FEBRUARY 17, 2005

By Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Elevation: 3560

Water Temperature: 48-50 F

A fishing trip in February can be a real grab bag. You never know what is in store. We launched at Stateline Alternate ramp without incident and no competition. Parking was easy and the walk was short from vehicle to boat. The weather forecast was for clouds and wind but it was calm and often sunny. As we idled through the houseboats toward the channel we looked at each other and said, "where should we go?"

There have been some recent fish reports of stripers and largemouth being caught toward the back of Navajo Canyon and the Padre Bay Canyons where the water begins to appear stained. Bass have been caught as deep as 40 feet but sometimes right on the bank. Stripers have taken anchovy bait fished right on the bottom at depths greater than 60 feet. I am sure this winter pattern would work in the back of most canyons, particularly those with some constant stream inflow.

Bass are most active during the brightest part of the day. They tend to move up when the sun is shining with the most direct angle to the water's surface. Morning and evening find all fish deep. Shad are found on the lake bottom at depths greater than 60 feet. There is seldom enough separation between fish and bottom to recognize the characteristic elliptical ball-shaped shad school often seen on the graph. But do not be deceived. Bass and stripers are feeding on shad and will be in close proximity. Find any fish traces on the graph and that spot is worth fishing.

As we did not relish a long run uplake we tried graphing Wahweap Bay from Ice Cream Canyon toward Lone Rock where we had found stripers feeding over a month ago. After perhaps 20 minutes we graphed a few fish near bottom at 90 feet on the right-hand corner turning toward Lone Rock. I dropped a 1-ounce green/white Stump Jumper, which is a hair jig with a spinning blade fished much like a spinner bait. I thought the slow approach with a little flash might get winter stripers going. Ron used a large 2-ounce spoon with feather tail on the hook.

On the second drop, a striper hit as I steadily reeled the stump jumper maybe 20 feet off the bottom. It turned out to be a nice 5-pounder. There were no trailing stripers swimming up with this one. We drifted and dredged bottom for another 5 minutes when Ron caught a 6.5-pound fish on the big spoon. There was still no increase of activity noticed on the graph as often happens when a school fish is hooked.

I promised to field test a gaudy blue 2.5 ounce monster Spinnow spoon so I dropped that to the bottom and worked it for maybe 10 minutes before getting the next big bite. The 6-pound striper inhaled it as you can see in the picture.

For the next hour we continued to catch single stripers off the bottom. The surprising pattern was that each fish was caught on a different spoon. No single spoon accounted for more than one fish. I think we had to drop the lure right directly in front of a resting fish on the bottom. Perfect placement caused the reaction bite rather than just providing the 'right lure' to fussy fish. We boated 6 stripers weighing over 30 pounds and lost 3 other similar fish. It was a rewarding half-mile boat trip from 12-2 PM on a warm afternoon. We tried for another hour without success. My guess was this day's short feeding period was over.

Graphing is critical to winter striper fishing success. Graph a few fish marks near bottom and work the area with spoons. If that doesn't work, anchor and chum while fishing anchovy bait right on the bottom. Bait seems to work best in late afternoon while reaction spoons should be used during peak sunshine. Night fishing under lights near marinas is still working. Fish deep and methodically for winter success.