Water conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is almost exactly full pool and is 1,070.91 feet or 0.09 feet above a full pool of 1,071. The CORPs continues to pull a lot of water through Buford Dam in anticipation of Spring rain. Lake temperatures are cold in the mid 40s. The lake is clear on main lake and in the mouths of the creeks and stained in the backs of the creeks and rivers. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out on the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: With the cold weather and snow this past week not a lot of anglers have ventured out. When it snows I always make a point to go fishing when the front starts. For some reason the bass always seem to bite well during the snow but walking around the boat deck of a boat in snow or ice can be a challenge.
The fish earlier in the week were eating SPRO McStick 110 Jerk Baits but look for the weekend bite to be much tougher unless you are good at deep fishing and using your electronics. The bass should be down deep huddling together in tight schools except during major feeding periods when they will move around looking for food. Target the deep ends of ditches and timber lines from 40 to 55 feet deep. I like to use a jigging spoon or drop shot as both methods pretty much allow the fish to hook themselves. A standard Jig is a great choice too but it requires an angler to be on their toes to detect the deep strikes. When you feel a thump fishing a jig then set the hook! No matter what method you use keep a constant eye on your electronics as they will often show the fish and even when they bite before you feel the strike!
A jigging spoon will allow you to keep the blood flowing as you jerk up on the spoon then let it flutter down to the bottom and then repeat this process. I don’t like to wear gloves when fishing but using a jigging spoon does not seem to be effected by wearing gloves. Use pretty heavy fluorocarbon or even monofilament and replace any stock hooks with lighter wire hooks like a number four Gamakatsu hook. With heavy line you can usually retrieve your spoons because these hooks will straighten out with steady pressure. I like a Hopkins or Flex-It style spoon and you can vary your weights and retrieves based on wind and what the fish seem to prefer or strike the best. Make sure to attach a swivel to your spoon to prevent the line twists that will occur.
A drop shot worked out deep is also a great method for catching winter bass. I like to spool my reel with 12 to 14 pound Sunline Fluorocarbon with a swivel tied to a leader of 5-7 pound Sunline fluorocarbon with a number 1 or 2 Gamakatsu straight shank hook and a quarter ounce tungsten skinny weight at the end. I like to rig the hook with a Big Bites Shaking Squirrel or Finesse Worm. I use a Shimano spinning reel and a medium weight KIssel Krafts custom rod. This set up allows me to fish deep but to feel the light bites. When the line gets heavy you can just reel quickly which sets the hook well. You can often see your bites on the screen of your electronics and my Hummingbird 1158C huge screen really makes the difference! The bites in cold weather can be tough so if you are catching a limit you are doing well with water temperatures are in the mid-40s.
Stripers: Stripers fishing has been tough for anglers but you can bet that it affects us a lot worse than it does the stripers. No matter how cold it gets, fish still have to eat! When the water temperature drops like it has these past couple of weeks then the shad either die or the congregate into the warmest water they can find. Water that is stained from rain or snow run off often warms quicker than clear water. Look for the coves that are on the North West side of the lake that receive the most sun and you may find the best areas.
Stripers will congregate in areas where shad are schooled up and the will stay put for a while allowing anglers the opportunity to catch them while staying in one area. Pull flat lines, planner boards or a long flat line with a balloon float and cover the area from the center of the coves all the way along the banks.
There are also some stripers out deeper in the mouth of the coves from 30 to 50 feet deep with down lines. Your electronics are key tools and the gulls and loons will also key you in to the best areas. Make sure to stay over the fish and bait and do not move to fat when the water is cold. Keep a SPRO Buck tail tied on at all times to cast to fish that you see schooling on the surface.
Crappie: Crappie fishing continues to be fairly good for experienced anglers who know where the deeper schools of fish are located. Fishing in the winter when the water is cold requires great skill. You must keep above the fish and work your baits slowly through the key areas. As with the above bass and striper reports quality electronics with specific GPS way points are a must.
Fish very slowly with light 2-6 pound test line and allow your lures time to get down to the deeper brush and timber from 20 to 30 feet. Live crappie minnows with a split shot or tipped on light Hal Flies or Micro Spoons with work well in winter.
Trout: Trout fishing is slow below Buford Dam due to cold water and the increased water release. Continue to use live earthworms rigged up on a bottom rig where local regulations permit live bait. Another good technique in cold water is to cast small minnow imitators like a Rapala Countdown up stream and work them with a jerk-and-pause retrieve. This will imitate a wounded shad that has been washed through the dam.
Fishing up in the mountain steams has been just fair with wet flies and small minnow imitators or spoon and inline spinners.
Bank fishing: Fishing bridges for a variety of species can be productive year round but can allow for warmer areas that are out of the wind in winter. Live lures like a large night crawler or a medium shiner on a weighted line will catch a variety of fish. Bass, Crappie, catfish, stripers and even tasty walleye will strike a live bait that is almost motionless on the bottom.
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 aldrichfishing.com.