Lake Lanier Fishing Report – December 2023

GON Staff | November 29, 2023

Lanier: Level: Water level 8.2 feet below 1071. Temp: 58-61 degrees. Clarity: Water color is varied based on turnover. Some is clean, some is dirty. It’s all over the place.

Bass: Guide Jimbo Mathley with Jimbo’s Lake Lanier Spotted Bass Guide Service reports, “While the outside elements are not always favorable, December and throughout the winter can offer some outstanding angling on Lake Lanier. Big sacks of spotted bass can be taken during these cold-weather months if you approach the lake with an open mind and are willing to try some different techniques and locations, and mostly get off the bank. Let’s explore two productive approaches to Lanier in December—rocks and ditches. A ditch can be defined as a significant depression, typically narrow in width (2 to 15 feet), which offers a sharp depth change of 2 feet or more from the surrounding structure. Ditches can be naturally occurring or can be man-made. An example of a naturally occurring ditch would be a creek channel that feeds a pocket, cove or creek arm. A man-made ditch could result from a trench that was dug during the construction of a housing edition near the lake. These features exist in many places on Lake Lanier, and they hold fish during the winter months. Ditches can be shallow or deep and sometimes both depending on the length and location of the ditch. The lake will be down about 9 feet from full pool going into December, and historically speaking, this lake condition normally puts fish into the ditches more reliably and consistently than normal lake levels. Use your Humminbird electronics to find creek arms or pockets just off of the main creek channels that offer a deep vein extending back into the arm or cove/pocket. The farther the deep water extends into the creek arm, the better. Also, the more rock that is present, the better. When you enter these areas and are searching for productive water, search for the presence of baitfish in and around the timber, which you will find in the deeper-water portions of the ditch. If you do not find bait, you will not find fish. Leave and check other similar areas. Start your search in 50 feet of water in the mouth of the ditch and work your way back. Start fishing when you find the bait. Once you find a creek arm that meets the above criteria, you must now determine how you are going to fish these potentially productive waters.  Your approach should be determined by the location of the bait and time of day. Early in the mornings, active fish will often be positioned shallower in the ditch, toward the back and sometimes right in the middle. Your presentation speed should vary directly with the water temperature. The colder the water, the slower your presentation should be. Experiment with different lures and retrieve speeds to determine the optimum strike-provoking presentation on any given day. As the water chills on Lanier heading into December, rock points and veins of rock (in creek arms or on the main lake), as well as rocky humps, can be a big factor. Rock holds heat from the sun and therefore attracts forage that seek to meet their metabolic need by finding the warmest available water, even if it is only a slight temperature difference. Accordingly, make sure you find the rock in whatever area you are fishing as that might indeed be the area the fish are holding because the bait is in that same area. Rock often provides the sweet spot as the water gets colder. A Georgia Blade Shad Spin is one of my favorite baits for this time of year. Cast this bait down the center of the ditches in which you have found bait and fish. Work the bait slowly on the bottom (or in the area of where you see the bait and fish suspended) and be alert for very light bites. Make sure to let the fish load up on the bait before you set the hook. That is the toughest part of this approach. It is easy to feel the first bite and immediately set the hook. Resist the temptation and keep reeling slowly until the fish loads up. Use a boot-tail type trailer as the water gets colder. The vibration of this type of trailer helps the fish zero in on the bait. If the bladed bait is not working, try the Keitech swimbait on a jig head and swim or drag that as an option. When the fish are shallower in the ditches, particularly in the mornings, a crankbait can be an effective search bait. Fan cast the backs of pockets and ditches with a crankbait, and as with the Super Spin, work the bait slowly and deliberately. The presence of rock in the areas you are fishing is a plus. The more the bait bumps and deflects off the bottom and acts erratically, the better. The Spro MD or Little John Baby DD are excellent options in the backs of creeks. Don’t forget to try the Spro jerkbaits as well—a McStick or McRip can be excellent options in the backs of these creek arms early in the morning. Overall, stay flexible in your approach, and don’t be afraid to switch techniques. When the fish are not as active, a jig or worm fished in the ditches can be effective. Work the baits SLOWLY on the bottom. Make sure to pause the bait frequently and impart some pops and hops in the presentation. This can be key to triggering strikes. Play with color selection on both the jig and worm. Green pumpkin derivatives are usually a good place to start.  I prefer the Georgia Jig options and will fish a worm on the Georgia Blade jig heads, as well. As the day progresses, particularly on sunny days, the bait and fish will move into the deeper portions of the ditch and will relate to the available cover, such as brush or standing timber. Presenting a Georgia Jig, a drop-shot worm by Lanier Baits or a Georgia Blade jigging spoon to these fish can be effective, as well. Make sure to experiment with different places and approaches as the lake fishes differently each day. Stay flexible and enjoy more success. Good luck and I’ll see y’all on the water!”

Stripers: Capt. Clay Cunningham, of Catching Not Fishing Lake Lanier Fishing Guides, reports, “The striper fishing on Lake Lanier is finally falling into the winter patterns. The bait is finally  thickening up in the creeks and the stripers are following them. Live bait will be hard to beat in December. The baitfish are now moving into the creeks in very large schools as mentioned. Some of these schools will be massive as the bait condenses together. On and off throughout the day the stripers will move through this bait and feast. You want to be waiting on the stripers with the traditional downline with blueback herring and rainbow trout around these massive pods of bait. You will need the same setup for the herring and the trout, but you will need different size weights and hooks. Spool up a Penn Fathom II 20 reel with 15-lb. Trilene Big Game clear line paired with a Shakespeare Striper Rod. You can use this setup year-round for stripers. Tie a Carolina rig on the end with a Captain Mack’s 2-oz. Swivel Sinker and a 5-foot leader of 15-lb. Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon and a Gamakatsu 3/0 octopus hook. If the trout are smaller, go with the 1/0 or 2/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook. On the herring, use the smaller, 1-oz. Captain Mack’s Swivel Sinker. Also on the herring use a smaller size 1 Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Hook and 12-lb. Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. All of these details are important. These details will make the difference between fishing and catching. So far the bite has been all herring. If you want to catch these fish on artificials, the spoon is a great choice. Tie on a Captain Mack’s Super Spoon on a 6-6 Fenwick medium-action rod paired with an Abu Garcia Revo X with 10-lb. line and drop the spoon to the bottom and work it in a yo-yo type motion around the big pods of bait. Most of the bites will be on the fall of the spoon. If you do see some surface action, keep a 2.8-inch Berkley Power Swimmer on a 1/4-oz. jig head tied on a spinning rod. This late in the year the stripers will be feeding on small threadfin shad, which the small Berkley Power Swimmer will match. To find where these deep pods are located, first look for any birds. The birds always narrow your search. Now that you are in the right area, the proper electronics are crucial. On the Humminbird Solix, you can see these huge pods of bait and even see your bait swimming on the hook around the schools of bait. During the winter, do not be afraid to fish in the middle of the day. Many times in the winter the best fishing is during the warmest part of the day. This is a win all the way around. No need to freeze at daylight. See you on the water. The pleasure boaters are gone, and the lake now belongs to the fishermen.”

Capt. Ron Mullins with The Striper Experience reports, “We are seeing more and more birds on the lake and even more will have shown up by this publication as the full moon was on Nov. 27 and will be lots of help in finding the stripers as they have spread out all over the lake in recent weeks. The Chattahoochee and Chestatee arms, northern creeks like Latham/Johnson, Thompson, Gainesville and Little River, and southern creeks, like Sardis and Bald Ridge, will all be holding fish in December. The stripers are really starting to key on small baits, so the go-to artificials this month will be Captain Mack’s Mini Mack and Super Spoons. Striper Tackle Ultra Pro Swing and Pro Swimbait heads paired with a 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiner in smoking white or blue will also be great jig combinations to throw. The Mini Mack can be cast to surfacing schoolers or slow trolled 25 to 30 feet out as a downline around active birds. This stealth trolling technique of pulling Mini Macks at 0.9-1.1 mph straight below the boat or below a planer board 20 to 30 feet away from the boat will get fired up this month and will get better and better throughout the winter. There will be quite a few shallow fish in 5 to 15 feet of water on humps or rocky points in the afternoons as the water cools. Approach these areas that you have highlighted with your Lakemaster map and fan cast from one side of the hump to the other with long casts and make a steady retrieve with the Mini Mack or jig and hang on. Super Spoons in the 1/2- to 1-oz. sizes in glitter, white/ silver foil or white/blue foil (chartreuse/chartreuse foil in dirty water) will be best used on deeper schools of fish in 30 to 50 feet of water on feeding flats off the creek channels or in ditches that run off the creek channels up into pockets and coves. After you mark large schools of bait in these areas, you will find the stripers not far off. Drop the spoons vertically to these fish and using a sweeping motion lift and let the spoon flutter up and down through the schools below. Lots of these bites will happen as the spoon is falling so make sure you’re paying attention and set that hook. Fish the spoon on a medium-action Okuma Reflections rod paired with an Okuma Helios 30 loaded with 15-lb. braid with a 5- to 7-foot, 12-lb. fluorocarbon leader. This setup will allow you to feel that bite even on the fall. The Super Spoon is very versatile and can be cast to surfacing fish with long casts, and yo-yo it back through the school. Live-bait options will be downlines and planer boards with herring, medium shiners or small trout. Don’t forget that the fish are keying on small bait, so try to match the hatch. As we approach the end of another year, remember that during this season we celebrate the beginning of our chance to have eternal life. First and foremost this time of year is about the celebration of the birth of Christ who came to Earth so that we could have everlasting life. If you get a chance, read Luke 1 and 2 to get a grasp on how special His coming to Earth really was. The gifts, lights, trees and parties are all nice, but Christ’s birth is the reason for this season.”

Crappie: Capt. Josh Thornton reports, “The majority of our catch is coming from suspended fish at 10 feet deep or less on open-water brush. Covered docks near the main channel are always a good place to look for crappie, also. I am using small minnows straight down with a split-shot at 8 to 10 feet deep. I have also been doing well with small hair jigs and 1.25-inch soft plastic jigs. While the lake is low, be searching for and marking new brushpiles and blowdowns. The gear I recommend for crappie fishing is an ACC Crappie Stix one-piece rod and reel with a 6-lb. test  K9 line, along with Garmin Livescope and Power-Pole. For more information and tips, please visit my websites and”

Lake Lanier Page: Archived Articles, News & Fishing Reports

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