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, especially north of Bolling and Thompson bridges and their associated backwater sections, where shallow water and downed trees are prevalent. The minimum size limit for largemouth bass is 14-inches.
During the winter months, live baits and slow-moving artificial baits are effective when fished in the right locations. A popular winter technique is pitching jigs into blowdowns or working a SuperSpin, jerkbait, or crankbait in the creek channels and underwater road beds. When the wind is blowing strong, target the windblown rip-rap banks, especially those with stained water conditions. The wind tends to cause threadfin shad and blueback herring to stack up near the rip-rap. Cast parallel to the bank with lures that imitate shad including jerkbaits, crankbaits, and SuperSpins with a boot-tail trailer.
As the water warms in the spring Largemouth Bass move into shallow water to spawn and are more easily targeted. They will hold close to cover such as docks, woody debris, and other hard structures. Soft plastic worms, shaky head, lipless crankbaits, and flukes are suitable springtime baits. To target bigger fish, fish in slightly deeper water adjacent to likely spawning areas.
There are two very different summertime approaches to catching largemouth bass on Lanier. The tried and true method is to fish deep water structure with SuperSpins tipped with a soft plastic swimbait. A second approach involves casting swim baits, flukes, and topwater baits over humps during the early morning hours.
When the water temperature starts to cool down during the fall months, Largemouth Bass will feed aggressively on shad, bream and crayfish. Cast topwater baits like a Spook, Sammy or even Fluke into surface feeding bass. Work downed timber with crankbaits and soft plastics or use jigs and spoons on rocky banks and secondary points.
Live bait such as nightcrawlers, crayfish, and shiners can be very effective for Largemouth Bass when fishing from the bank or a boat.
The upper end of both river arms and its feeder coves contain the highest number of largemouth bass. Because largemouth bass orient to structure, finding their hiding places is the key to catching them on Lake Lanier.
In the winter, Largemouth Bass will typically be in deeper water along creek channels or tucked deep within the tangle of submerged tree branches. 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, Largemouth Bass 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 Spotted Bass population with plenty of fish over the 14-inch minimum size limit. Spotted bass in the two-pound range are common and fish exceeding four pounds are often found on the end of the line.
Spotted Bass feed on a wide variety of prey items; therefore, every angler’s tackle box should include a variety of baits and lures. Among the hundreds of options, there are a handful of proven selections.
Spotted Bass can be targeted similarly to striped bass throughout the summer using blueback herring on downlines and flat lines. Nightcrawlers, crayfish, and shiners are viable options for spotted bass as well, and will likely increase success rates for shore anglers.
Spotted Bass may feed at the surface on herring and shad just about any time of the year, but spring and fall are your best bets for topwater action. The erratic action of a Super Fluke or "walking the dog" with a Spook or Sammy are among the favorite tactics of Lanier anglers. Often times, the biggest fish are hiding in slightly deeper water below the main school.
When spotted bass are not roaming the open water, they are usually hunkered down in a brushpile or some other type of structure with vertical relief. This is a typical pattern for both summer and winter and this is the time to pull out the soft plastic tube worms, finesse worms and Senko worms. Many successful Lanier anglers use drop shot and Shaky Head techniques to catch spots that are holding tight to structure.
Crankbaits and jerk baits in shad colors also play an important role for spotted bass anglers. On windy days in late-winter, baitfish stack up near rip-rap. Anglers should fish parallel to the windy side of rip-rap. During the spawning months of April and May, spotted bass will take a variety of shallow-running lures, jerkbaits, and SuperSpins when fished near their spawning beds. Crankbaits are effective during the fall months when fished on long, rocky points.
During the winter, spotted bass will follow schools of baitfish into pockets of warmer water that occur near rocky outcroppings, rip-rap embankments, muddy water and warm water discharges.
April and May is the spawning season for spotted bass. Spotted bass typically spawn on rocky banks in 5 to 15-ft of water. Cast shallow running baits, floating worms, or bottom bouncing soft plastics along rocky banks, around boat docks, reef marker points and fallen trees.
During the summer months, spotted bass will feed on small shad or herring at the surface in the early morning hours. During the day, use a high resolution electronic fish finder to locate brushpiles in 20 to 40-ft of water on the lower half of the lake. Patiently working every fishable inch of a brushpile can provoke some quality spots into taking the bait.
During the fall, spotted bass are transitioning back to the surface. Look for surface activity early and late in the day. During midday, use deepwater presentations on points and fallen trees.
The striped bass population of Lake Lanier is maintained by DNR’s annual stocking program. Over the past six years, several strong year-classes were produced. As a result, striped bass in the 8 to 10 lb range should be abundant this year. In addition, stripers approaching 20 lb will also provide quite a few thrills for many striper anglers. Early reports have indicated that there will be plenty of young striped bass eager to bite this year as, which is great if you have a junior angler on the boat. If you have never tried striped bass fishing before, this year on Lake Lanier is a good time and place to start!
Striped bass feed almost exclusively on shad and herring. Live-lining, down-lining, or trolling with planer boards, down riggers or lead core line are common ways that Lanier anglers present live blueback herring and gizzard shad to striped bass. Bucktail jigs, flukes, swim baits, Spooks and umbrella rigs are suitable alternatives to live bait.
The winter months are the prime time to catch big fish on Lake Lanier using a variety of methods, including shallow water techniques, whereas the summer provides the highest numbers of fish in deep water using 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.
The baits and lures used to catch striped bass are simple and fairly straightforward to use, but the challenge comes in knowing where to use them and how deep to fish them. Understanding the seasonal migration patterns of striped bass in Lake Lanier will give you an advantage. Supplementing that understanding with good electronic sonar and navigation equipment will increase your chances even more.
During the winter months, baitfish and the stripers that follow them are drawn to areas of warmer water. Fish the points and flats in coves on the upper end of the lake that have stained water. Also, troll through areas where you observe sea gulls diving on bait at the surface.
From late-winter through spring, striped bass cruise the banks in fairly shallow water, especially in the early morning and evening hours. This is a good time of year to cast bucktails or flukes around points and adjacent flats. Trolling live herring or big gizzard shad behind planer boards in the backs of coves is another effective approach for catching shallow water stripers.
In the summer months, striped bass retreat to deeper, cooler water on the lower half of the lake. Stripers typically suspend in the tops of the submerged timber adjacent to the river channel. Good sonar and navionics are essential tools for finding stripers in their summer habitat. Once a school is located, downline herring into the school or use heavy jigs. Trolling herring behind lead core line is a good scouting technique for deepwater stripers during the summer.
In the fall months, striped bass return to the surface and feed on small shad and herring. Look for diving sea gulls and surface feeding activity near the river channel on the lower half of the lake. Surface activity is usually greatest on cloudy and rainy days. Downsizing to small jigs and bucktails is an effective approach when stripers are feeding on small baitfish.
The abundance of crappie in most reservoirs sporadically rises and falls in response to various environmental conditions and Lake Lanier’s crappie population is no exception. This year, anglers should catch good numbers of crappie in the 8 to 10-inch size range but larger crappie are less abundant than usual. Late February through April is the best time to catch crappie on Lake Lanier
The best baits for catching crappie are live minnows and 1/8 oz crappie jigs. Good electronics with side scan sonar will help you locate schools of pre-spawn crappie suspended underneath boat docks.
Based on DNR sampling, the upper Chattahoochee arm (Clarks Bridge to Lula Bridge) as well as Thompson Creek and Taylor Creek contain the highest numbers of crappie. Anglers should target these coves as well as other similar habitats in the upper end of the reservoir.
During the winter months, crappie congregate in creek channels containing deep water timber and other vertical structure. Slow trolling jigs over these structures is the best wintertime tactic.
The highest numbers of crappie are caught when the water temperature rises in early-spring. During this season, crappie will stage under boat docks, creek channels and underwater road beds in 10-15 feet of water before moving into the shallows to spawn. By early-April crappie move into 2-3 feet 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 20 to 40-feet of water.
A walleye population occurs in Lake Lanier that is maintained by DNR’s effort to stock low numbers of fingerlings each spring. Anglers have their best success at catching Lanier walleyes from February to April when hundreds of fish move into the headwaters of the lake. For the remainder of the year, anglers occasionally catch walleye while fishing for bass, stripers and sometimes crappie.
Fishing for walleye requires simple baits and simple tactics. The "go to" walleye bait is a nightcrawler and the "go to" tactic is doing whatever it takes to get that nightcrawler in front of a walleye’s nose for as long as possible. There are three basic options for fishing the nightcrawler.
When walleye are holding tight to downed trees, simply hook the nightcrawler through the middle of its body, attach a split shot about 18-inches up the line, and then allow the bait to fall into the branches. Move the bait ever so slowly through the branches and then along the bottom. If you suspect a strike, give the walleye plenty of time before setting the hook. During the summer months, walleye hold tight to brushpiles in 25 to 40-feet of water. A drop shot technique is an effective way to get the worm in front of a hungry walleye. Remember to slowly hop the worm in and around every crevice of the brushpile using a vertical presentation. Anglers can also troll a nightcrawler using a bottom bouncer or Lindy rig set up. Putting an in-line spinner blade in front of the hook will increase your chances of enticing a walleye to strike.
There are some artificial lures that should also have a place in your walleye arsenal. During the spawning period (late-February to early-April), slowly troll crankbaits on the bottom of the river channel. No.7 Shad Raps in a crayfish, herring, perch or fire tiger color patterns are effective. When spawning walleye are in the shoals, cast topwater and subsurface lures, like a Rapala or curly-tailed grub in white, yellow or chartreuse colors. Use a slow and steady retrieve and allow the lure to make frequent contact with the rocks. Jigs are also a good substitute for nightcrawlers anytime of the year.
In February, walleye begin their annual migration to the headwater spawning areas in the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers. Several anglers have reported catching walleye in the Clarks Bridge area of the Chattahoochee River with jigging spoons and nightcrawlers in February. In March and early-April, walleye are in the shoal areas that are scattered throughout the headwaters. Shallow draft boats are essential for fishing these areas but bank fishing opportunities are also available at Mud Creek off Pea Ridge Road and upstream of the GA 400 Bridge at Lumpkin County Park.
In April and May, walleye move back down into the upper reaches of the main lake. Walleye will frequently tuck into the branches of fallen trees and will also ambush spottail shiners in the mudlines that develop on wind-blown clay points. During the summer, walleye move further down the lake and typically hideout in brushpiles located near the river channel in 25 to 40-feet of water. Walleye can also be caught at night during the summer and throughout the fall by targeting main lake points. Walleye move into the shallows at night to feed on small bream. Cast crankbaits or jigs tipped with a shiner or worm to the bank and work it with a slow and steady retrieve.
Channel catfish, bluegill and carp also are available, especially for shoreline anglers. Channel cats average about 1 pound and can be caught using nightcrawlers or chicken livers when fished near rocky banks or steeps banks with structure. Bluegills weighing between 1/4 to 1/3 lb can 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. White Bass stockings began in Lake Lanier in 2016 to help restore the population. As the White Bass mature, they should provide an excellent river run fishery in the spring and schooling topwater action in coming years.
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.