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Lake Lanier Fishing report: Cold weather may signal changes ahead
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier. - photo by File photo

Water Conditions:  Lake Lanier’s water level is up again this week at 1,066.06 or 4.94 feet below our normal full pool of 1,071. Surface temperatures will drop but are presently in the low 50s. The main lake and creek’s mouths are clear to slightly stained. The creeks, pockets and rivers are stained from recent rains. The Chattahoochee River is clear. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river by calling (770) 945-1466.

Bass fishing has been very good but the extreme cold snap forecast for this next week may move the fish back out deeper. For now, the bass are still relating to main lake ditches, rocky points, bluff wall and creek and ditch channels.

Jerk baits are time tested favorites on Lake Lanier during the winter. The jerk bait bite has been very good, both in the shallow ditches and out around main lake rocky banks and bluff walls. Cast a SPRO McStick 110 to the bank and work it with a jerk and pause retrieve. This week the bass have been reacting to a faster moving retrieve but if the water temperatures drop you may need to impart longer pauses.

After this weekend’s cold front blows in, bass may group up in tight schools. When water temperatures drop quickly it will often trigger a shad die off. After the cold front search, the deeper drop offs and ditch creek channels from 30-to-55 feet deep. Keep an eye on your Humminbird electronics and find the areas that show shad schools with arcs or wavy lines below them. These arcs and lines will be bass and sometimes other predator fish that are picking off the dying baitfish. 

A jigging spoon mimics a dying shad and can be very effective in this situation, but it takes a little practice. Hop a ½ ounce Hopkins or a 3/8 ounce Flex-It spoon just above the bottom and work these baits with a jigging motion while keeping the line fairly tight. Most of your strikes will come on when the spoon falls. You may feel a tap or the lure will just get heavy. You can often limit out quickly in the right areas. 

Dragging a ½ ounce jig with a Big Bites Flying Squirrel has also worked well in the ditches all day long. A jig mimics the crawfish that Lake Lanier’s spotted bass feast on. Cast these lures out and just drag them slowly along the bottom. Use 12 to 15-pound Sunline on a medium heavy John Kissel signature Kissel Kraft Custom Rod to feel the light deep bites. When in doubt: Set the hook!

Striper fishing has been good just about everywhere from Buford Dam all the way up into the rivers. Watch for signs that the fish are in the area you are targeting before setting your lines. I use my Humminbird Electronics and also look for loons, gulls, baitfish or stripers on the surface. If you don’t see any activity, keep moving until you find the right area.

Down-lined trout and blue back herring have been working well but you may want to purchase some medium shiners just in case we get a shad kill. Down lines have been working best but always set a flat line to pick up any active fish that may be roaming around shallower in the water columns. Set your down lines slightly above where you mark stripers on your electronics. Stripers will always move up to eat a bait but rarely will move down. I use 2/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook with a 3-foot leader of 12-pound Sniper Fluorocarbon test below a 1-ounce sinker with 15 to 20-pound Sunline Natural Monofilament on the main line for my down line rig. 

Pulling Captain Mack’s umbrella rigs at 2.5 to 3 miles an hour has also been working well. Some good areas to explore are up river around Holly and Laurel Park, mid lake around River Forks and down lake around Flat Creek, Baldridge Creek and Six Mile Creek.

Crappie fishing remains good, but you will need to be patient while targeting these deeper, lethargic winter fish. Use light line on light to medium crappie pole with a small jig tipped with a live crappie minnow or small threadfin shad. Work your baits VERY slowly and watch your line for a small “tick” that indicates a bite. Look around the deeper docks and deeper brush in the backs of the creeks and pockets from 15 to 25 feet deep.  

Trout fishing is still just fair but the clearer water has helped. Keep using live bait like earthworms and corn from Buford dam on down to the Highway 20 Bridge. Live bait is not allowed from Highway 20 down to Highway 141. When using artificial lures try casting a countdown Rapala or Yo-Zuri Pins minnows up stream and work them downstream with a jerk and pause retrieve. This will mimic dying shad that get washed through the dam and on downstream. 

Fly fishing with wet flies remains good up in the mountain streams. Live worms (where permitted) have also been a great choice. Recent rains have washed worms into the creeks and rivers and the trout are used to eating them.

Even though the above reports speak mostly about deep fishing there are always some shallow fish to be caught closer to shore. Jerk baits will also work well for bank anglers. The secret is to find the deeper drop offs and make long casts. Use a slow pause and jerk retrieve and speed it up or slow it down as the fish give you clues to their preference.

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 his readers so please email him at Remember to take a kid fishing!