November 28, 2002
By Wayne Gustaveson   Home Page:
Lake Elevation: 3623  Water Temperature: 56 - 58 F

Winter fishing is all about using a graph to locate deep schools of stripers and shad. This report will be dedicated to helping all understand what to look for.

The normal graph screen shows a top line representing the surface and a bottom line enhanced with a gray line. On this particular graph the gray line is a cross hatch of diagonal lines. Only information between these two reference lines may actually represent fish.

Graph 2 is essentially a blank screen with one noticeable difference. There is a thickening of the bottom line or a bump on the bottom. On days when fishing is slow it may be that fish are laying on the bottom without enough separation to allow the graph to discriminate between fish and bottom. Just remember that a hump may be dormant fish or it could be exactly as it appears... a hump of soil or rock on the bottom.

Graph 3 shows schooled fish with enough separation that a positive identification may be made. We know these are fish but not necessarily which species.

Graph 4 shows a school of fish but now one extra fish is separated from the school. It could be a striper swimming near shad or it may be that all these fish are a single species and one is far enough away from the others that a single fish now shows up. If fish are close together their shapes all join together to print as one mass.

Sometimes lines appear that are not fish. Repeating lines rising in the water column may be air bubbles or interference. With time and experience it will become clear which traces to ignore and which lines are fish. Never use the fish target feature on the graph. These false, spurious lines will always be displayed as fish target when no fish is present. You really are smarter than the graph. Always look at the raw data.

After much looking a school of fish will finally be displayed. These scattered fish are small, probably shad. We know that because the scattered fish merge into a larger mass and individual characteristics are lost. The scattered fish form a school and the school then dives to the bottom. Now that the shad school has been located it is time to fish for stripers. Mark this spot with a float so a reference point is available as the boat drifts on the surface. Keep returning to this spot to find predators that are looking for a shad meal.

For this week stripers and shad are both moving and found most often in 35-50 feet of water. Stripers are actively chasing shad so reaction baits like spoons are the best technique. Drop the spoon immediately when a school is displayed on the graph. It is possible to catch one or more fish from a striper school before the school moves on. Then continue to graph until another school is seen and then repeat the process. I call this fish hunting and late November is the best time to do it. Trolling is another good way to present the bait to moving fish that are concentrated in one geographic area.