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Lake Lanier Fishing Report: Summer patterns prevail for bass and stripers
Lake Lanier
Lake Lanier as seen from the air in July 2017. - photo by Nick Bowman

Lake Lanier’s water level is a healthy 1071.48 or .48 feet above the normal full pool of 1071. Lake surface temperatures have risen into the mid-80s. Main lake is clear and the creeks are slightly stained. Above Highway 53 Bridge the water is slightly stained to stained.

The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is clear. Check generation schedules at 770-945-1466 before heading to the river.

The upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend will bring heavy boat traffic. This is the time when anglers should demonstrate courtesy and patience. The lake belongs to all of us. Be safe, wear your life jackets and enjoy the blessings of our local Lake Lanier.

Bass fishing remains good for anglers that can target off shore brush. Beating the banks and fishing shallow in the coves will produce some okay fishing, especially early in the day. That being said, if you really want to catch the magnum spotted bass that Lake Lanier is famous, it’s time to get away from the banks and find brush piles in 15 to 30 feet of water.

Running and gunning is a term many anglers use, but what does it mean? Running and gunning simply refers to when anglers can hit an area and quickly determine whether it holds an active school of fish, or if they should leave that area for more productive water. This type of fishing is not for everyone, but if you have the energy along with the right electronics and boat, it can be very productive.

The first thing you will want for successful running and gunning is a milk run of off shore brush marked as waypoints on your electronics. This takes some time but it is much easier if you have Structure Scan (side imaging). With Structure Scan you can idle over an area and mark brush piles. You should also monitor your electronics throughout the day and add new waypoints any time you run over new brush. Once you have several areas with waypoints marked, you are ready to run and gun.

Shut the big motor down a few cast lengths away from your best waypoints and approach them with your trolling motor. Make several casts with a topwater plug or a subsurface lure like a spy bait, swim bait, crank bait or other faster moving lures. If your initial casts don’t produce a strike then move over the brush and scan it with your electronics. If the fish are present then try using a drop shot, Texas Rig or even the relatively new Ned Rig and drop your offerings down to the depth where you mark fish. If you don’t get a strike then move on to your next area.

You may hit 10 areas before you encounter an active school of fish on your 11th stop. Then it is time to “make hay” and catch as many as possible. This is why bass boats have 250 horsepower motors. It’s not to out run the bass but instead to move efficiently to as many areas as possible.  And yes, they also allow us to outrun other anglers to the best areas.

This past week, we have been casting larger, topwater lures and working them with a fast pace along the surface. Use a saltwater Chug Bugs, Super Spooks or even an eight-inch SPRO BBZ1 Slow Sink to work over off shore brush. I use an eight-foot Kissel Kraft Custom Crank Bait Rod that has a parabolic bend with a fast reel spooled with SX2 Sunline Braid. The braid helps with long hook sets, and my Kissel Krafts rod gives just enough to allow the fish to take the bait.

Once we determine if the fish are inactive in an area, then we will move above the brush and use a drop shot or Ned Rig. Drop these offerings down to fish that you see within the brush. My drop shot rig consists of a Kissel Krafts Custom medium action spinning rod and reel spooled with 16-pound test Sunline Sx1 Braid attached to a SPRO Swivel with a seven-pound test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon leader. Hook your worm with a #1 Gamakatsu Aberdeen hook and a 1/8 to ¼ ounce Tungsten Skinny Weight.

Other lures have also been working well on main lake. Smaller swimbaits like a Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad fished below the surface on a 1/8th to ¼ ounce jig head, a spinner bait or even deep diving crank baits like a SPRO Little John 70 or 90 Deep Diver. Throw the lures in the same places where you find off shore brush.

The stripers are setting up in their deeper summer locations around ditches that lead into the creek and river channels. With water temperatures in the 80s, the thermocline is starting to set up in the 25-foot range. This means that the cooler water below the thermocline layer will concentrate the fish below that 25-foot level. My Lowrance Electronics are essential tools for locating these deeper fish. Make sure to locate the schools before deploying down lines.

It is essential to keep your bait alive and well during a fishing outing. Proper aeration and chemicals are a must for keeping your blue back herring alive and active. Make sure to check in with your local tackle dealer to secure the proper bait tanks, non-chlorinated ice and salt to keep your herring alive throughout the heat of the day.

Most of the stripers we are marking are located from 35-feet deep on down to as deep as 70-feet. Use a down line (basically a Carolina Rig) with a one- to two-ounce sinker with a 20-pound mainline and a long 12-Pound Sunline Fluorocarbon leader. Drop your bait to a the level just above where you mark fish. Switch out baits frequently.

The power reeling bite has really started to turn on. There are basically two ways to employ the power reeling technique. The first way is easy. When it is time to switch out your herring drop the rod with your old herring down through the school of fish, then reel it up as fast as you can through and hold on. Even if your herring are dead this technique can trigger a reaction bite from stripers as the bait speeds up past them.

The second way to employ power reeling involves a large, Ben Parker spoon. Drop these very large spoons toward the fish that you mark on your electronics, then reel them quickly up though the school. Use heavy, 20-pound Sunline Natural Monofilament on your reel. This line is heavy enough to land a big striper, but it also stretches enough to handle the shock from the fish hitting your lure. Other lures like a two-ounce SPRO Bucktail rigged with a Big Bites Suicide Shad or a smaller Lake Forks Flutter Spoon will also produce hard hitting strikes.

There have been some stripers after dark near deeper docks that have Hydro Glow Lights located around them. Better yet, you can drop your own Hydro Glow light over the side of your boat after dark in the creek mouths. Drop your herring to the level where you mark fish on your electronics. Unlike when you fish during the day, it pays to stay put and allow the bait and stripers to come to your lights.

Crappie fishing has been a little slower, but anglers who are adept at fishing deep jigs around brush in 20 to 30 feet of water early or late in the day, may catch them well. Find the brush located close to deep water and allow your jigs to sink to the level where the brush is located. Work your small crappie jigs through the brush, allowing them to work up and over limbs. Use a bright colored light two- to six-pound test line so you can see the small tick in the line that indicates a bite.

For anglers (like me) that are less adept at deep fishing, the night bite may work best for boating. Set out lights around deeper docks or bridges in the backs of the creeks and rivers. Fish crappie or spottail minnows below floating or submerged lights. These lights will attract bait fish, which, in turn, pulls in predator fish like crappie, bass and stripers. If you get really lucky, you may even boat a walleye. Walleyes are nocturnal feeders that are about as tasty as freshwater fish get.

Bank fishing: It’s that time of year when the weather gets hot and most of Lake Lanier’s predator fish move away from the shore. That being said, there is one hard fighting fish that prowls during the hottest part of the day in shallow water close to human activity — carp.

Fishing for carp is a great way for kids or new anglers to have to opportunity to fight and catch a big fish on light fishing tackle. Use your trout or crappie fishing rods and reels rigged with four- to eight-pound line. Carp love to roam around beaches, marinas and banks located close to local camp grounds.

Open up a can of corn, take a small handful and throw it into the lake in front of the area you are going to fish. Allow about a half hour to draw the carp into the area. After chumming with the corn, bait up several rods with a small Aberdeen or Octopus Gamakatsu Hook. String three to five kernels on each hook, cast them into the area you have already chummed and secure your rods well and wait.

Remember to take a kid fishing!

 

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 is currently booking teaching trips for Lake Lanier’s spotted and largemouth bass. He would love to hear from our readers so please email him at esaldrich@yahoo.com