Learn How To Catch MORE And BIGGER FISH!
Ga Fishing presents…..
Legendary guide and flyfishing expert
Henry Cowen explains:
How to “gitter done” on Lake Sydney Lanier!
Atlanta’s triple play: A recipe for a salt free diet
There is a great fishery available to the traveling angler just a stone’s throw south and down highway 85 near Gainesville, GA (Lake Sidney Lanier). This thirty-eight thousand acre impoundment is located a short forty miles north of Atlanta, GA. It’s six hundred and fifty plus miles of shoreline and seventy two boat ramps allows for easy access to some of the best fresh water fishing east of the Mississippi. Lake Lanier is known for having three highly prized targeted species of fish: largemouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass and striped bass.
For anglers looking to fish either light tackle or a fly rod, this fresh water fishery is tough to beat. Lake Lanier is considered to be one of the best lakes in the entire southeast for landlocked striped bass as well as having a world class reputation for its Kentucky spotted bass fishery. At anytime an angler can go out and catch a Lanier slam, which consists of landing a largemouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass and striped bass all in the same day.
Largemouth bass are probably the most sought after of the three species on Lake Lanier. Bass hunters prize this impoundment, as largemouths in excess of seventeen pounds have been taken from this lake. Tournament anglers regularly catch fish in excess of five pounds and fish up to eight pounds are not that uncommon. In order to target a big Lanier bucket mouth it is advised that anglers fish the north end of the lake as these fish tend to frequent the shallow reaches of the more stained waters found up north.
Kentucky spotted bass are probably the most frequently caught fish of the “big three”. For those of you not familiar with this species, let me say that Kentucky spots are a mean fish! They tend to have similar features to that of a largemouth but have the aggressiveness and fight of a smallmouth. Kentucky spotted bass (aka….spots) can be found in approximately thirty plus states across the USA. The average size of a spot found in most lakes and rivers around the country is anywhere from one to one and a half pounds. A three pound spot would be considered a giant in most eco-systems. Not on Lake Lanier! While there are many similarly small fish caught on Lanier, the average spot found on this lake easily pushes two to three pounds with fish up to five pounds considered common. Every year we see fish being caught in the six to seven pound class. For trophy hunters, this lake is considered to be one of the top three Kentucky spotted bass fisheries in the country! In May of 2008’ while fly fishing, one of my clients caught an IGFA line class world record spot on Lanier. Since then, my customers have taken two other fish that could have easily qualified for breaking other world record tippet categories. What I love about fishing for spots is that they are so aggressive that you can fish them deep with a jig, mid depth with jerk bait or on the surface using a popper. They just seem to accommodate anglers at all levels of the water column. For flyrodders, this species is perfect to catch using a six or seven weight outfit. B.A.S.S professional angler and television show host Shaw Grigsby fished with me several times and thought that Lanier’s fishery for spotted bass was one of the best he has ever experienced.
Striped bass while not an indigenous species to Lake Lanier is certainly the most talked about of the bunch. Back in the early 1970’s, Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) started stocking one inch long fingerling striped bass in order to help control the over abundance of threadfin shad that had taken over the lake. This was a copied plan that started back in the 1950’s in South Carolina’s Lake Santee-Cooper. The Georgia DNR stocks approximately ten fish per acre in Lanier. Every year close to four-hundred thousand little stripers are stocked in eight to ten staging areas around the lake. Two years later we start to see these fish show up in anglers’ catch. They are usually around two to three pounds at that time. After that, these juvenile stripers go on an eating tear and put on about three to four pounds a year. A five year old fish will weigh approximately ten to fourteen pounds! For anglers, these are hard fighting tackle busting fish will head straight for deeper depths and dog it all the way back to the boat once hooked. The average Lanier caught striped bass weighs about eight to ten pounds. For light tackle or fly enthusiasts there is no better challenge than catching one of our striped demons. Stripers can travel in excess of seventy miles a day and can be found feeding anywhere on the lake. Lake Lanier has the feel of a salt water type fishery but it is located two hundred and fifty miles inland of any salt water. During certain times of the year you can see terns and gulls diving to pick up fleeing bait while Lanier’s striper population is creating a melee of churning white water on the surface. It looks like a mini blitz that one would usually associate with places like Montauk, Watch Hill or Sandy Hook!
The Fishing Season
Lake Lanier is a twelve month of the year fishery. We can target all three species (largemouth, spotted bass and striped bass) all year long. However there are certain times of the year that allow anglers the opportunity to run up big numbers of fish. I have been fishing on Lanier since 1997 and guiding just a few short years after that. In my opinion, spring and fall are the best times to catch big numbers of fish.
For anglers targeting all three species (in order to catch a Lanier slam) March and April offer the best opportunities. March and the first half of April is the time that the fish begin to move shallow and into backs of the coves in search of both small threadfin shad and blue back herring. As the afternoon sun begins to heat up the shallow water in the backs of the coves, the bait tends to migrate to warmer water. The bass and stripers know this and begin searching for an easy meal. It is at this time the throwing lures like plastic jerk baits, roadrunners and shallow running crank baits become the “go to” lures. Fly fishermen make their presence felt and will be out in numbers targeting these fish on intermediate lines. Flies such as small grey/white Clouser minnows and somethin’ else’s are your best bet. Coyotes tied in either grey/white or blue/chartreuse/white are also a good choice. Matching the hatch is critical on this lake when fish are feeding on small baitfish!
From the end of April through all of May, Lanier anglers look for the shad spawn to take place during both the new and full moon phases. Both shad and herring can be found spawning early in the morning and the top water activity can be awesome. This is the time when tossing crease flies for whippy stickers and Zara spooks for light tackle anglers are at its peak. Most of this activity takes place on rocky points just off of the main lake channel. Spots and stripers are suckers for a properly placed top water fly or lure!
June and July are not the best month for stripers or largemouth but can be fantastic for schooling spotted bass. The fish can be found laying ten to fifteen feet down in submerged brush piles. You will see plenty of single fish coming to the surface and keying in on a small fleeing shad or herring before heading back to the comfort of their brush piles. Spinner baits, rooster tails and smaller Zara spook lures are the ticket this time of year. For the fly guy (or gal), a small somethin’ else fly on an intermediate line or a tiny crease fly on a floating line is all that is required.
August through early October has the striped bass still hovering deep in the thermacline to find the cool oxygenated water. These fish are grouped up into big schools and can be fed a spoon (crippled herring) but I tend to leave them alone as many fish pulled up through the heated water above the thermacline will stress out and probably kill the hooked stripers. Spotted bass are for the most part down deep although plenty can be found hanging around the brush piles that are fifteen to twenty five feet under water. A mid afternoon top water bite can be found on the south end of the lake. By running over the brush piles with your big engine and then throwing a Zara spook or weightless Zoom fluke back over the top of the brush pile, you can pull the fish up and have them eating off the surface.
From the end of October until the start of the New Year all three species can be caught (and releasedJ) all over the lake. Once again a top water bight occurs as the water temperatures cool down from the mid eighties to the mid-sixties. By November the gulls and terns migrate back to the lake and can help locate schooling fish. It is at this time of year that both fly fishermen and light tackle anglers see big fish in the mid teens to twenty pounds chasing bait up onto the surface. A terrific night time fishery also occurs on sandy beaches as well as on lit dock lights (similar to snook fishing in FL). Anglers throwing Bomber long A’s or tossing big snake flies will find these fish to be most agreeable. Low light periods in the AM and PM will have anglers tossing shallow running Sebile magic swimmers to surface feeding fish.
January through early March will be a time when anglers will have the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. This is typically when stripers in the twenty to thirty pound class are caught. Spotted bass in the five to seven pound range can also be had. Largemouth will also be fairly aggressive at this time of year. However, if the surface water temps drop below forty-five degrees there is a good possibility that the fishing can just shut down until the water temperatures rise back into the upper forties.
Grand slam tackle
Fly fishermen need only take a couple of eight weight rods to catch all three species on Lanier. It is important to carry both an intermediate line for shallow water fishing as well as an integrated shooting head line to catch the fish lurking ten to thirty feet below the surface. I generally fish a fifteen pound test tippet and rig my rods as I would if I were striper fishing the in the Northeast.
Light tackle anglers can get away with a couple of medium action spin or bait casting outfits spooled with twelve pound test. If stripers are your primary target then spooling up a medium heavy outfit with fifteen pound test line might be more appropriate.
If tailoring a boat, you will need to have both a good electric trolling motor as well as a good combination GPS/fish finder. These are two essentials in order to be successful on Lake Lanier. There are also a host of qualified guides (probably over fifty listed) to take you out fishing “on the pond”.
The lake is big, clean and beautiful. Surrounded by the North Georgia’s Blue Ridges Mountains, Lake Sidney Lanier is ideal to take a vacation and look at some new scenery the next time you get the bug to come south. The winters are short, the people are friendly and for a Yankee like me you simply just cannot beat the bar-b-queue. Y’all come down and sit a spell……..Y’ here!
Ga fishing thanks Henry Cowen for this great article!
Television and Radio Host O’Neill Williams reveals the secrets to tournament fishing!
O”Neill’s Bass Tournament Top Ten Rules
Taking on the tournament trail can be lots of fun, whether it’s a local club or a major event. And there are lots of ways to prepare for any tournament from fresh line on rods to making sure there is gas in the boat. But when the gun goes off what should the angler concentrate on? According to O’Neill Williams, a tournament winner and veteran angler here are a few tips to remember.
1. Narrow down the water. Fish a limited area and fish are not going to be caught with the big engine running.
2. Have a practice plan set by the clock. Do not second guess yourself. Stick with the plan.
3. There is no room for a breakdown. Have fresh line on every rod, sharp hooks and be sure everything is in top condition.
4. Take charge. Rarely allow a partner, especially one you may not know very well to influence your strategy.
5. Save time. Any food that can be held in one hand while driving a boat will save you time.
6. No beer. Only soft drinks, water or power aide. You need to be sharp at all times.
7. Go for a limit of fish first. That will almost always get you a check and a high finish. Go for the big fish later.
8. Have all your planned baits out and sharp. There is no time to look for tackle.
9. Don’t share your findings with anyone. They may adapt or copy your knowledge to catch that extra fish or two and beat you out.
10. Most important. Never give up. Always fish hard until the last cast. That one fish or two or three in the last minute or two can win it all for you.
Visit O’Neill at www.O’NeillOutside.com
No matter if you are a weekend angler or tournament veteran, these tips can help. COPYRIGHT 2010, Southern Fishing Schools Inc. http://www.HaveFunFishing.comKen Sturdivant offers the only full time “On the Water” Fishing Schools.
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