If you described Lake Lanier (officially Lake Sidney Lanier) in Georgia terms, you’d just have to consider the state’s nickname and say this lake “is a peach”. In other words, it’s a fine and desirable thing, especially when it comes to fishing. You’d expect it to be a bit quaint, with communities like Coal Mountain, Flowery Branch and Holiday Hills right down the road from the shore. And you can’t help but hum an old Alan Jackson tune when you realize the lake was formed by backing up water on the Chattahoochee River.
But it’s location just 30 minutes from the suburbs of Atlanta gives it a mix of urban and rural surpassed only by its variety of fisheries resources. The lake’s original purposes were to provide hydroelectricity, navigation, and flood control of the Chattahoochee River, and water supply for the city of Atlanta. But for most, it’s a great place to boat and fish.
Lake Lanier can be a challenging body of water to fish. Because of the changing lake levels and countless meandering fingers of the lake, most anglers need some help to find fish here. As water levels and fishing holes change, so do the target species. Popular species of fish here include striped bass, spotted bass, largemouth bass, crappie and catfish. Some other favorite targets are white bass, walleye, bluegill, redbreast, and redear sunfish.
Here, it is the spotted bass that takes center stage. There is a large population of spotted bass, including some real trophy fish in this lake. In fact, some people say it is in the top 20 spotted bass lakes in the country. Their opinions are supported by the many tournaments that are won here with spotted bass. They aren’t shy about biting when you can find them and even recreational anglers can catch a limit quickly when in the right spot.
A surprising number of spotted bass are caught by shore anglers using live baits like nightcrawlers, crayfish and shiners. But the serious bass anglers find bigger fish out off points, humps and along submerged creeks with plastics, big crank baits and finesse worms. The spots here also feed at the surface most of the year and can be caught on topwaters. Just keep an eye out for schooling activity on the surface. Spots and largemouths spend much of the year in brush piles, too. The real key is staying close to the baitfish. The gamefish won’t be far behind.
Largemouth bass are not as plentiful and it is rare to catch one over five to six pounds. But they are caught from one end of the lake to the other. Spring time is the best time to catch a bigger largemouth during the spawn. At that time, the smaller fish are also roaming the shallows. Fish often move with the rising and falling water, so a good guide is better than a tackle box full of good baits. On the upper ends of the lake, water can get very shallow. On the big, deeper parts of the lake, especially in warm weather, the lake stratifies and limits where fish can survive. Those are not easy things for the average angler to figure out in a short amount of time.
Although Lanier only has 38,000 acres, its snaking coves and inlets provide almost 700 miles of shoreline at normal levels, and many great fishing spots abound there. The lake’s fishing areas are often identified by the many bridges on the lake, such as Bolling Bridge, Brown’s Bridge, Lanier Bridge and Thompson Bridge areas. The lake was named for American poet Sidney Lanier, and here’s a nice surprise bonus for anglers fishing on Lanier: You might even catch a trophy trout. The Wildlife Resources Division stopped stocking trout in the lake almost 20 years ago, but in the spring of 2019 a nine pounder was caught there. Some trout still get caught each year, but they are usually trout that came downstream from one of the lake’s tributaries, which are cool water mountain streams to the north.
Lake Lanier has over 90 parks operated by the U.S. Corps and state, count and cities on the lake, 23 of which provide swim beaches. These parks are accessible by land and some by water and most have other amenities such as picnic areas, restrooms, boat ramps and playgrounds. There are also dozens of beaches on Lake Lanier that are on islands located all over Lake Lanier. If you need a break from fishing and boating, there are lots of entertainment options like the Lake Lanier Islands, Sawnee Mountain and the Atlanta Botanical Garden nearby.