Lake Lanier’s water level is holding steady at 1,065.97 or 5.03 feet below our normal full pool of 1,071. Surface temperatures quickly fell into the 40’s with the recent cold snap. The main lake and creeks mouths are mostly clear. The creeks, pockets and rivers are slightly stained. The Chattahoochee River is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river at 770-945-1466.
When air temperatures drop into the teens, we must prepare before hitting the lake. It’s not just for comfort but, more importantly, safety. Dress in layers in your warmest cloths. Wind chills increase exponentially with the wind speed out on the lake. Wear a rain suit or overalls to protect you from the wind.
First of all, a warm breakfast along with a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate is a very good start. After eating, put on most of your outdoors clothes and turn off the heater in your vehicle to get acclimated to the outside temperatures.
Despite popular thought, we do not lose 80 percent of our body heat through our head. It sure can feel that way because eyes, ears, nose and lips are extremely sensitive areas. A winter hat and hooded jacket are good, but add a nice motorcycle helmet or at least some form of face cover. Quality gloves and warm boats complete the ensemble.
Cover everything you can and stay dry.
Carry insolated overalls in your vehicles. Then you can transfer them to the boat when you launch in winter. Overalls are essential to have in case you need to change a tire in the extreme cold. For anglers, they also provide a dry change of clothes in case someone falls into the water. Lastly, carry a large bottle of water in case you ever get stuck in the ice or snow.
Bass: So far, the extreme cold seems to have affected anglers more than the bass. Even though we had to fish slower, some bass bit shallow, while the majority were deep this past week. Hopefully the weather will warm up a little for the next week. Hard core anglers that can handle the cold are still catching bass using the same methods that were successful before the cold snap. You may need to slow down and fish your lures slower than before the extreme cold weather comes this week.
Bass are cold-blooded animals, so it goes to reason that when water temperatures drop, so does a fish’s activity level. It often pays for anglers to slow down the speed we retrieve our lures to allow these slower moving predators a slower moving lure. The good news is that cold-winter water also tends to congregate bass into tight groups on the bottom where you can catch several in the same small area.
This week, dragging a «-ounce Strike King Pro Model Jig with a Big Bites Yo Momma trailer or a Ú-ounce Gamakatsu Alien Head rigged with a Big Bites Flying Squirrel in the ditches and around rocky bluff walls has scored some good fish. Work from 15 to as much as 50 feet deep. Cast these lures to the sides of the ditches or to steep rocky banks and drag them very slowly, allowing them to just crawl over the rocks. On steep banks, we often click open the line bar or bail and feed line back to the jig to make sure your lures stay in contact with the bottom.
Jerk banks are time-tested lures for use in cold winter conditions. My favorite jerk bait is the SPRO McStick 110. These lures are buoyant and are designed to suspend around 5 feet deep. When you work these lures with a jerk and pause (or stop and go) retrieve, these actually mimic a dying shad or herring. I use an 8-foot, medium-weight, Kissel Kraft Custom Crank Bait Rod and spool my reel with a 10-pound test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon. Work your jerk bait with a jerk, pause retrieve and impart three second pauses at first and lengthen or shorten the pause until you find out what the fish prefers.
Other methods have been working for anglers willing to brave the cold. Working an underspin with a Suicide Shad along the bottom or over brush and rock piles is a time-tested pattern on Lanier. There are always shallow bass that can be caught around docks, especially around coves with small feeder creeks that bring running water. When all else fails you can always use live bait. Bass love to eat medium-sized shiners under a float or even live nightcrawlers on a jig head.
Stripers: For the hard-core striper anglers willing to brave this week’s brutal cold, fishing remains good. We continue to use Humminbird Electronics and watch for loons and gulls. There have also been some stripers surfacing both over open water and in the coves in the creeks.
Surfacing stripers offer us a great opportunity.
Few things are more satisfying than fooling these hard fighting fish with artificial lures. Anglers that prefer to cast and reel can use SPRO Buck tails, spoons or even pick up an 8 or 9 weight fly rod and work streamers or Clowser Minnows through the swirls. One last method deserves mentioning if you encounter stripers on the surface. Cast a SPRO McStick or Bomber Long A. Slowly reel it though the fish. These large surface minnow plugs will trigger strikes, even when the fish are keyed into smaller bait fish.
Flat and down lines continue to be the go-to techniques, which is par for the course for winter fishing on Lake Lanier. Pay attention to your electronics and set your lines to the depth at which you marked fish. Try free-lining large trout behind the boat to trigger a big bite.
Crappie fishing has been fine, but the majority of the fish are deep. We have seen the crappie schools deeper — both around brush and suspended in large schools in the creeks. Get out those small crappie jigs or light lines with a live minnow and fish them around docks.
Some docks hold large schools of crappie, while others can be devoid of any life. Always check older docks near creek channels drops in the creeks and pockets. Docks with black floats will heat up quicker but docks with the old white Styrofoam that attract beavers which build hutches of wood that are crappie magnets.
Trout fishing has been pretty good in the colder weather. The water below Buford Dam has cleared. The trout fishing has rebounded with the improved water conditions. Cast natural colored lures, like a Countdown Rapala or a Mepps inline Spinners around current breaks on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam.
Fishing for trout in the North Georgia Mountains has been good. Cast wet flies or a small Rooster Tail in natural or bright colors.
Bank Fishing: Stripers will roam in different depths on Lake Lanier. Many anglers are successful at catching these brutes from the bank. Look for a steeper bank where it drops off quickly. Areas around bridges are worth checking. You can make a rod holder out of two-inch PVC pipe.
Use light to medium weight Penn Spin Casting Outfit or try an Abu Garcia Casting Outfit. Make sure you have fresh 10 to 20-pound test line. Attach a SPRO Swivel with a 12-pound test leader rigged with a No. 2 Octopus Hook. Hook a trout, shiner or gizzard shad through the lips and cast it out!
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. He would love to hear from our readers so please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Remember to take a kid fishing!