Water conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level remains right at full pool at 1,071.01 feet or 0.01 feet above a full pool of 1,071. The CORP continues to keep the water flowing through Buford Dam. 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 up in the rivers. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out on the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: This past week bass fishing has been tough. Water temperatures in the mid-40s have caused the bass to remain relatively inactive. We fished the final tournament in our winter series this past weekend and barely scratched out a five fish limit. Some of Lanier’s most knowledgeable anglers have struggled this week in the cold water, but rest assured – the bass are always biting for someone, somewhere on the lake. Better fishing is right around the corner.
In winter, the bass on our local waters move around and eat less than any other time of year. Their lethargic moods dictate anglers to slow down and get their lures right in the bass’s face to trigger strikes. The strike zone for a bass during winter is usually much smaller then when water temperatures are warmer. For instance, bass in 75 to 80 degree water may charge up from 30 feet deep to crush a top water plug on the surface. Compare this to the 45 degree water we have right now and a bass may not move more than a couple of feet to eat. Because of this, anglers not only need to work lures much slower, they also need to make sure that they fish in areas that are holding fish.
Every bass we caught this past week bit a slow moving jig or a shaky head with a soft plastic. The most productive of these lures was a quarter ounce Alien Head with a green and chartreuse Big Bites Shaking Squirrel. We caught all of our fish this week on steep rocky banks. While my Nitro Z8 was sitting in 50-60 foot water, the bites actually came anywhere from 10-35 feet deep.
In spring, summer and fall, anglers should look around for clues like fish eating birds on the banks or schooling fish eating shad on the surface. During winter your electronics are the most essential tools you have. My eyes pretty much stay glued to my Humminbird’s screen looking for bait fish or actual bass that will bite my lure. The ability to pick out a single fish or even a small school of fish sitting on the bottom takes some training but it will reward anglers with catches when less experienced anglers may go fishless. We have also stayed off and casted to them. Stair step your worms or jigs slowly down the steeper banks.
While many anglers enjoy the winter months, fishing in the cold is not for everyone. Many people don’t enjoy venturing out for just a few bites. If this is the case for you then late winter is a great time to get your equipment ready and to prepare for the warmer, more productive spring months. Many retail outlets offer fishing seminars and other educational activities, so this next month is a great time to take advantage of these opportunities to increase your angling knowledge. Electronic manufacturers and even stores that sell them have videos or articles on the internet where anglers can learn how to better use their fish finders. Look on YouTube and enter “Humminbird” and you will probably find more videos than you will ever have time to watch.
Stripers: Stripers fishing has also been slow, but if you can locate the bait fish the stripers should not be too far away. Look for large schools of shad towards the surface in the backs of the creeks and use a flat line or planer board rigged with a small trout or medium shiner. Once you get a bite, keep your boat moving slowly and go back over the same area. The stripers that are eating shad right now are staying put in these locations for a while.
If you locate the deeper schools of herring use a live blue back on a down line and drop your baits down to the level where you are marking fish. Keep a SPRO Buck Tail tied on at all times to cast to any fish you see swirling on the surface. Trolling an umbrella rig around the deeper fish has been working fair but may out produce live bait this week. Fly Anglers have also been picking off a few stripers that are up shallow eating shad.
Look for the night fishing to start up in a few weeks if we have any warm weather, but for now there are very few night time reports. We need to have 50 degree water temperatures to really get the stripers biting after dark.
Crappie: Keep fishing slowly in the deeper brush when targeting crappie. Drop a small Hal Fly or a Marabou Jig tipped with a small crappie minnow and work these on very light 2-4 pound line through the brush. The lighter line will help you to get your lures down deep. If you are not losing a few jigs then you are probably not fishing deep enough. Watch your Humminbird electronics to find the brush, bait fish and crappie schools in 15-25 feet deep. Many people don’t consider hiring a guide but some of Lanier’s most knowledgeable guides are catching god numbers of fish right now.
Trout: Trout fishing remains slow below Buford Dam, but I have seen a few anglers who are catching them. Smaller, live red wigglers on a bottom rig have been working best.
Fly fishing on the Chattahoochee and also up in the mountain steams have been just fair with wet flies, but I have seen several anglers posting that they have caught some bigger fish. While limits of trout may be hard to come by, winter trout fishing can produce some of the year’s biggest fish.
Bank fishing: Dock fishing for crappie is one of the best ways to catch them right now. Fishing from a deeper dock with brush gives an angler a distinct advantage, but gaining access to a dock can only be done if you own the land or know the people that do. Fishing from bridges in the backs of the creeks can also work right now if you don’t have access to the dock. Once you find an area with brush, use the same lures as mentioned above in the crappie report and drop down in the brush over and over. Stay put in the same area once you catch one or move on to more productive water. Sometimes moving only a few steps can make the difference between catching dinner and having to visit the seafood counter.
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 email@example.com or aldrichfishing.com.