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Bait Fishing for Stripers - 2018

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wayne gustaveson

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Striped bass are in constant pursuit of shad. They boil in the summer when young shad are growing up to adult size. Stripers chase them in the fall when shad head to the shallow brushy water near shore to hide from their relentless pursuers. During the winter, shad flee into deep water with stripers in heavy pursuit. There are lots of different fishing techniques to use when shad and stripers are interacting.

Let’s start with the best technique to use when stripers are not able to find shad in the spring because shad numbers are small, or in the early summer when adult stripers are forced into deep water where no shad are present. In these conditions the best technique is bait fishing.
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Reember that stripers are schooling fish that react to feeding behavior by one of their school mates. When one fish bites, the others show new interest in feeding. The first step in a successful bait trip is to cut up 4-5 anchovies into one-inch chunks and toss that bait in the water. Watch it sink and drop your baited hook in the same area. As the school starts to feed on chum catching begins.

Frozen anchovies are the standard bait used. They can be purchased at most stores that sell fishing equipment. It is now possible to use other bait besides anchovies. Sometimes a few stripers are caught that are not healthy. Those fish should be kept and can be cut up in chunks just like anchovies. The difference is a piece of striper with the skin still on lasts a very long time compared to a frozen anchovy that will only stay on the hook until it thaws out. That might only be a few minutes in warm water. Other fish such as chubs and suckers may be used as well. Here are the rules from the Utah 2018 fishing guidebook:

•Dead striped bass from Lake Powell may be used as bait or chum only in Lake Powell.

•Dead, fresh or frozen saltwater species, including sardines and anchovies, may be used as bait in any water where bait is permitted.

•Dead mountain sucker, white sucker, Utah sucker, redside shiner, speckled dace, mottled sculpin, fathead minnow, Utah chub and common carp may be used as bait in any water where bait is permitted.

I use either a Yamamoto circle hook or an Owner octopus hooks. I prefer size number 2 or 4 hooks depending on current size of striped bass. Hook size may be more important than brand or style. (DO NOT USE 2-inch long ANCHOVY HOOKS - THEY ARE MUCH TOO BIG FOR 2 POUND FISH) When stripers in the school are bigger (2-4 pounds), then a larger hook may be better. With circle hooks it is important to set it with a sweeping motion instead of a jerk of the wrist. It is possible to just start reeling when a bite is felt with a circle hook but don't jerk. If you jerk, then use a lead head jig and your hook set style will match your terminal tackle. I am a jerk, so I use a jig head.

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Use fluorocarbon line while bait fishing because this line is almost invisible in water and has been proven to be more effective in catching stripers on bait than monofilament. Stripers will visually examine the bait and may be able to see monofilament much better than fluorocarbon. A short leader of fluorocarbon attached to braided or monofilament line will increase your catch rate when using bait.

Select a firm frozen anchovy. Soft thawed anchovies can be used most effectively as chum. Cut the anchovy into 3-4 pieces any of which can be used. The head stays on the hook best with the tail being fairly resilient. The trick to making the frozen bait stay on is to only run the hook in one time. Do not attempt to turn or reposition the barb. Push it in once and leave it for best results. Yes the bait will fall off when it thaws but I want to have a fish by then anyway. It should work long enough!

If the bait is partially thawed I sometimes run the hook all the way through the bait (especially the head) and then turn the hook and draw it back to position the bait so that it is cradled in the bend of hook. Again, do not reposition hook location more than once.

The best anchovy rig is the carolina rig with the bait hook 18 inches below the weight in Spring time and 6 inches below in Winter. (Yes it does make a difference. Winter stripers lay on the bottom and may not rise up to grab a bait 2 feet off the bottom.) Spring stripers are suspended and more willing to eat a bait that appears to be unrestrained by hook, line or sinker. Peg the weight in place with a swivel (preferred) and an optional bead or use a rubber core sinker or regular split shot. The inherent problem with this rig is terminal bait tangling with the sinker/weight. Using heavier line reduces fouling but I think also reduces bites so I just deal with occasional tangles.

I prefer the same jighead used for fishing plastic grubs as an alternate. Use a short swimming head to reduce profile as much as possible (lead is my normal color but I have had good luck with white or chartreuse). Hook the anchovy tail or head one time through the back so it is in-line with the jig head much like a grub would be. Hook it so the bait swims with the head instead of twirling on descent and retrieve.

Once at depth move the terminal bait slowly up and down but always maintain positive contact with the bait. That means keep the line tight. With the subtle winter bite a gentle lift on the bait will offer a certain feeling of resistance when just the bait is felt and another magnitude of resistance when a fish is there. Being able to judge the difference is the whole key to catching or missing. The "bite" is seldom felt in the winter. A sense of "perhaps a fish is holding on" is what makes the fishing fun in December. Sometime you strike at nothing and other times you catch a fish that was never really detected. I enjoy the challenge!

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Lake Powell, Garfield, Kane and San Juan counties – Fishing Rules:

•Limit 20 smallmouth bass.

•Limit 5 largemouth bass.

•Limit 10 crappie.

•Limit 25 channel catfish.

•No limit on striped bass.

•No limit on walleye.

•Fish may be filleted at any time.

•Anglers may possess filleted fish.

•Anglers may use corn as bait.

•Anglers may use dead striped bass as bait.

•Chumming is allowed, but you may chum only with legal baits or dead striped bass, as specified in Utah Admin. Rule R657-13-12.

•Gaffs may be used to land striped bass only.

•Closed to the use of underwater spearfishing to take largemouth and smallmouth bass from April 1 through the fourth Saturday of June.

•Archery and underwater spearfishing are prohibited within all of the following areas:

•One-quarter mile of all existing developed areas, including shoreline campgrounds, docks, launch ramps, breakwaters and trailheads

•One-quarter mile of any structure, including any building, shed, pump-out, boat dock, breakwater, permanent harbor fixture, camper, motor home, trailer, tent or vehicle

• Rainbow Bridge National Monument

•One-quarter mile of Dangling Rope Marina, including any land- or harbor-based structures

•One hundred yards (300 feet) of any boats (unless the person owns, rents, leases or lawfully occupies the boat), or another boat moves into the 100-yard perimeter after the bow or spearfishing activity.
 
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