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Lake Lanier has some great fishing throughout the year. There are many different species to choose from and below are some descriptions, pictures and information from the Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the most popular varieties of game fish in Lake Lanier. On the menu to the left you will find links to help you with your fishing adventures on Lake Lanier and also a few pages from two of Lake Lanier's best striper and spotted bass anglers including pictures and videos.

Black Crappie

This fish is a favorite to many because of the quality of the meat, and the larger size that they can reach. They are commonly called papermouths because of the thinness of the skin surrounding the mouth, and its easiness to tear. The species has been so widely introduced into reservoirs and ponds across the country that it is hard to determine where the native range originally was. Crappies grow larger than a lot of other sunfish species attaining a length near 20 inches. The Georgia state record is 4lbs. 4oz. and the Lake Lanier record stands at 3lbs. 4oz. This fish has a distinctive shape unlike most other sunfish. They have a high back with 7 to 8 spines on the dorsal fin with the soft rays of the dorsal fin rounded and extending above the spines. They have a large mouth that has very thin skin surrounding it. The coloration of the species can vary considerably. Some of the fish will be black on the back with mottled irregular black spots going down the sides over gold to silver belly. Others will be mostly silver with irregular black spots. Because of the light coloration that this fish can have it is often confused with white crappie, which are similar in appearance but have their spots arranged in vertical bars. Crappies like clear water usually around timber, brush piles, or vegetation all of which is lacking in most of the lake. Look for brush piles that have been placed around docks or in coves. Treetops from fallen trees are also make good cover for crappies. Live minnows, minnow imitating lures, and small jigs are the best choice for this species. With a compressed body, small head and arched back, the black crappie is silvery-green to yellowish, with large dorsal and anal fins of almost identical shape and size. It has a large mouth with an upper jaw extending under the eye. It has many dark spots on its sides and fins, which become more mottled toward the back. To differentiate between a black crappie and a white crappie, count the dorsal spines. The black crappie has seven to eight dorsal spines, while the white crappie has only five to six.


The bluegill is a very common fish in many bodies of water across the country. They are a favorite for many panfish anglers because of its willingness to eat most offerings, its taste, and its fighting ability. They can be found in a variety of environments from streams and rivers to small ponds and large impoundments. Bluegills are a smaller member of the sunfish family that rarely reaches over 1lb and 16 inches in length. Occasionally they will reach a couple of pounds. The Georgia state record weighed 3lbs. 5oz. These fish have a deep, extremely compressed body with a small mouth and a body that slopes up sharply behind the head. The coloration is an olive green back with dark vertical bars running down the sides. The sides are mixed with yellow and green specks. The lower sides and stomach are yellow with orange on the chest. The bottom edge of the jaw and gill cover has a blue to purple coloration. The pectoral fin on these fish is long and pointed and they have thoracic pelvic fins. The breeding male of the species is considerably brighter than the female. This fish can be found in most areas around the lake. They can be found on open banks, but usually will be in areas that have some sort of structure. The best lure choice is small live bait such as worms, crickets, maggots, mealworms, and other small invertebrates. They can also be caught on small artificial lures. Inline spinners, jigs, and small crankbaits are a good choice. Remember these fish have a small mouth so choose your lures accordingly.

Channel Catfish

The channel catfish is probably the most well-known catfish species in the country. The abundance of the species and the quality of the meat make it a favorite for many. The channel catfish can be quite large reaching a length of 50 inches and weighing more than 40 lbs. The Georgia state record weighed 44lbs. 12 oz. The channel catfish is light in color ranging from a blue-gray to an olive on the back and sides. They have scattered black spots across the back and sides, which are absent in very young and large adults. The abdomen is white with abdominal pelvic fins. The fins are similar in color to the adjacent body color and they have white to dusky chin barbels. They also have well-rounded anal fins and deeply forked caudal fins. The preferred habitat is deep pools and runs over sand or rocks in small to large rivers and lakes. They can be found in most areas of Lake Lanier. Due to their highly specialized feeding nature bait should be used that has a strong odor. Good choices would be liver (beef or chicken), blood bait, cheese or dough balls, nightcrawlers, cut bait, and shrimp. This is not the only bait that catfish will eat; in some areas people will even use things like hotdogs. It is also entirely possible to catch them on minnow imitating lures but this does not happen too often.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is probably the most sought after game fish in the country. They are known for their aggressiveness and their willingness to eat most anything. These fish are ambush predators and will generally relate to some sort of structure (stumps, logs, vegetation, docks, and other debris) where it will lie in wait for an easy meal to pass nearby. There are exceptions to this, as some times they will hold in open water, especially in impoundments, where there is abundant shad or other open water baitfish populations. The largemouth bass is a large fish that can reach up to 38 inches and weigh over 20 pounds. The world record largemouth was caught right here in Georgia and weighed 22 lbs. 4 oz. Lake Lanier’s record is 17lbs. 9 oz. The most prominent characteristic of this fish is the feature that it is named for, a large mouth. The mouth is very large and when closed the upper jaw extends well behind the eyes. They have a silver to brassy green back with mottled dark olive sides. There is also a large black stripe that is usually broken running from tail to snout. The underside of the fish is white with scattered black spots coming up the lower half. This fish is often confused with its cousin the spotted bass. The easiest ways to tell the difference is by the size of the mouth and the appearance of the dorsal fin. The largemouth’s dorsal fin is nearly separate and it appears to have two fins, while the spotted bass’s dorsal fin is clearly connected. The mouth if the largemouth is also considerably larger than the spotted bass. The best area in Lake Lanier to find these fish is in the upper end of the lake. The lower portions of the lake have limited cover, which is not the best situation for a structure-oriented fish. Some can still be found on the lower end around boat docks and some isolated cover, but most of your catch will be spotted bass. This changes as you head up into the upper creek and river channels were there is more shoreline structure. Look for fallen trees and stumps as well as rocky dropoffs and overhanging banks. You should fish these areas with a variety of lures until you find what the fish are wanting. Good choices for largemouth are spinners, crankbaits and rat-l-traps, jig and pigs, stickbaits, topwaters, most any soft plastic lures, as well as live bait such as shad and golden shiners.

Spotted Bass

The spotted bass is a species that is often confused by anglers with its larger cousin the largemouth bass. Although the fish are similar in appearance and nature their choice of habitat separates the species. Where largemouth are structure-oriented fish, spotted bass do not generally rely on cover. They will often hold in areas that have some sort of definition, like larger rocks or dropoffs, but they normally do not use the cover like a largemouth would. They also will inhabit much deeper water than most largemouths. Another difference between the spotted and the largemouth bass is their size. Spotted bass are considerably smaller, reaching a maximum of about 24 inches in length. The Georgia state record spotted bass came from Lake Lanier and weighed 8 lbs. 5 oz, but the average will be just a couple of pounds. The coloration of spotted bass s is very similar to that of the largemouth. The most noticeable difference is the addition of rows of black spots on the lower half of the side of the body. Factors such as the water clarity and depth that the fish has been living in can affect coloration making this a harder identification tool. The mouth of the spotted bass extends beyond the middle of the eye but not beyond the eye like the largemouth’s. The easiest characteristics to distinguish between the largemouth and the spotted bass are the size of the mouth and the appearance of the dorsal fin. The spotted bass has a dorsal fin that is clearly connected, while the largemouth appears to have two separate fins. Spotted bass are more abundant on the lower portions of Lake Lanier. You can find them along rocky banks, drop-offs, and humps in the lake. Lure choices will be similar to that of a largemouth, but you may need to downsize your lures and be prepared to fish a little deeper.

Striped Bass

The striped bass is a large open water predatory fish that can often be found in schools. These fish are anadramous and spend most of their life in salt water. During the spawning season they travel far up rivers to spawn. Some of these fish became landlocked due to the damming of rivers, which resulted in them becoming completely freshwater. Their success in the freshwater environment has led to their stocking in many impoundments across the country. Stripers are strong fish and are known for their fighting ability and are a favorite game fish for many. Striped bass are large fish that can reach a maximum length of 79 inches and weigh more than 50 lbs. The Georgia state record striped bass is 63 lbs; Lake Lanier’s record is currently 46 lbs. They have anywhere from 6-9 dark gray unbroken stripes on silvery white sides, which is distinctive from its relative the white bass that has broken stripes. The dorsal fins are completely separate, and it has 3 anal spines with the second noticeably shorter than the third. The fins are usually clear to gray-green, but large adults have a white pelvic fin and the anal fin has a white edge. Where you will find these fish in Lake Lanier will depend on a few factors. One is the food source. One of the main preys of these fish is the shad species that are found in the lake. If you locate a school of shad it is likely that larger predatory fish will be nearby. Another factor is the water temperature. In very cold water they will stay a little deeper where the temperature will fluctuate less. As the water warms into the mid fifties through the seventies they can be caught in shallower areas and on the surface. In late summer when the water temp reaches its highest level the fish will stay deep usually just above the thermocline, which is about 35 feet deep. A variation on the summer pattern will be on overcast days, early morning, or late evening when they may be found in shallower water. These fish do not generally relate to structure so the best key is finding the food source. Lures should be chosen that imitate shad or other baitfish such as; crankbaits, large spinners, bucktails, large topwaters, and large 6” to 8” stickbaits. These baits then need to be chosen for the specific situation and depth that the fish are holding at.