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Lake Lanier fishing report: High water levels bring fish shallow
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier as seen from the air in July 2017. - photo by Nick Bowman

Water Conditions: Lake Lanier is well above full pool at 1,075.7 feet, or 4.7 feet above full pool of 1,071 at the time of this writing. Lake surface temperatures are right above or just below 50 degrees.

The lake below Browns Bridge is clear to stained in the creek mouths and stained to very stained in the backs of the creeks. The upper lake creeks are stained in the mouths and very stained to muddy in the backs. The rivers are muddy. Check generation schedules before heading out to the river below Buford Dam at 770-945-1466.

With the high lake levels, there is a lot of debris floating all over lake, so please be extra careful out there. There is a rule in tournaments that requires anglers to always wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device with a lanyard attached to your kill switch any time your motor is running. This is a great rule to follow whether you are fishing in a tournament or not.

Bass fishing has been up and down. The fish are reacting to the high-water levels and they can be found in less than 5 feet in some places and as deep as 35 feet or deeper in others. The best bite has either come from beating the banks or staying out deeper in the ditches around large brush piles or rock located on the sides of ditches and small feeder creeks leading into the pockets.

This is the time of year to concentrate on the “bass highways”. This term basically means any defined ditch or feeder creek channel that leads back into the pockets or close to main lake points and humps. These concave bottom features allow bass easy access to both shallow and deep water. If you think about how we humans use paths to move back and forth into and out of the woods, then you have a great example of why the fish uses paths underwater.

Start out early fishing either finesse techniques like a Big Bit Baits Flying Squirrel or a Lanier Baits Fruity Worm on a 1/8th to 3/16th ounce Gamakatsu Alien head. When it is overcast, the fish will be out roaming the banks close to small ditch channels as they move up to scour the banks for crawfish, shad and other forage. If it is sunny, the fish will relate closer to docks, laydowns and other cover where they can hide.

Once the sun gets higher in the sky, the docks have been our go-to targets to fish. Bass are seeking out warmer water, and docks have those black floats and also gang planks that collect heat. Bass will often position directly under the floats or planks to get warm. Skipping a shaky head will often put your baits close enough to these floats to get a bass’s attention. Most bites will occur on the fall, so watch your line closely for a light “tick”. Other times you will just see your line move off. In either case, set the hook hard. These same shallow fish will strike a jerk bait worked next to the dock floats and sides of the docks.

If the sun is out and the wind starts blowing, it’s time to hit the windblown banks with rock. Crawfish and brim are attracted to these banks because rock warms quickly, and the bass are drawn to the same areas because of both the warmth and the potential for a high-protein meal. A crank bait is the perfect lure to use and also to cover water. Use a lure that has red, brown or blue, and keep these lures in contact with the bottom. Use a slow roll retrieve, as most bites will occur as your lures bounce off of rocks. If your lure feels like it is hanging up, just stop it and allow the lure to float free before you start reeling again. Usually there is no need to set the hook hard on these fish, so if the lure stops and it is a bass, they will usually pull back and hook themselves.

Fishing after dark with a crank bait or spinner bait has been working well. Just make sure to drive slow and always wear your life jacket. Work rocky banks with a SPRO RkCrawler or a Little John DD and work these lures in and over rocks for some of the bigger fish in Spring.

Striper fishing is good, and the hardest part of fishing right now is keeping your lines from getting fouled up with pine straw and other floating stuff on the surface from all the high water we have had.

Your Lowrance Electronics are key tools right now, because a lot of fish are well below the surface. If there are gulls and loons feeding in an area, then that is also a great indication that the bait and stripers are present. On overcast days, the stripers may be shallow feeding on bait, but a lot of fish have been feeding deeper, so that is where your electronics come in to play.

While a lot of the water is stained or even muddy from the rains, the fish are still feeding and going through their spawning process. The fish are mostly midway on back into the creeks and in pockets off the river and are feeding heavily on blueback herring, threadfin and gizzard shad.

Trolling umbrella rigs continues to be a great way to cover water and also to catch fish. A Captain Mack’s Umbrella Rig has been your go-to technique in early spring. Trolling depth and speed are important things to monitor for successful trolling. The best umbrella rig action is happening at less than 25 feet deep right now. You can use a lead core line with a four-arm umbrella rig trolled at 2-3 mph to keep your rigs in the 15 to 25-foot range. The weight of your umbrella rig and the different weights and type of trailers and jig heads used are also factors in how deep your rigs will run. You can inquire at local bait shops or watch YouTube videos to help you learn what size rig and type of line will work best.

Once you locate a school of fish, you may do better to fish live bait. It seems that smaller minnows, shad and herring have been working best. Fish these smaller baits on planner boards, flat lines and down lines. Use your Lowrance Electronics to determine the best depth at which to fish. Otherwise, you can deploy several lines at different depths and let the fish tell you which depths are working best.

We are not hearing many reports about the night time bite yet, but I will be doing a couple of trips this week and should be able to report more information next week. The water levels are certainly a factor, but the fish should be biting. Cast your Bomber Long As and SPRO McStick 110s and 115s to the banks in the backs of the creeks or in the pockets with lighted boat docks and retrieve them slow and steady, just fast enough to feel your lures wobble.

Crappie fishing has been decent, and the fish are biting both small jigs shot up under docks and also minnows on a down line or slip bobber set to 15 to 20 feet deep over brush. Use Structure Scan on your Lowrance Electronics to shoot up under docks. Schools of crappie will look like groups of small circles or rice on your screen.

Bank fishing:  Because the lake is so high, many of Lake Lanier’s fish are very shallow. The best banks will have a combination of docks, rock and laydowns in the same areas. Many of our public parks have great areas to fish from. Pack a medium action spinning rod and reel or even a closed-face outfit like a Zebco 33 and walk the banks.

Because the fish may be found anywhere, roam the banks and cast shallow running lures like a SPRO McStick, Rooster Tail, small plastic shad imitators like a Fluke, Big Bites Jerk Minnow or even a curly tail grub to catch a variety of species like bass, stripers and crappie.

Reports are based on personal experience and permission from a close network of friends. Aldrich would love to hear from his readers, so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com. Remember to take a kid fishing.