Water conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.51 feet or 0.49 feet below a full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake surface temperatures vary from the upper 40s into the lower 50s. The main lake is clear and rivers and creeks vary from slightly stained to very stained in the backs. The Chattahoochee River is clear below Buford Dam. Check generation schedules before heading out on the river at 770-945-1466.
Bass: Bass fishing is really starting to pick up as anglers prepare their tackle for the awesome shallow fishing season. Most of us are ready to put up the winter suits and break out the sun tan lotion but we are not quite there yet. March is a tricky month in the south and we can have spring like conditions one day and snow the next day. That being said, the bass are like us humans and they are ready to shed their deep winter areas and move into warmer shallow water where they will fill their bellies and mate. This is a time of transition. Warm weather will fired up the bass and colder weather will calm them down a little but not too much.
The bass are following the creek channels into the ditches. You can see the ditches on the bank that feed rain water into Lanier but it is hard to guess where they run under water. If you have electronics with GPS and do not own a detailed mapping chip then it would be a great investment for your fishing year round. The LakeMaster chip in my Humminbird fish finders shows extreme details and topography and there are other chips available depending on your units. These chips will allow you to follow the bass highways from deep to shallow water.
This week the bass have related to the ditches that are 25 feet of less. Start your days with a medium diving crank bait around rocky areas with ditches close by. Use a SPRO Little John MD, a Rapala Shad Rap or your favorite medium diving crank bait in a natural shad color. Try to make your crank bait bump the bottom and use a medium steady retrieve with an occasional pause. With any diving crank bait it helps to use the lightest line possible. The jury is still out on what works better between fluorocarbon vs. monofilament line. My ideal rod and reel set up is 10 or 12 pound Sunline Fluorocarbon on a medium speed bait caster reel with a Kissel Kraft Custom crank rod. This set up allows me to get my crank baits a little deeper because fluorocarbon sinks and the parabolic properties on this fishing pole allows it to yield when a bass makes a sudden surge.
As the day goes on the bass will start to move from deeper docks up around the shallow ones just outside the spawning flats. This is especially true when the sun is out because the regulation black floats warm the water around them. Some days the bass will relate to the sunny sides of docks but for some reason they tend to suspend on the shaded side. Some people say this is because the sun hurts their eyes but I feel that the bass are hiding from baitfish and the shade provides and better ambush point. Pick a McStick, shallow running crank or soft plastic shad type lure like a Big Bites Jerk Shad or a Zoom Fluke. Cast these lures down the sides of these dock. These suspending dock fish tend to be the bigger bass. The bass we have been catching are fat and full of shad and in the case of the females, eggs too.
Finesse worms on a stand up jig head are also working well skipped around docks and worked down the steep drop offs near shallow flats. A jig’n pig combinations is also working in the same areas. There are some big spotted bass relating to secondary points that will eat a McRip 95 or other diving jerk bait. After dark work rocky banks with the same jerk baits or crank baits mentioned above. Make long casts parallel to the bank and work them with a slow, steady retrieve.
Stripers: Stripers fishing is good and they are really biting well after dark. Night fishing is one of the best ways to get into striper fishing and that action is really good right now. Stripers move closer to the shore after dark and target many different species of bait. Threadfin shad, gizzard shad, blue back herring and even brim are all on the menu for these hard fighting game fish.
After dark use a medium heavy to heavy rod spooled with 14 to 20 pound test line. Use long jerkbaits like a Bomber Long A, SPRO McStick 115 or a Cordell Redfin. Once you find where the fish are located then the action can be non-stop. Cast these plugs to the shore and use a slow steady retrieve and hold on! It is amazing to me how hard a striper will hit these lures and not get hooked. We usually catch over ten fish on a good night but get just as many or more strikes that do no hook up. This action keeps anglers excited and makes for a great outing.
During the day the fish tend to move out a little away from shore where they can be caught with live blue back herring or other live bait fish. The native gizzard shad on Lake Lanier are often over a pound and they make a great meal for striper. You can use a cast net to catch these gizzards or some stores carry then at certain times of year. Fish these blue back and gizzard shad on flat lines or planner boards and move the boat as slow as possible. Other bait fish like trout, herring and store bought shiners will also entice some strikes.
There are still a good amount of gulls and loons out on the lake so watch for these birds as they will give away the best areas. Use your electronics to confirm the presence of fish. Cast buck tails to any fish that are schooling on the surface.
Crappie: Crappie fishing is awesome and they are moving up shallow where bank anglers can catch them well too. Shoot the docks with small or troll small jigs on very light line. Troll these same jigs on spider rigs or lake rakes. These terms are just referring to a boat with many poles and lines. You can stagger your set up with short rods in the back of the boat and larger poles in the front.
The crappie are also biting well around bridges with small jigs or just a bobber with a small split shoot and a crappie minnow set a couple of feet below the bobber. This same set up is working after dark. Set out a light and watch as it attracts the shad. No matter what method you use make sure to use a light action rod with the lightest line possible.
Trout: The Department of Natural Resources has continued with their stocking efforts in the Chattahoochee River and the rivers and creeks up in the mountains. Newly release trout are very catchable so check with the DNR and see what steams or rivers have been stocked recently. Newly stocked areas are great places to bring the kids.
Trout continue to strike natural baits as well as artificial lures. There are many options to us for live bait. Worms, corn, Power Nuggets and even crickets. Make sure the area you are fishing does not allow live bait. Roster Tails, Rapalas, and Yo Suri Pinns Minnows are all great choices if you use a spinning reel. Fly fishing has also been great. Use wet flies early in the morning and keep some dry flies ready to match some of the small insects that congregate on warmer days.
Bank Fishing: Like mentioned last week the fish are starting to move shallow. There is one species that is coveted most and that is crappie. These tasty fish are pretty easy to catch and they are great to eat!
Look for the bridges, docks or rip rap (rocks) midway on back into the creeks as these areas will hold large schools of crappie. Cast a bobber with a live minnow out around the pilings and secure your fishing poles. Crappie won’t usually pull too hard but there are other fish in Lake Lanier that are more than capable of steeling your fishing poles. You can cast small jigs or even a Rooster Tail in these same areas.
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.