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Cold Water at Lake Lanier Requires Live Bait

Cold Water at Lake Lanier Requires Live Bait Cold Water at Lake Lanier Requires Live Bait
By Bill Vanderford

Though Lake Lanier is heavily populated with catchable fish during February and March, several problems exist. The weather during this period is constantly changing , and one cold front after another will roll through, which generally has a detrimental effect on most fish. Some of these fronts will be accompanied by rain, high winds, and bitter cold temperatures. Nevertheless, if one employs good common sense, Lake Lanier can be a "hot spot" during February and March!

Live bait becomes a productive choice during this colder period when the metabolism of many fish has slowed. Often threadfin shad or blueback herring are the most prevalent baitfish during the late winter. Catching these, however, requires considerable work with a cast net, and a good bait tank is needed to keep them alive. The easy alternative is to take a trip to the local bait store and buy a couple of dozen, commercially raised, emerald shiners. These minnows can be dumped into the lake water in a bass boat livewell and will survive for days in any clean water without chemical help.

The equipment used when live baiting can be anything from spinning tackle with 8 pound/test line to the heavier baitcasting outfits. Basically what is needed is a rod with a soft tip and enough backbone to set the hook and fight a big fish properly. The soft tip will result in a higher percentage of hooked fish with live bait. When a big fish initially inhales the shiner, the softer tip offers little resistance during the first few critical seconds before the angler can pull the rod out of its holder and set the hook.

Rod holders are a necessary item when fishing shiners or natural baitfish. On most boats, two holders near the back of the boat and an additional two near the middle section seem to be the best solution. This allows two rods out next to the outboard motor and one out each side of the boat.

Hook an emerald shiner by pushing the point of the hook between one of the small creases on the underside of the jaw and up through the meaty part of their upper lip. This seems to hold minnows on the hook very well, and they usually stay alive for a long period of time.

Regardless of the outfit used, the baited rigs are normally dropped to where the graph recorder has shown large concentrations of fish at a particular depth. If feeding fish can be seen periodically driving shad to the surface, bring one of the down-lines up, cut the rig off, tie a hook directly to the end of the unweighted line and free-line the shiner approximately 50 feet behind the boat.

While these rigs are down at their respective depths or trailing behind the boat, the electric trolling motor is used to ease the boat along a path where fish have been seen visually or on sonar. Most of these areas are adjacent to a defined creek channel. Channels of this type that consistently produce big bass on the south end of the lake can be found in Big Creek, Flowery Branch, Six-mile Creek, Four Mile Creek, Mud Creek, Two Mile Creek, Balus Creek, and Flat Creek. On the north end of Lanier, Taylor Creek, Duckett's Mill, Yellow Creek, Ada Creek, Gainesville Creek, Wahoo Creek and Little River are very productive.

A cold front tends to bunch fish into a smaller area and usually at a certain depth. Though this may slow down their aggressive nature, when these concentrations are located, it often makes the fish easier to catch using this slow method with live shiners.

Bill Vanderford has won numerous awards for his writing and photography, and has been inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide. He is a regular contributor and can be reached at 770-962-1241, at JFi[email protected], or at his web site:

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