Lake Lanier Fishing Report – February 2023

GON Staff | January 25, 2023

Lanier: Level: 0.6 feet below 1071. Temp: Upper 40s. Clarity: The main lake is mostly clear up to the Highway 369 bridge, and then stained up to Highway 53 up the Chestatee and to Gainesville Creek up the Hooch. From these points up the river, arms are very stained as are all the major creeks at least two-thirds back, and then they become muddy. These recent and continuing rains have put a lot of large debris (trees and dock pieces) into the lake, so be very careful as you motor from area to area while you are out fishing.

Bass: Jimbo from Jimbo’s Lake Lanier Spotted Bass Guide Service reports, “The early prespawn on Lake Lanier can be a fantastic time to catch a huge spotted or largemouth bass. The fish have been lethargic due to the colder water, and biologically, they are triggered to begin feeding in preparation for the arduous spawning process that will soon follow. The biggest factor in the bass beginning their trek shallower is the steady lengthening of daylight that we experience as the calendar progresses forward. The longer days are nature’s signal to the bass that it is time to start focusing on the reproduction cycle.  This integral need will also trigger a feeding urge. Look for a three- to four-day period of stable weather accompanied by a warming trend. The trend upward in temperature does not have to be huge. Just a degree or two in surface temperature can make the difference and trigger the fish to move shallower. Once the warming trend begins, the fish will move shallower to feed in waves. Fish travel on “highways.” Fish highways include areas like the main river channel, creek channels and ditches/drains  within or near those channels. The bait and fish move methodically along these paths and look for cover to which they can use for food, protection and often in the case of the bass, an ambush opportunity. Understand that fish are not going to randomly appear. They travel these highways and seek likely stopping points along the way. As I pursue the ditches and channels within the creek near areas where I have been catching fish, I look for likely stopping points; a secondary point with deep water nearby, for example. Other viable locations include deep pockets with a small flat or ledge near the point of entry, small bays, or “guts” that receive all-day sun and are located right next to the creek or river channel. Boat docks located over or near a channel bend or creek channel ditch in deeper water can be excellent choices, too, particularly if the area in which the dock is located receives all-day sun. Also, focus on pockets that are protected from a northern wind. The main body of water can also be an excellent location to target early prespawn bass. When fishing the main lake during the early prespawn period, I like to focus on points and humps that are near the main river channel and offer sharp contour breaks (drains) and therefore ease of access to feeding flats or ledges within these areas from deep water. Obviously, cover in these areas will provide an ambush spot for these prespawn monsters, so a well-placed brushpile can improve your results. Now that we have explored the timing and areas of pursuit of early prespawn bass, let’s examine some possible lure choices and techniques to catch these fish. In selecting and working a lure, remember that the water temperatures are still traditionally cold during the early prespawn period, so the fish’s metabolism is reduced. The fish will move slower, and so should your lure presentation. As far as lure colors, I tend to stick with natural colors in the spring as I do all year-long. Green, brown and white are generally found somewhere in the lures I am utilizing in the spring. If you are not getting bit, switch colors or lure type. One of my favorite early spring lures is a jerkbait. These lures mimic expiring baitfish and represents an easy meal for lethargic bass. I prefer a deeper-diving model, such as the Berkley Stunna in early spring. Work these lures in the areas mentioned above with a very slow cadence. Offer small twitches or short pulls of the jerkbait followed by LONG pauses. Vary your cadence until you find the right combination; let the fish tell you the way they want it and stick with that retrieve. A Georgia Blade Shad Spin can be a very productive lure in the early prespawn period, as well as throughout the spawn and into postspawn. Work the lure by slow-rolling the bait in the likely areas we have discussed. In most cases, maintaining contact with the bottom is important. I prefer a boot-tail trailer this time of year. It imparts more vibration in the lure and allows you to work the lure more slowly. A crankbait like the Rapala Shad Raps are great choices in the early spring. If the fish are not shallow on the flats, and I am unable to get bites with the shallow-running models, I will switch to a medium-depth crankbait, such as one of the Berkley Flicker Shad medium divers. If this fails, I will probe the deeper depths on the ends of flats, points and humps with a deep runner, such as a Berkley Dredger or Berkley Money Badger. Work these baits slowly and attempt to deflect the bait off of cover or the bottom as much as possible. When all else fails and when the fish are bottom-locked, do not ignore the Georgia Blade jig head/worm combo, as well as the Georgia Jig. Drag these baits in likely areas very slowly, imparting periods of motionlessness on the bait. Often bites will occur this time of year when you are simply allowing the bait to remain still following a slow drag or slight hop. Early prespawn is a great time of year to fish. Often, this is the time when you are most likely to catch the bass of your life.”

Lake Lanier Page: Archived Articles, News & Fishing Reports

Stripers: Capt. Ron Mullins, of The Striper Experience, reports, “February is a great month to catch a big fish. As the water temps get into the mid 40s, the big fish will target large bait in shallow water in the afternoons as the water warms a few degrees. South-facing clay banks with some rock are the areas to target, as these are the parts of the lake that will absorb a little more sun and warm the water just a few degrees. Large gizzard shad will come to these areas looking for that little bit of warmth, and the big fish know it. The best baits to be pulling behind your Captain Mack’s 10-inch Perfect Planer Board will be 9- to 14-inch gizzard shad or an 8- to 12-inch trout about 10 to 15 feet behind the board, and you should be pulling these baits in 5 to 10 feet of water right up against the bank. The gizzards will require a 3/0 Gamakatsu Circle hook with a No. 1 treble stinger hook 6 to 9 inches back. My favorite way to tie this rig is to snell the circle hook to your 17- to 20-lb. fluorocarbon leader, but make sure you leave at least 12 inches of tag line behind the hook and then tie your treble at the length for your bait that you will be using. The circle goes in the shad’s mouth and then out between the nostrils, and then you will hook the stinger behind the dorsal or in the side of the bait between the dorsal and anal fins. I don’t recommend using a stinger when using large trout as bait for the sole reason of safety. These squirmy buggers will have that stinger stuck in your palm, wrist, finger and any other body part before you could ever stick them and get them in the water.  Most of the bites that you will get on these big baits will be vicious and extremely fun to watch, so keep an eye behind that board, especially if you see that bait getting nervous and coming to the surface. If you are looking for numbers of fish, then stick to the northern end of the lake and look for deep schools of bait in 40 to 60 feet of water in the backs of the creeks. These fish will be best targeted with a downlined small herring, small trout or even a medium shiner placed down about 35 to 50 feet (trees allowing). Then, slow troll at about 0.5 mph at or below the bait that you are marking. If you don’t have time to get bait, you can put a spread of Captain Mack’s Mini Macks loaded with 3/8-oz. StriperTackle Pro Spin shad heads out as downlines and on the planer boards. These slightly larger heads will give you even more flash and keep your rigs running more true to the actual depth to the amount of line you are letting out, which will be 25 to 35 feet down so that you can avoid any trees. Stealth troll these rigs at 0.9 to 1.1 mph in the areas where you are marking large schools of bait on your Humminbird Solix or Helix. In muddier water conditions, run the blue head with a chartreuse 3- to 4-inch trailer, and in clearer conditions, run the white with white trailer combination. Being a good person is hard, and staying a good person is even harder. “No one is righteous—not even one.” Romans 3:10. Even though it is hard, it is still not the way to eternal life. There is only one way. “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved,” Romans 10:9-10. Trust and believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior and you will see eternal life.”

Capt. Clay Cunningham, of Catching Not Fishing Lake Lanier Fishing Guides, reports, “Striper fishing this winter has finally gotten into the deep-bait pattern, as it should be for this time of year.  The cold snap at Christmas has finally pushed the bait into the creeks. We need some sun to warm the water for the bait to make a shift shallow. This may not happen until March, so stay with the deep downlines unless we see unusually warm weather. Most of the bait has continued to be 50 to 80 feet deep. There have been a few fish shallow that can be easy to catch but not big numbers. Live herring and small trout have continued to be the best pattern over the deep bait. Herring have been the best bait all winter. Keep as many  Shakespeare striper rods rigged as possible with Penn Fathom Linecounter reels spooled with 15-lb. Trilene Big Game. Rig several of these striper rods with downlines. The downline is more or less a Carolina rig for live bait. Tie on a 2-oz. Captain Mack’s Swivel Sinker, a 4-foot leader of Trilene 100% 12-lb. fluorocarbon and a size 1 Gamakatsu octopus hook for the herring. These hooks are tiny but incredibly strong. Great electronics like the Humminbird Solix will greatly increase your success, as well. You should be able to see your bait almost hit the fish on the head with the electronics. Also the Down Imaging of the Solix allows you to see into the bait with more detail. Many times you will see fish with Down Imaging that is hard to see with old-school 2D. If you want to use artificials, tie on a Berkley Fusion 3/8-oz. white jig head tipped with a 2.8-inch Berkley Power Swimmer in sight flash or a Captain Mack’s 3/8-oz. bucktail. Rig up a Penn Conflict 3000 with 10-lb. Trilene Big Game on a 7-foot medium Penn rod, and you are ready for battle. If you prefer a baitcaster, match up an Abu Garcia Revo with an Abu Garcia Veritas 7-foot medium casting rod. Do not use heavier than 10-lb. line. Heavier line will decrease your casting distance. This pattern will be best once the bait moves to the backs of the creeks. Right now, the key ingredient is the bait. If the bait is thick, the stripers will be there. Another great option with artificials is the Mini Mack. Once you find the fish, simply drop the Mini Mack’s back 60 to 100 feet and troll with the trolling motor. The speed of the trolling motor will impact your depth. This is a great way to catch fish without dealing with live bait. Also of note, February is the big fish month of the year as the females begin to feel the urge of the spring spawn. The metabolism of the big females will increase, and they will be looking for a meal. A few big fish have already shown up this winter, which we have not seen in several years. The stripers are rebounding from the parasite that hurt the big fish a few years ago. Gizzard shad on freelines are finally a good option again. Time to pull some big baits soon.”

Crappie: Capt. Josh Thornton reports, “Crappie can be found from 10 to 40 feet deep. Docks are producing well, and the fish are suspended in 6 to 12 feet of water. This is the time of year when we will start longlining or pushing minnows. Crappie love the shade so cast into the shadows or shaded areas of the dock. When dock shooting, the biggest fish are usually the first to bite. I use ATX Lure Company plastic jigs on Lip Thrashin Lures jig heads. I use 5-lb. test, high-visibility yellow K9 braid for my line unless I am using a bobber, then it’s the K9 6-lb. high-visibility line. I use Garmin Livescope and the Navionics Boating app. Find me on Facebook and like my pages @crappieonlanier and @fishingwitheverydayheroes.”

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