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Outdoors: Bait fish spawning as fishing heats up
FCN ASivak 051814 web
South Forsyth senior Alex Sivak, seated center, had his college future take a sudden turn after starting a boys volleyball club team at school. - photo by Andrew Hirsh

Lake Lanier’s water is 1,071.13 feet, or 0.13 above a full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake temperatures are in the upper 70s. Lake Lanier is clear on main lake and stained in the rivers and creeks. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.

Bass fishing has been very good at times and just fair at other times. Right now is a very special time for bass fishing. The blueback herring are starting to spawn. Herring spawn on sandy areas on main lake and in areas around and in the pockets where the lake bottom is comprised of sand and small pebbles. When this spawn occurs, the bass will strike a variety of lures that mimic the long, slender baitfish. Of course the majority of anglers like to catch fish on topwater plugs but you can use a variety of lures. Herring are usually 5-7 inches long, so use lures around that size.

If topwater is your favorite method then a Sammy, Super Spook or a soft jerkbait like a Fluke or Big Bites Jerk Shad are excellent choices for enticing those explosive strikes that get your heartbeat going. Other options to try are hard jerkbaits like a SPRO McStick, Vision 115 or a Cordell Red Fin. All of these lures will work well in areas where herring spawn.

Some bass are just finishing up spawning. These fish are lethargic from the hard work of building and guarding their nests. You can tell if the bass you catch has spawned recently. They will be skinny and may have sores or a bloody tail. Some anglers get concerned after catching several of these sick-looking fish, but don’t worry. They will heal quickly and will put on weight as they resume eating the shad and herring that are spawning right now.

A lot of the other bass you will catch are fat and healthy. These are mostly fish that have spawned about a month ago. These bass may have a few red sores, too. But they are very strong because they have recovered from spawning and are now ravenously feasting on the large amount of shallow baitfish that are available.

You can still junk fish and catch bass on a variety of lures and methods. The old reliable shaky head and finesse worm is always a go-to bait. You can skip it around the dock or work them on main lake humps and points. Smaller crankbaits or small profile spinner baits are excellent choices around rocky areas because the shad are also spawning right now. Rip rap (rocky) banks around the bridges and other areas where lake homes have placed rocks will all hold large schools of the smaller "butter bean" sized bait fish.

The night bite has been very good. Target rocky areas in the pockets and also midway on back in the main lake creeks, and slow-roll a large black spinner bait or a medium-sized black crankbait like a SPRO Little John Baby DD. Make contact with the rocks. You want to fish shallow after dark, because the spotted bass seem to move up when the sun goes down. A large black jig with a big trailer and rattles is also a great choice for catching spotted and largemouth bass after dark.

Stripers: The striper topwater action is just getting good, and now is the time to keep a topwater plug ready at all times. Start out your mornings around sandy saddle areas between the islands where the wind is blowing. The herring are starting to spawn and the topwater action is getting ready to explode.

Cast Redfin, V-wake it slowly on the surface and hold on. There may not be a lot of obvious schooling but the stripers are up shallow chasing herring. You will almost get a heater attack when you throw a topwater plug over calm water and a striper explodes on your plug. This is the kind of action that addicts many anglers for life. As with the bass, a soft or hard jerkbait is an awesome way to catch fish that are eating herring. Cast a Zoom Fluke, Jerk Shad or the larger SPRO McStick 115 to entice shallow strike from the powerful predators.

Live bait is always a great choice, even when the topwater action is on. Continue to use store-bought herring, or get your cast net out to catch your own herring around sandy areas in the pockets. Pull these herring on flat lines and planer boards around main lake points, sandy saddle areas between the islands and back into the creeks. Do this while casting a topwater to any breaking fish or prime areas, even if you don’t see fish on the surface. Often a single fleeing baitfish can give away schools of fish that are eating below the surface.

We have caught a few stripers on crankbaits after dark, so anglers should be able to still throw Bomber Long As and Red Fins in the same areas mentioned above. Striper anglers will also catch some large spotted bass that are often mixed in with the stripers. Also, don’t be surprised if you catch a walleye on blueback herring after dark on lures. Walleye have been stocked in recent years. If you catch one, I highly recommend catch-and-releasing them into some hot oil in a frying pan, as they are excellent table fare!

Crappie fishing is OK, and anglers are catching them on different methods. The bite seems to be better up lake in the areas around the Chestatee and Chattahoochee Rivers. Crappie are in the prespawn phase, and most of the tasty fish will be found under docks that have water that is 15 feet or deeper in the mouths of the pockets. Shooting jigs around and under these docks seems to be the key method for catching crappie right now.

Some bank anglers are catching a few fish around the bridges early and late in the day with minnows under a slip bobber. Cast this rig to the bridge pilings and set your bobber stop around 10 feet deep. Vary your depths until you get a bite. The crappie will be shallower after dark and deeper during the day. You can also cast small jigs in these same areas.

If you fish for crappie after dark, lights are a necessity. Set floating lights or Hydro Glow lights out, or fish under dock lights for your best success. Use store-bought crappie minnow or, better yet, net your own native threadfin shad or spot tail minnows and rig these on either a regular downline or under a bobber.

Trout fishing remains very good on the mountain streams and on the Chattahoochee River. Anglers that fish from a canoe or kayak on the Chattahoochee when the sun gets up will be amazed at how many fish inhabit this area. We can often see more trout than we can count in clearwater pools above and below the rapids. Anglers can catch multiple fish in these areas, especially early in the mornings and later in the day.

One rule seems to stand true: If you can see the fish, they can usually see you, unless you are very stealthy.

Anglers that fly fish often spot fish rising to the surface that they can cast to and catch. But when you are in a boat looking down, chances are that you will be seen. That being said, a float trip down the river or up in the smaller rivers and streams is usually very productive. This week, you can still pick your favorite methods to catch the plentiful trout that the Department of Natural Resources has stocked. A small 1/16 or 1/8-ounce silver or white Rooster Tail on light four-pound test is my go-to lure for catching trout.

Bank Fishing: The catfish population on Lake Lanier in many of the smaller ponds and rivers is very good. The catfish have also finished spawning, so they are hungry and actively pursuing food. Many methods work for catching these whiskered fish. Remember that catfish have a tremendous sense of smell, so chick livers, cheese bait and blood bait are all good choices to fish with from the bank.

One of the best baits to use for catfish is a live gizzard shad. Catfish will strike lures and live bait, but a big piece of cut shad or other fish is a great choice for catching big catfish. Because they feed by sense of smell, you can often set out a few fishing poles and the catfish will come to you. It is a good idea to start out in an area that has a ditch, creek or river channel close to the shore. Make sure to use strong line, like a 12– to 14-pound Sunline Monofilament with a large weight, and a three-foot leader with a sharp Gamakatsu baitfish hook. A basic Carolina Rig works very well. Secure your rods well, because a big catfish pulls hard.

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 or visit his website at