This creates a situation where multiple fish can be caught on subsequent casts. Catch, release and get a lure back into the action!

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 or visit my website at or Remember to take a kid fishing!


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