Lake Lanier is a 38,000-acre reservoir operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and located about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. Lanier receives heavy fishing pressure due to the large regional population. Spotted bass, crappie, striped bass and catfish are favorite targets of Lake Lanier anglers..
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: ph. 770-945-9531
Prospects and Fishing Tips
SPOTTED BASS, STRIPED BASS, LARGEMOUTH BASS, BLACK CRAPPIE, & WALLEYE
Largemouth bass are relatively abundant in the upper areas of the reservoir and backwater sections of coves, where shallow water cover is prevalent. Anglers should see a strong class of 6-year old largemouths in the coming year. This should help anglers find more bass greater than the 14-inch minimum than usual.
During the winter months, live baits and slow-moving artificial baits are effective when fished in the right locations. With the onset of spring, largemouth bass with take a variety of shallow-running baits and lures worked methodically near structure close to the shoreline. In summer, largemouths will seek refuge in cooler waters in the 20-ft depth range on points and fallen trees. Fall brings a flurry of activity with largemouth bass feeding near the surface during early morning and evening and then moving into deeper water during the day. Anglers may need to use an arsenal of lures and presentations to zero in on what the bass are willing to bite that day.
The upper end of the Chattahoochee River arm supports the greatest concentration of largemouth bass throughout the year. Anglers will find largemouths in close proximity to fallen trees or other types of structure most anytime. Finding structure at the right depth will be the key to catching largemouth bass on Lake Lanier. In the winter, largemouths will typically be in deeper water along creek channels or among the branches of fallen trees. During spring, bass will move into shallow water to spawn near tree stumps, rock outcroppings or other visible structure. Warm summer temperatures drive largemouth bass into deeper water in the 20-ft depth range along points and in the tops of standing timber. As fall approaches, largemouths will roam all types of habitats in search of shad and herring, so anglers need to use a run and gun approach to locate feeding fish.
Lake Lanier supports an abundant and healthy spotted bass population. The population appears at a stable density and size structure. Spotted bass in the two pound range are common and fish exceeding four pounds often find their way into an angler's livewell. Trophy-sized spotted bass should be more common than normal.
A variety of artificial lures are effective throughout the year as well as live baits such as nightcrawlers, crayfish and minnows. During the winter months, spotted bass are more likely to take live baits, like blueback herring, and slow-moving artificial lures. During April and May, spotted bass will take a variety of shallow-running lures, jerkbaits, curly-tailed grubs, and plastic lizards when fished near their spawning beds. Finesse and drop shot techniques work best in the summertime when spotted bass hold tight to deepwater brushpiles. During the fall months, topwater plugs can be effective under low light conditions, but anglers should transition to slow-moving, deepwater presentations along points, fallen trees, and brushpiles during the day.
During the winter, spotted bass will follow schools of baitfish into pockets of warmer water that occur near rocky outcroppings, rip-rap embankments and warmwater discharges. If the wind is blowing onto these types of rocky banks, then hungry spotted bass should be within casting range. April and May is the spawning season for spotted bass and they will seek rocky banks in 5 to 15-ft of water to fan their nests. Cast shallow running baits along rocky banks, around boat docks, reef marker points and fallen trees. Spotted bass will often explode onto a surface plug during the spawning season. Summer can be difficult for spotted bass anglers to find biting fish. Consider casting to surface feeding fish over open water during early morning and evening on the lower lake. During the day, use a high resolution electronic fish finder to locate brushpiles in 20 to 50-ft of water on the lower half of the lake. Patiently working every fishable inch of a brushpile can produce a big stringer of spots. During the fall transition, look for surface feeding fish early and late in the day followed by deepwater presentations on points and fallen trees during the day.
The striped bass population of Lake Lanier appears to be rebounding from a dip over the past few years. Small fish should be more plentiful in the coming year and stripers in the 5-6 lb range will be the most frequent size group caught by anglers. A couple of weak year-classes in the last decade may limit the number of 10-15 pound fish seen by anglers, though an unprecedented class of fish now reaching the 2-3 pound range is entering the fishery.
The winter months are the prime time to catch big fish using a variety of methods, including shallow water techniques, whereas the summer provides the highest numbers of fish on live baits. Live baits such as blueback herring, large gizzard shad and even rainbow trout are preferred by most of Lanier striper anglers and guides, but flukes and bucktail jigs will also produce good results.
Striped bass range far and wide in Lake Lanier both longitudinally (up and down the length of the lake) and vertically (up and down in the water column). During winter, look for feeding fish underneath sea gulls that are hovering tightly over the water. Troll these areas with blueback herring at various depths until fish are located. Downline live herring or vertically jig bucktails into stationary schools of striped bass. From February through April, striped bass will also frequent shallow water and can be caught easily on artificial lures. Look for fish in the mouths of creeks, windblown points, and reef marker points during this time of year. Stripers will prefer a stained water color over clear water during this season. For an extra challenge during April, try the deep holes and shoals in the upper reaches of the Chattahoochee River upstream of Lula Bridge. As June progresses into September, striped bass move downstream toward the dam. High resolution electronic fish finders are almost essential during the summer for locating schools of striped bass near the river channel or above submerged timber. Downlining or drifting live herring in the reservoir's thermocline is the best way to catch striped bass during the summer months. When the surface temperature drops below 75 F, striped bass will begin feeding at the surface once again during low light conditions. During full sunlight, they will retreat to their summertime hiding places.
A strong class of six-year old crappie will allow a better chance than normal for some true slabs. Another strong class of two-year old fish should help fill the cooler if you are looking for large numbers of fish. Late February through April is the best time to catch the heaviest stringers.
Dropping live minnows and small crappie jigs into submerged structure is the best way to fill a stringer with crappie. Good electronics with side scan will help you located schools of crappie suspended underneath boat docks.
As the water tempertature starts to warm up in early March, crappie will migrate to pre-spawn staging areas located in 10 to 15 ft of water. These areas include submerged trees, bridge abutments, roadbeds and under boathouses with brush. By early-April crappie will move into 2-3 ft of water around visible submerged cover near bridges, downed trees, emergent vegetation, and backwater coves. During the fall, large numbers of crappie will congregate in submerged timber in 30 ft of water. Based on DNR sampling, the upper Chattahoochee arm (Clarks Bridge to Lula Bridge), Thompson Creek and Taylor Creek areas contain the highest numbers of crappie.
Walleye have been stocked into Lake Lanier since 2005 for the purpose of restoring the spring headwaters fishery following the demise of the white bass population. Stocked walleye grow well and reach a quality size in Lake Lanier. Even with very low stocking rates, fisheries staff have documented walleye in the upper reaches of the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers from February through April and anglers have reported incidental catches of walleye in the lake while fishing for stripers and bass. Outside of the spawning season, anglers are reporting an increasing number of catches of walleye, though most of these are incidental catches by striped bass or spotted bass anglers.
Successful anglers are targeting the spring migration of walleye up the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers. From February through April, walleye can be caught upstream of Lula Bridge (Chattahoochee) and Lumpkin County Park (Chestatee) using a variety of lures and baits. Traditional walleye anglers prefer to slow troll live nightcrawlers through the deeper holes in the river during the day or toss nightcrawlers, jigs, or a floating stick bait into the shallows upstream of river shoals. Once the spawning season is over, walleye return to the main lake. In April and early May, post-spawn walleye will be found in the upper reaches of the main lake feeding on spottail shiners along red clay points. During the remainder of the year, walleye redistribute into the lower lake and will be found close to the bottom around brushpiles and trees between 20 to 40-ft deep. Herring, nightcrawlers and jigs tipped with shiners are preferred baits in this situation.
The upper reaches of the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers are the prime locations to fish for walleye in Lake Lanier between February and April. In April and May, target windblown red clay points to find walleye that are feeding on spottail shiners. For the remainder of the year, walleye can be caught with live baits fished on a 30 to 40 ft bottom that contains structure.
Channel catfish, bluegill and carp also are available, especially for shoreline anglers. Channel cats average about 1 pound and can be caught using night crawlers or chicken livers when fished near rocky banks or steeps banks with structure. Bluegills weighing between 1/4 to 1/3 pound can regularly be caught from the shoreline during April and May using crickets or red wigglers. Carp are fun to hook in shallow water and readily take prepared catfish baits, corn, and dough balls when they are in shallow water during the spring months.
A large fishing tournament facility constructed by Hall County and GA-DNR at Laurel Park is available. To book this facility, please contact Hall County Parks and Recreation Department at 770-535-8280.