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Outdoors: Fish migrate shallow as spring approaches
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Forsyth County News

Water conditions: Lake Lanier’s water level is 1,070.42 feet or 0.58 feet below a full pool of 1,071 feet. Lake surface temperatures are in the lower 50s. The main lake is clear and rivers and creeks are 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 has been good but not everyone is catching them. The warm spell we had this past week brought a lot more fish into the 10-foot range but there are bass deeper and shallower as the weather changes from spring back to later winter conditions. Fishing will be up and down until we get consistent warm weather but there are a lot of fat and healthy fish that are feeding heavily before the spawn.

This time of year Lake Lanier’s docks play a big part in day-to-day fishing. Most of the lake’s docks have black Styrofoam floats that warm quickly in the sun light. Plankton grows on the submerged portions of the docks and that provides food for the bait fish. Plus docks provide cover in which bass can hide to ambush their prey. This time of year I usually have two lures that stay at the ready for fishing docks – a Jerk bait and a Shaky Head straight tail worm.

I use a SPRO McStick 110 in clear chartreuse to cast down the sides of the docks. Sometimes the bass prefer a jerk-and-pause retrieve, but on most days I just do what I refer to as "stupid fishing" which means casting and retrieving the jerk bait with a slow steady retrieve. Lake Lanier’s bass love to eat blue back herring and the long slender profile of a jerk bait mimics the look of the herring almost exactly. When this bite is on very few other techniques will catch the same quality fish as the jerk bait. Key in on the first docks in the mouths of the coves; they will often hold large schools of pre-spawn bass. I have seen 20 or more spotted bass suspend under a single dock at this time of year. Make multiple casts to each dock and then pay attention to which ones are holding fish. Then you can fish similar docks in other coves and put together a pattern.

The second lure I use a lot in spring is the good old reliable finesse worm on a 1/8 ounce jig head. I use a Big Bites green pumpkin Finnsee worm dipped in JJ’s Magic and rigged on a 1/8 ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head. Fish these jig head worms on light 5- to 8-pound fluorocarbon with a medium weight spinning rod. This set up allows me to skip these lures up and around the dock floats. Watch your line closely as the lure falls. A lot of your strikes will occur as the worm sinks before it even hits bottom. You will sometimes see a "tick" in your line but most of the time it will just swim off. When this happens set the hook. The jig head worm will catch both numbers and quality bass. Please be courteous to dock owners.

There are still plenty of bass that can be caught in other areas of the lake besides docks. Points, secondary points and steep banks leading into the coves will all hold bass in spring. Experiment with crank baits, jerk baits, spinner baits and even lures like a Fish Head Spin or a Cane Minnow on a Scrounger or Pulse Jig head. Keep an open mind because right now bass can be caught on a variety or lures and bait.

Stripers: Stripers fishing remains good and there are quality stripers biting both day and night. The next couple of months will be one of the best times to catch a trophy line side on Lake Lanier. In spring the stripers are shallow and they are feeding heavily on threadfin and gizzard shad, blue backs and even brim. You may find stripers out on main lake points, in the creeks and also in the back of coves as they swim around in search of prey.

Live bait is always a good bet and live herring or trout are good choices right now. Most of the stripers will be relatively shallow in the water column so start your day fishing flat (unweight) lines or behind planner boards. Planner boards will help you to get your live baits close to the shore where a lot of the stripers trap their prey. Keep your live baits moving at a slow pace and keep an eye out on your electronics and also for any telltale signs of bait or stripers. While the majority of the stripers will be shallow don’t hesitate to switch over to weight down lines if you mark fish deeper on your Humminbird Electronics.

This is a great time to catch stripers on lures because they do tend to be shallow. Jerk baits like a McStick, Bomber, Redfin or even a fluke or Jerk Shad are all good choices to use when you find fish shallow. Cast these lures to the bank and use a slow-to-medium retrieve and impart small jerks if the fish do not react to a slow-to-medium steady retrieve.

The same lures will work very well for catching stripers after dark. Areas down around the dam and also towards the back of some of the lower lake creeks will hold stripers after dark. The most common lure that people use on Lake Lanier after dark is a Bomber Long A. These long jerk baits work very well and this is my favorite way to catch stripers. Cast a Bomber Long A or other jerk bait to the bank and reel it back with a slow and steady retrieve. Stripers will often strike these lures several times before they finally hook up. It always amazes me how hard these fish can hit without getting hooked but if this happens just keep the lure coming with the same steady retrieve and hold on.

Crappie: Crappie fishing is very good and these tasty fish can be caught easily on a variety of methods this week. Crappie are getting ready to spawn soon and they are fat and healthy right now. You can troll small jigs on a "lake rake" or you can catch them on live minnows too. The term "lake rake" simply means to set several different poles out of both sides of the boat and to troll slowly in the creeks coves and rivers. Target the stained water around docks and in the backs of the creeks where crappie live.

Live crappie minnows fished 2-3 feet under a bobber around docks, lay down trees and bridges towards the backs of the creeks. Fishing from a dock boat or the bank will all work well this week. Just remember if your do not catch a crappie in the first half an hour then move on down the bank. Once you get a bite there should be several more in the same area.

Trout: There are plenty of newly released trout in the Chattahoochee River and the rivers and creeks up in the mountains. Streams that allow year-round trout fishing have reported some good catches of trout. Stick to the lures that work best for your style of fishing and you should do well this week. Live bait where permitted by law is always a good option. Trout can’t refuse a live earthworm worked in front of their noses. Just make sure to use lures if live bait is not permitted. Rooster Tails or Rapala Countdowns will catch the same amount or even more trout when they are active.

Bank fishing: The crappie fishing remains the best thing going on right now for bank bound anglers. Bridges in the backs of the creeks like 6-mile, 2-mile, Wahoo, Little River and other shallower bridges on Lake Lanier are all good bets right now. You can also fish the coves in the backs of the creeks that have docks, lay downs and brush piles. All you need is a live crappie minnow and a weighted bobber. Cast these out on a spinning outfit or try the old reliable Zebco 33. This is a great way to get kids involved in the sport of fishing and the crappie will bite all day long.

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 esaldrich@yahoo.com or aldrichfishing.com