Water conditions: 2014 has arrived and lake water temperatures have started to fall into the upper 40s to right around 50 degrees and should continue to cool down even more with the cold forecast for next week. Lake Lanier’s water level is less than a foot above full at 1,071.89 feet which is 0.89 above a full pool of 1,071 and the CORPs is pulling a lot of water through the dam. The lake is clear on main lake and in the mouths of the creeks and stained and the backs of the creeks and rivers are stained. The Chattahoochee River is clear to slightly stained below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: Bass anglers have noticed a pretty significant change over the past week as many of the bass have started to move out deeper towards there more traditional winter locations. This migration should continue with the crazy cold weather predictions for the next week. There are still bass up shallow and some that are out very deep but a lot of the bass are located in what I refer to as the "tweens" or in between shallow and deep water. The ditches or secondary creek channels have been holding a lot fish in 20 to 40 foot of water. Use your electronics and look for bait balls at these same depths as that will be where the majority of your fish will congregate.
I have been using my Humminbird’s Side Imaging to locate both the ditches and cover along with the balls of bait that bass are feeding on. Side Imaging has given anglers the ability to see not only detailed bottom contours and brush piles and other cover but also the bait balls and even fish that are not just directly under your boat. Back before this amazing technology was introduced we would have to run back on forth over an area to determine where the key areas were located and if you were off over a few feet to the left or right you could miss important details that could make the difference from loading the boat and not catching any bass. This along with optional GPS technology like Lake Master or Navioncs charting has given anglers the ability to see many secrets that were previously unavailable in earlier years.
I talk about the above technologies because they really come into play during cold and also hot months when the best fishing occurs off shore. As the weather gets cold bass will move out into 40 to as much as 60 or more feet of water. I have caught bass 70 feet deep on Lake Lanier and, believe it or not as deep as 100 feet on Lake Keowee but those depths are pretty extreme. When water temperatures drop into the 40’s look for Lake Lanier’s spotted bass to set up on the timberlines and deed ditches in 45 to 55 foot of water. Vertical, video game fishing with electronics is a main stay for winter fishing. Jigs, drop shots or jigging spoons are all great choices for picking of fish that you find grouped up on your graph. Using your GPS becomes critical for staying over the groups of fish but even an old school marker buoy with plenty of line can help anglers to their position above these grouped up schools of fish.
Veritical fishing is not for everyone so fishing the ditches can be a great way to catch bass too. Locate deeper banks and look for the ditches on the bank where water washed down through the woods and picture it or refer to your lake GPS or even a hard copy map to keep your boat centered in the ditch and cast Fish Head Spins, Deep Diving Crank Baits like a SPRO Little John DD, Jigs or even Texas or Carolina rigged plastic worms and work these baits down the ditches. Try to keep in contact with the bottom and concentrate on ditches that have rock, brush or docks close by. Also find the ones that intersect with creek channels and you may locates some huge schools at the ditch and creek intersections. Ditch fishing can also be great for anglers fishing from shore but see more on that below.
Stripers: Stripers fishing has been very good in the fall and winter of 2013 and fishing in 2014 is starting out very well too but colder weather could effect this action. Pulling flat lines and planner boards rigged with trout or herring on a Gamakatsu Octopus or Circle Hook has been a consistent method for catching stripers both back in the shallow pockets and creeks and also out toward the deeper creek mouths and main lake pockets that are holding bait.
It is not hard to find the best areas as the birds continue to give away the best locations. All species are fish eating birds will show anglers that pay attention the best areas and even the types of forage the fish in these areas are eating. King Fishers are chatty small shad eaters that look like a blue jay. These noisy birds tend to fly alone and dive as they pick off small shad in the pockets. Blue Herons are the long stork like birds that stalk the banks and they will eat shad, brim and even bass when the opportunity presents its self. These long, tall slender birds look like prehistoric pterodactyls when seen in flight. Loons look almost like a Canada goose with the black and white colors reversed and these are one of the main birds to look for when targeting stripers. They will eat shad or blue backs and when they are in the area you can be the stripers are very close by. Then there are the old reliable sea gulls. Gulls can spot baitfish, stripers or feeding loons from great distances and they are one of the best birds to follow. When you see gull laying still on the water that doesn’t mean much but when they are circling and diving that is the time to pay attention. My Humminbirds are also essential for obvious reasons but natural birds are free to any anglers that pay attention.
Flat and down lined blue backs are working well this week. Trolling and umbrella rig with smaller one quarter to one half ounce SPRO Buck Tails with a Fluke or Cane Thumper are a good bet in areas that are holding balls of shad or herring. These same buck tails and trailers cast on a medium heavy spinning outfit cast to swirling fish is a great way to enjoy catching stripers. Fly fishing offers one of the most exciting and challenging ways to target stripers on Lake Lanier. Cast small shad imitators like Clowser Minnows or small Streamers to fish schooling on the surface.
Crappie: Crappie fishing is a little tough but die hard perch jerkers that know where the deep brush and the proper locations are can still catch some quality fish. It does take some knowledge and quality electronics are a must but the crappie are grouped up in tight schools in brush from 15 to 30 foot of water. Small jigs or down lined minnows placed directly in the right spot will elicit some good catches right now.
Trout: Trout fishing is just OK on the Chattahoochee River but better in the year round mountain rivers and streams. There are some fat rainbow and brown trout feeding up in the WMA streams and rapids that will strike live bait (where permitted by law) or wet flies and small shad shaped crank baits. Rains that muddy the waters will slow trout fishing but trout are for the most part not effected by cold weather and in fact can be caught very well in the coldest winter months.
Bank fishing: Bank anglers can take advantage of the ditch bite for both bass and stripers and even crappie in some instances. When walking though parks find the areas where ditches run down the hills into the water and set out your lines in these areas. You can use live bait or better yet make a long cast with a Jig or Fish Head Spin and work it slowly back up hill through these ditches. If you feel a strike then set the hook!
Eric Aldrich is an outdoor writer, marketing specialist and bass angler. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or aldrichfishing.com.