by Henry Cowen
December 2017 was such a disappointment on Lanier that I can’t begin to even try to relive last year. However, in years past, December can easily be one of the best months to fish for striped bass on the pond. As of November, we are slightly below full pool. That means the fish and bait can hide anywhere they want (especially in the backs of the coves).
The blue back herring seem to be down some in numbers, and for the fly angler that is a good thing. More threadfin shad means more surface feeding fish. The pattern of fish on the south end should change as the fish will start pushing further north. Fish can be spread out as they start searching for food in pockets and creeks. Use your binoculars to look deep into the backs of the creeks to find fish eating small threadfin shad in some fairly shallow water.
The topwater bite will still continue into December, however where they feed on top will radically change. By mid-month you can expect to see fish pushing bait and feeding in between docks in the smaller creeks. Sometimes, they might be at the mouth of the creek, while other times they will be way in the back of the creek.
This is the time of the year that the bird life on lakes can be the key to help finding a school of fish either on the surface or sub-surface. The obvious wildlife to look for are terns and gulls diving on bait being pushed to the top. Terns and gulls will not fly to the backs of the coves, so that is where your binoculars can be very relevant to finding surface feeding fish without having to motor all the into the backs of the coves. Kingfishers seen flying around a particular area and squawking while diving on the water is also a dead giveaway. Herons standing stealthy on a bank is a certain sign of baitfish in the area. If their necks are extended, they are hunting. Look for loons going up and down in a particular area and not straying too far as another hint of both baitfish and stripers.
This time of year anglers need to carry both an intermediate line for surfacing fish or fish running the banks as well as a sinking line for those big schools found on your fish finder. If you encounter that group, then using the countdown method will get your fly to the fish below.
Small flies are still the ticket as the stripers are gorging on 1”- 1 ½” long threadfin shad. My Somethin’ Else pattern is still the best fly to use, but Gummy Minnows or small Polar Fiber Minnows will work too. If you don’t get an eat then size up to a 3” Clouser as that will also work. Remember to pause between your strips in order to allow the fly to free fall like a wounded shad. That is the money retrieve and may be the single most important technique you can use to trigger a bite!
The dock light bite will be in full swing at this time of year too. If you are willing to wake up an hour earlier or stay out on the lake for 90 minutes after dark, YOU WILL BE REWARDED! These fish are easy to feed and can be found all over the lake (both north and south).
Wishing every one of our Angler Magazine readers a very Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah. See you on the pond.