Water temperatures are in the low to mid 50s. Lake Lanier’s water level has crept up a little at 1063.6, which is 7.4 feet below a full pool of 1071. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and stained in the creeks. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: Fishing this winter has been remarkably good, and a large number of the bass have remained shallow all season.
The milder-than-normal weather has not produced the big shad die-offs that we saw last year. I was blessed to spend a couple of days fishing with my 77-year-old father and we actually encountered schooling bass on Wednesday. We chased them around a lower-lake creek for a few hours, catching one or two every 15 minutes by casting jerkbaits to where they were breaking the surface. I even caught one fish on a topwater Redfin, which is crazy for the last days of February. My dad says that he thought that type of fishing was work, but for us it is a labor of love. These same fish would have eaten a Rooster Tail, Fish Head Spin or just about any other minnow imitator; I just am biased toward the McStick.
Other than these rare schooling bass, the fishing has still been good. The weather seems to make a big difference. On cloudy days, the fish are out moving around, chasing schools of threadfin shad or blueback herring and jerkbaits, crankbaits and just about any lure that mimics a minnow can work. I like to throw a jerkbait this time of year because that is what works the best for me. Work the mouths of the pockets and main-lake points and secondary points in the creeks. Watch your electronics, because the presence of bait gives away the best areas.
The sunny days seem to push the fish to the docks really well, and we have caught some nice spotted and largemouth bass by skipping jigs and finesse worms on a jig head under and around the docks. Fishing docks often gets more productive when you determine the pattern or the location where you get the most bites. Some days the bass will relate to the shallow gang planks, while other days they will position in the middle of the boat slips. Recently, our best success has come when targeting the shady, shallow corners of the docks with a Big Big finesse worm on an ¬-ounce jog head. Once we discovered this, we could quickly work the productive zones without wasting time on the unproductive areas.
Very soon the bass will start hitting crankbaits and jerkbaits worked next to the dock and marina floats. In this situation, I will move to a shallow-running jerkbait, or I may actually switch out the hooks and split rings on my McSticks to lighter hardware. This modification will allow my lure to run just below the level of the dock floats where bass warm themselves before the spawn. There is also a night bite starting with the spotted bass on rocky points. Slow roll a spinner bait or work a crankbait slowly through the rocks.
Stripers: The striper fishing has been good both up and down lake, but, as with the bass, the weather conditions change the patterns almost every couple of days. A lot of striper anglers are working the shallow parts of deeper pockets with flat lines and planner boards. These shallow stripers are hitting larger baits like trout and even native gizzard shad that are over a pound in weight. I have found that some of the jumbo shiners that local tackle shops sell often work as good as the native gizzard shad. Anglers can cast bucktails or Bombers and McSticks while pulling live bait behind the boat.
Some days the shallow bite has been non-existent. When this happens look to your electronics to clue you in on where the fish have gone. Areas where gulls and loons are diving on bait fish are also great areas to target, but you will still need to watch your electronics to determine how deep to set you lines. You may encounter stripers that are in deep water but that are relating to shallow depths, while other days the stripers can be down as deep as 40 feet. Trolling umbrella rigs and casting Alabama rigs can also be very effective for catching stripers right now. Keep your options open and let the fish tell you what to do.
The night bite has started for the stripers, but I can’t say it is at its best in the locations we usually target. Look for this action to do nothing but improve soon. The creeks down lake with sandy pockets will often hold line sides after dark. Down by the dam is also a good area to target. Cast Bomber Long As, McSticks or Redfins to the banks and make sure you have fresh, heavy line as these fish pull very hard.
Crappie fishing is very good if you find the right areas. Look midway into the creeks and rivers and target coves and docks that have slightly stained or “green” water for your best success.
We have seen crappie on deep and shallow docks this past week. The number one thing that seems to hold crappie is if there is bait in the area. Live minnows or small crappie jigs are both working.
Trout fishing has really picked up. I live very close to the Buford Dam Trout Hatchery and I am seeing the hatchery trucks pulling out daily so you can bet they are stocking the streams and rivers.
Fly fishing has been extremely productive for this time of year. The warmer weather has allowed for several varieties of insect hatches to happen on sunny afternoons. Pay close attention to any swarms of insects and use a fly that matches the hatch. Spinning tackle fishing has also been good with small in-line spinners and live bait where permitted by law.
Bank fishing: Now is a great time to go buy a bucket of crappie minnows and medium-to-large shiners and just go fishing. You may catch a variety of fish with live minnows and it is one of the most productive methods for beginners and old salts, too. Take a regular fishing rod (a regular old Zebco 33 is tried and true) and put a regular No. 1 Aberdeen hook and set it 2-3 feet below a bobber. Hook the minnows through the lips and cast it as far into the lake as possible. This method will catch a variety of fish and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.
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.