Lake Lanier Fishing Report – January 2023

GON Staff | December 23, 2022

Lanier: Level: 2.2 feet below 1071. Temp: Low 50s but dropping fast with the recent cold. Clarity: Water clarity is clear on the main lake to a slight stain in the backs of the creeks.

Bass: Guide Jimbo Mathley from Jimbo’s Lake Lanier Spotted Bass Guide Service reports, “While the outside elements are not always favorable, January can offer some outstanding angling on Lake Lanier, if you are willing to be outside in the elements. Before we get into the fishing, please mark Jan. 14, 2023 on your calendar.  This is the date of Jimbo’s Southern Fishing Expo! It’s one day only! Come and enjoy some incredible fishing tackle and service vendors for a great day of shopping, in addition to some awesome raffle prizes! The event will be held at the Forsyth County Conference Center at Lanier Tech, off Exit 13 on GA 400.  Visit this web link for more info: Now, let’s explore some fishing tactics with which you can approach Lanier in January. As we discussed in a recent article, a ditch can be defined as a significant depression 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 near the lake. These features exist 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. I shared a comprehensive article in December that focused completely on ditch fishing. If you missed it, take the opportunity to go back to and review this information. It could continue to play a key role in January 2023. The lake is trending below full pool as we end 2022, but it is on the rise. Typically, when the lake is below full pool, the ditch fishing is more productive. Use your Humminbird/Garmin 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 back into the creek arm, the better for wintertime fishing. 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. At times, the bait will be deceptively glued to the bottom. Look for the ‘fuzzy stuff’ on the bottom. Also, look for the ditches that do have timber at the mouth. The presence of the timber represents the appropriate depth for a potentially productive ditch. Also, key in on special features within the ditch, such as a point or secondary ditch that may intersect with the main ditch. While our focus is on fishing deep, understand that a shallow bite often exists in these same ditches, even in the dead of winter. Often these shallow fish in the winter mornings are monsters. Try these areas with a Georgia Blade Shad Spin, Berkley Stunna jerkbait or Berkley Money Badger crankbait. Also, a Keitech swimbait on a 1/4-oz. swim head can be a good option. Your presentation speed with all the above should vary directly with the water temperature. The colder the water, the slower your presentation should be. Also, with the Shad Spin, crankbait and Keitech, your bait should maintain contact with the bottom as much as possible. Begin your search shallow in the backs of the creek arms at daylight. This will be the warmest water in the lake and will often attract baitfish. Often the active fish will be in 15 feet of water or less right at daylight, so get out early and be ready for some action right away. After the early morning bite, switch your focus to the deep areas of the ditch, generally 35 to 55 feet deep. Start with the first area of naturally occurring timber you find as you move from shallow to deep in the ditch. An isolated tree can be excellent, but thick timber can hold fish, as well. Obviously, the former is preferred, as the latter is normally more difficult to fish and potentially less efficient. So, find the more isolated cover when possible.  The timber edges are often the most productive, so focus on those areas first. Cast and drag a Georgia Jig Craw Bite through the timber the same way as you would work shallower cover. Slow and methodical is the key. Develop a keen sense of feel as the bites are often very light. If the jig is not productive, fish a shaky head tipped with a Berkley General Worm in the same fashion. Another option is to jig a Georgia Blade spoon vertically over fish you see on your Garmin electronics. A drop shot can also be an effective presentation. Experiment daily as fish preferences change like the wind. Stay open in your approach and remain flexible. Tight Lines and enjoy a great winter bite on Lake Lanier.”

Stripers: Capt. Ron Mullins of the Striper Experience reports, “This January will be like the last few years with small bait being the key to catching numbers of fish. Downlines on an Okuma 7 1/2-foot Striper rod with an Okuma Coldwater 203 line counter with 15- to 20-lb. mono main line will be the most used rod this month. Attach a Striper Tackle 1.75-oz. Pro Pencil swivel sinker to the main line and then tie on 3 to 4 feet of 10- to 12-lb. fluorocarbon leader with a No. 4 Gamakatsu Octopus Circle at the end. January stripers can be very finicky, and reducing your hook and leader size to match the small trout, herring or medium shiners you will be using will keep these baits moving around more naturally and will get you those extra bites. The population of 28- to 32-inch (nine to 12 pounds) fish this winter continues to be great to see.  These 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-year-old fish will eat a bigger bait quicker, so switch up at least one downline to a 1/0 or 2/0 circle and use a medium trout or medium gizzard shad in the 7- to 9-inch range.  All of these fish, as well as the smaller fish, will be around large concentrations bait in 30 to 60 feet of water, and you will be fishing your baits anywhere from 2 feet to about 15 feet off the bottom. Use your Humminbird SOLIX to find these large concentrations of bait toward the backs of any creek on the lake. Favorites will be Young Deer, Big, Flat, Sardis and Gainesville on the south side and up the Chattahoochee side. Going up the Chestatee side, Thompson, Yellow and Johnson will all be great places to look. Artificials for this month will be the Striper Tackle Jigging Spoon on schools of fish you find around the bait and Captain Mack’s Mini Macks while searching for scattered fish. Once you find these concentrations of fish, use your Minn Kota Spot Lock to sit on top of the school of fish or to move around at 0.4-0.6 mph and swim your baits through the bait balls. If you lose the school of fish you were on, then speed up to 0.8-1 mph and put your Mini Macks out 20 to 30 feet down and stealth troll around the area until you find them again. The 3/4- or 1-oz. Striper Tackle Jigging Spoon with silver or chartreuse foil with a dressed treble are the same size shad that you will see these fish spit up, so keep one tied on to drop down to any fish you see on the bottom around the large concentrations of bait you will find with your SOLIX. Winter fishing on Lanier is about finding the bait. Trust your electronics. The fish will be close by, as well.  Recently we lost a long-time great fishing guide here on Lanier, and at his memorial, we were all reminded that we should all be more like him and be an unbelievably humble person. This was him to a tee and something for all of us to strive for. ‘Do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.’ Philippians 2:3-4.”

Lake Lanier Page: Archived Articles, News & Fishing Reports

Stripers: Capt. Clay Cunningham, of Catching Not Fishing Lake Lanier Fishing Guides, reports,“After a very warm and wet December, it looks like Lanier is finally falling into the winter pattern. The lake is still down a few feet, but it has risen some the last couple of weeks with the wet weather. Be careful of debris floating each morning. This month’s report is more like a December report as opposed to a January report. Everything is more or less a month behind schedule. The baitfish are just now moving into the creeks in very large schools. Some of these schools are absolutely massive. 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. Trout are already being used with success this winter. You will need the same setup for both of these baits, but you will need different sized weights and hooks. Spool up a Penn Fathom II 15 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. Drop these baits on top of the very large schools of bait and wait. If they are around, you will know within 15 minutes. If no luck, go to the next creek. 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 Abu Garcia 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. Most of the bites will be on the fall of the spoon. The spoon bite is late this year, as well. It is just now heating up. Target the bait in the ditches. To find where these deep pods of bait are located, first look for any birds, like loons and gulls.  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 around on the hook in 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. It’s a win all the way around. No need to freeze at daylight. See you on the water.”

Crappie: Capt. Josh Thornton reports, “If the fish are not biting in the main lake, try the rivers and the docks near main channels. Crappie can be found from 10 to 40 deep. Most of my crappie are coming from standing timber and docks, and 80-90% of our fish are coming on minnows. If you are using jigs, I would recommend starting with darker color combinations in stained water and bright colors in the clear water. Crappie love the shade so cast into the shadows or shaded areas of a 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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