March 17, 2010
Lake Elevation: 3619                               
Water Temp:    49-53 F  

OPENING DAY

My fishing season started yesterday. The cold blustery weather the past two weeks has kept me close to the fireplace but that has all changed now. Fair skies and warmer temperatures arrived so it was time to go fishing. Stripers did not disappoint. It looks like my high expectations for 2010 are now even higher. We found another year class of fish to add to the mix.

Here is the pattern: Water temperature is consistently near 50 degrees in the main lake. Clear water does not absorb the suns energy as readily as water that is slightly stained. Near the back of most major canyons where streams or washes enter, there is enough silt deposited that any wind or wave action creates a murky zone. Water color change is readily visible while traveling toward the back of the canyon. The murky zone is at least a degree warmer than clearer water, sometimes much more.

Brian Beames shows size difference in stripers caught.


The colored water zone can be very small or stretch for long distances depending on the canyon. The key to catching stripers is to find the deepest warmer water. Yesterday we tried three different canyons and the pattern was consistent. Best bottom depth for locating active fish was 20-35 feet.

When in the fish zone, open water can be most quickly covered by trolling. Deep diving lures have been most productive in cold water so we started trolling deep but put out a shallow running smaller bait just in case. Within 100 yards the first fish hit the shallow bait and that was the pattern for the rest of day. Stomach samples revealed stripers from 14-20 inches were feeding on plankton at the top of the water column. These fish were hungry and willing to grab a "small minnow" swimming in the plankton feeding zone. Our most productive lures were 3 inch Lucky Craft Pointers and Bevy Shad. Similar sized "Rattletraps" worked as would other short minnow-shaped baits that dive to 8-12 feet.

Not interested in 14 inch stripers? Here's the good part. Larger stripers were tight to the bottom and not eating or chasing deep diving baits. But no self respecting striper can ignore another fish eating. Schooling fish are mandated to react to any feeding behavior. The hooked fish garners attention of others as it swims violently toward the boat. These vibrations are transmitted to the lateral line of resting fish. Larger stripers were caught while or immediately after the small fish was landed. A large white bucktail jig dropped to the bottom and fished slowly within a foot of bottom enticed the bigger fish to bite. We used the smaller plankton-eating stripers to excite the bigger dormant fish and had a really great day. Spoons seemed too fast paced for these resting fish but 1 ounce bucktails worked slowly were taken. We filleted 30 stripers for our efforts.

Fishing for big largemouth bass is consistent. Results of the weekend tournament found many 3-pound and larger bass taken. Winning weights on Saturday and Sunday were just under 15 and 18 pound for 5 fish. Technique is to use bulky plastic baits fished slowly and methodically on bottom in the brush zone of that same murky water described above.