January 29, 2020 - Fussy Stripers and Future Plans

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wayne gustaveson

Staff member
We put on 5 layers of warm clothes, goggles, ski gloves and headed out for our weekly fishing trip. The weather forecast was correct with calm water and sunny skies. That changed when we got to the mouth of Last Chance where the prevailing breeze made the water rough enough that we had to slow down in our flat bottom boat. Near the back of the canyon the breeze let up and we started graphing for stripers near a flock of grebes swimming on the surface. I really trust grebes because they eat shad in deep water. If they are still on the lake in January that means they are still finding food.

We stopped the boat where the grebe flock had been at the first sighting. The graph showed a few fish on the bottom at 70 feet. This time of year a few fish is a big enough target, so we dropped spoons to the bottom. Our technique is to hit bottom and then jig up and down from the bottom up to 18 inches. With really fat stripers that are eating their fill of shad, it takes a bit more effort by speed reeling up 5-10 turns and then dropping the spoon back down. Erratic motion is better than just jigging up and down. After working the spoons for about 5 minutes, I finally got a hit just as the speed reel was paused. Fish On! It takes a while to get a fat 3.5-pound fish to the boat from 70 feet.

Stripers are schooling fish so one fish eating excites the rest of the schoolmates. They begin looking for food and hit the next spoon that hits the bottom or swims rapidly toward the surface. Often as the first hooked fish heads toward the boat, the graph lights up with many more fish traces. It is important to get all spoons down quickly, take each fish off the hook as fast as possible to complete a maximum harvest from one school. During our last two fishing trips, we hooked 7-8 fish before the school drifted away.

We were so excited to have 8 fish in the cooler after 10 minutes of fishing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature took over as a breeze picked and no shallow schools of fish appeared on the graph. After a couple hours of graphing, spooning and trolling, we returned to the main channel and tried Dove Canyon, Buoy 25, Gunsight and Warm Creek. The results were the same. No fish graphed. We did see another flock of grebes in the back of Warm Creek. There was one school of fish on the bottom with no interest in our spoons. We called it a day. Ten minutes of fantastic fishing followed by 4 hours of great scenery and calm water in the main channel.

The reward back at the fish cleaning station was filleting fish that were even fatter than we caught the week before. They had adult threadfin shad in their stomachs. The body shaped reminded me of a fat 3-pound largemouth bass, instead of a slender striped bass.

My only concern right now is that these fat stripers are so happy in the backs of canyons where shad reside, that they might not move to the main channel where anglers expect them to eat anchovies in April and May. That has happened in a couple of years during my tenure at the lake. If stripers are not hitting bait in the main channel, then have a backup plan to troll in the back of canyons to find fat fish.unnamed (2).jpg
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