August 25, 2010
striper with shad and crayfish in stomach
The main lake fishery is evolving once more. There is still a separation of shad from the striped bass population but that separation is working to the advantage of the angler. Stripers are hungry making them very vulnerable to angling.
At first light this morning we found a few stripers chasing shad near shore. It was not a boil but the splashes observed were obviously made by a handful of stripers. Casts with a shallow running crankbait to the splash rings confirmed 3-4 pound stripers were feeding on top in the predawn light near shore.
That action was short lived but soon replaced by a whirlpool of tiny stripers running along the shallow shoreline. These 6-12 inch fish were working the shad schools over in the brush. The tiny tigers would readily hit a 4-inch shallow running crankbait and put up a tremendous struggle for their size. The amazing part was the entourage of 20-40 stripers chasing each hooked fish back to the boat. A glance at the graph confirmed that these fish were schooled under the boat in 20 feet of water. We dropped spoons down to the waiting fish and they immediately began playing volleyball with our spoons. Catching was fast and furious. Later at the fish cleaning station we found that these smaller stripers had more shad in their stomachs than any of the large stripers.
After losing contact with the small fish we ran toward the back of Warm Creek. In the middle of the bay near the floating restroom we saw more isolated splashes. Surface lures cast to the splash rings were ignored but the graph indicated a huge school of fish below the boat. Spoons were deployed and stripers (2-5 pounds) were caught every cast for over an hour. Some fish would hit within visual range right under the boat while others were 60-90 feet deep. We just let our spoons free fall waiting for the line to stop or twitch, at which point we took up the slack and set the hook. Spoon fishing is now wide open. Only a few stripers are finding shad while the rest of the school is eagerly hitting anything resembling a shad. If I could only use one lure right now it would be a spoon. This strategy will likely hold for the rest of the year. Bait fishing is still excellent both at night and during the day when stripers have quit chasing on top and go deeper to rest.
Water temperature is beginning to fall. It will be another two weeks before bass return to shallow water. For now smallmouth bass are still down at 20-35 feet. Largemouth are in the brush. Both species want the bait worked slowly and fairly deep. It takes a while to convince them to bite but they will cooperate with the patient angler. Bass fishing will improve dramatically when water temperature cools another 10 degrees.
Catfish and sunfish are still ready and willing.
The forage shortage that is beginning makes it wise for all anglers to keep most of the fish caught. Striped bass, 9-12 inch smallmouth, and walleye should all be harvested. Largemouth and crappie should be released as their numbers will decline with a decrease in brush shelter next year. Every small striper caught should be kept as they are the most efficient predator in the lake right now.