Category Archives: Striped Bass and Hybrid Bass Fishing

Captain Mack’ Lake Lanier Fishing Report

From Captain Mack Farr

Nice Lanier striper

January in February continued last week,
lots of rain and wind to contend with,
making fishing tough. The long term
forecast calls for moderating weather in the
coming week, and hopefully the fish will
respond accordingly. Add in a full moon on
the 27th and it could make for a very good
bite.

The lake level came up, and many
parts of the lake muddied up as well, but
that will be to your advantage as the new
muddy water moderates. The lake level as
of Friday afternoon was 1069.96, 1.04 feet
below full pool, up .22 feet from last week.
The surface temps went the opposite
direction of the lake level and dropped
slightly to 47 degrees.


Striper Fishing

After a brief glimpse of spring, last week’s
cool down squelched some of the activity in
the backs of the creeks. I think those
patterns will reemerge soon with the
pending weather forecast. The stained water in the rivers and creek backs should warm quickly,
attracting the bait and the gamefish right behind them. Until then, many of the Stripers are still in
the creeks around the bait schools, over a 30 to 70 foot bottom, basically the same patterns/
places we have utilized for several weeks now. Use the mud lines where applicable, the activity
will often be best around the color change is most pronounced. Of course the smaller creeks,
and the coves that did not experience an influx of new water will remain stable and fish in those
areas are probably still hanging around.


A mix of free lines, down lines, and planer boards will still be applicable, and a little weight on
the planers and free lines has been a plus. Keeping a Mini Mack in the spread is also beneficial,
either as a flat line or behind the Perfect Planer. Herring, Trout, Shad and Shiners have all been
productive, and give the Stripers a mix until you see a preference. Don’t rule out using spoons
and dead sticking jigs to catch these deeper fish, both of these techniques should remain viable
methods for a last a couple more weeks.


You will have plenty of stained water areas to fish, and you may be able to use this to your
advantage. This stained water will often warm quickly and the Stripers are not hesitant to
venture into the of colored water. Basically if the bait is there the Stripers will likely be there as
well. I think that the fish in the stained water are often easier to catch, especially with artificials.
Casting a bait to the banks while you are pulling the live baits will often be very productive.
Small jigs, 3/8 1/4 and 1/2 oz, Flukes on a lead head, flukes on a weighted keel hook are also
excellent choices.


Bass Fishing


The Bass bite is still pretty good, the difficulty is dealing with the changing water conditions and
fish movement. There are many patterns producing, and also many baits that are effective. The
deeper patterns I think offer more consistency, particularly after last weeks inconsistent weather.


Look for the pre-spawn bite to ramp up with the improving weather, and the shallow patterns
that really were starting to develop should become reenergized. Fish moving into the creek
backs, up on clay banks and points should respond quickly to the Rock Crawlers and Rapala
DT’s, along with spinnerbaits and jerk baits. Until then, deep brush, rock bluffs, rocky points,
ditches and drains are all likely areas to target. The depth range is also wide, 20 to 40 feet, so
try and narrow that down as your day progresses.

One of last week’s patterns, fishing the creek backs, drains and ditches is still a productive
pattern. The ditches and drains may be the best choice, because they do not get the influx of
new water like the creek channels. The fish on these structures may also be using a big depth
range, but generally moving into the shallow end of that range early, getting deeper as the day
progresses.

Cast green and brown pattern jigs with Hula grubs or twin tails, the smaller Keitechs
on a lead heads, or the worms on a Shakey Head. Super Spoons also remain productive on the
deeper fish, especially in areas where the bait is layered up on the bottom.
Our best bite may arguably be fishing after dark. Lights, both submerged and above water
lights, are holding some good numbers of fish with some big fish, both Largemouths and Spots.
The night bite is not limited to fishing lights, with some fish roaming around points and reef
poles. With improving weather, night fishing may be more appealing, and the full moon may also
benefit this pattern as well. Flukes, small buck tails, and Keitechs on the lead heads are
effective on the lights, as are pitching live Herring. Jerk baits and crank baits are effective on the
points and reef poles. As a bonus, you’ll probably get some Stripers off the lights to help keep
you awake.


Good Fishing!
Capt. Mack

Captain Mack’s Lake Hartwell Fishing Report

Thanks to Nathan Key, Shad Slinger Charters, for updating the Striper side of the report. On the Bass side,
Randy at Lake Hartwell Fishing and Marine provided the Bass fishing report.!

No surprise that the lake level
rose with recent rains, up .93 feet from last week to 658.14 as of Wednesday Evening, 1.86 Feet below full
pool. The Hartwell Lake level as of Wed was 657.21, 2.79 feet below full pool.


Striper/Hybrid Fishing


The Striper/Hybrid bite overall has been fair, the turbulent weather has spread the fish out, and will most likely
continue to keep the fish scattered out until our next period of good weather. Speaking of good weather, it’s on
the horizon(see the Bass Report for the weather report) so watch the forecast and plan accordingly.

The bite
this week has been a little bit of a grind with frequent moves being the rule and putting together singles to
make a good string of fish. Down lines and free lines are effective, and the smaller baits seem to be preferred.
Many of the fish are roaming in the middle parts of the creeks, generally over a 40 to 50 feet bottom. Place the
down lines 30 to 35, adjusting levels based on what the sonar shows. Start the free lines at 80 feet back, and
use a very small Split with the wind makes speed control and issue. With the fish being so scattered do not be
concerned if you are not seeing big groups of fish. Finding the good bait concentrations is a big part of finding
the fish, and even if you do not mark lots of fish, deploy the spread when you see the bait and let the fish come
to you.


As always keep an eye on the birds, most of this week they were not much help as they seemed to be focused
on being on the leeward side of something and avoiding being blown back to the coast. Nonetheless, they can
be very beneficial in locating fish and use them accordingly. Watch them closely, and you’ll learn when they
are on fish, or spending you on a Goose chase They also do not have to be right on the water to signify fish.
Often, high Flying Gulls see fish down in the water, they are just waiting for them to push the bait up to the
surface.

Bass Fishing


Bass Fishing has been fair and last week’s return to winter seems to have set the fish on their heels somewhat.
Deeper structures have been the best producer, with a few shots at shallow fish responding to the sun warmed
rocks and bridge pillars. We have plenty of stained water now, and that will probably be very beneficial with
some warming weather.

The long term forecast indicates a period of warmer temps beginning in the middle of
next week! Expect the fish to react quickly and pull up onto shallow structures. Until then, Ditches, drains,
long flat points, and deeper docks will produce some good catches. Football Head jigs tipped with chunks and
twin tails, blade baits and Fish Heads are all good choices for these structures. Finesse worms on the drop shot,
and Weedless Wonders tipped with Small Senkos and Roboworm Alive Shads are effective, particular in post
frontal conditions.


Good Fishing!
Capt Mack

Epic Fall Bites for Coastal Anglers


From New Jersey to the Texas Coast, St. Croix pros sound off on epic fall bites
from The Fishing Wire

PARK FALLS, Wisc. 
Whether you mine the Northeast for stripers, tuna, blues, sea bass and blackfish or hit the southern coast for redfish, snook, sea trout and flounder, the next several weeks will see some wild action on the inshore scene. Are you ready? St. Croix’s top pros are, and we’ve asked them to share a bit about what they’re doing to capitalize on the best bites in their respective areas right now.

Northeast Coast
Captain Robbie Radlof is a renowned guide at Waterman Charters out of Barnegat Township, New Jersey. He’s one of the best in the game at consistently hunting down big tuna, as well as making a living putting his clients on striped bass, which he says has been about 90% of this fall’s fishery so far. Right now, he says the stripers are schooling up in Montauk and Connecticut and are just starting to pass through New Jersey.

“Our striper fishery has been incredible this year and it’s only going to get better here in the next few weeks,” says Radlof, who adds that new slot limits in New Jersey and New York are adding tremendous value to the recreational striper fishery in the Northeast. “We now have wads of 40”-50” fish coming back through Jersey waters. I’ve never seen this many jumbos.”Radlof says the bass are primarily feeding on adult bunker inshore.

“We’re throwing big spoons and metal-lipped plugs with the new 7’9”, extra-heavy power, moderate-fast action St. Croix Mojo Inshore rods (JIC79XHMF) on 65-lb. braid with 60-80 lb. leaders,” he says. “This is the exact rod St. Croix won the saltwater road category with at ICAST earlier this year, and it’s clear why; this is what these rods were designed for… casting large, 2-6-oz. moving baits to big, powerful fish. They’ve got a unique blend of extra-heavy power to control and subdue jumbo stripers and an ideal medium-fast tip for casting and absorbing those slashing strikes that happen with plugs and swimbaits. I’ve never used a rod this powerful that has remained so light in the hand and easy to fish.”

On days when stripers are keying in on sand eels farther offshore, Radlof switches to the new 7’11”, medium power, fast action (JIS711MF) and 7’11” medium-heavy power, fast-action (JIS711MHF) Mojo Inshore rods “These rods pair perfectly with the smaller epoxy jigs we’re using in the 1-1/4-oz. range paired with 5” paddletails, as well as the heavier Savage Gear Sand Eel lures, which have been really hot.”

Radlof says the New Jersey bluefin tuna fishery has been evolving for the better in recent years, again, thanks to tightened regulations implemented about ten years ago. “We’re seeing regular opportunities for 100- and 200-lb. fish that we didn’t have just a few years ago,” he says, but points out this year has been atypical. “We’re getting an impressive biomass of sand eels, which has really helped, but the water got warm this summer and a lot of our tuna just pushed north. We have some resident bluefins around right now, but they are fairly spread out and have been picked over pretty good. We had a great yellowfin bite in mid-August, and the bluefins should be coming back through soon, headed to North Carolina,” he adds.

“I’m hoping it won’t be too bitterly cold in December when they show back up!” When they do, Radlof says he’ll be targeting them with poppers and stickbaits.

Radlof drills down on some additional key features of St. Croix’s new Mojo Inshore rods. “The larger, more powerful rods in the series I’m using daily have new hybrid cork/EVA foam handles. The EVA portion in the middle of the handle sits right under your arm when you’re throwing those big metal lips and adds some real comfort to the equation. That’s also the same section of the handle that makes contact with a rod tube or rocket launcher when the rod are stowed, so it keeps the cork grips from getting worn and banged up. The soft non-marring rubber gimbles on the butts are a huge plus, too,” he says. “I’m often running 50-60 miles one way to find the big fish, and that soft gimble holds the rod and heavy reel securely in the rod holders.”

South Carolina & Georgia Coast
RedFin Charters captain, Justin Carter, operates out of the rich and diverse waters around Charleston, South Carolina.“We’re just past the mullet run and our bull redfish have moved offshore,” he reports. “But the shallow-water speckled trout bite on artificials is really picking up. Our water temps have dropped, trout have moved past the spawn and are transitioning into shallow wintering areas,” continues Carter, who says a couple key factors are contributing to the quality of the trout fishery right now.

“Waning daylight is prompting a lot of feeding. There’s a lot of shrimp in the creeks, and trout will continue to feed hard with temps mid-50s or higher, which could last into January,” he says.Carter is finding success on bigger trout with topwaters and suspending twitch baits, and well as Z-Man Trout Eye jigs paired with 4” DieZel MinnowZ. Depending on the size of his jig, he’s fishing 7’, light power (JIS70LF) and 7’6”, medium-light power, fast action (JIS76MLF) St. Croix Mojo Inshore spinning rods, and switches to the 7’6”, medium power (JIS76MF) Mojo Inshore when throwing spinnerbaits or topwaters.When the birds show him where they’re at, Carter is still targeting 35”-50” beast reds farther offshore with chuggers and 7”DieZel MinnowZ, but the smaller resident redfish are schooling up in the shallows to protect themselves from marauding porpoises, which no longer have access to as many mullet. “Along with the trout, we’ve got tremendous sight-fishing opportunities for slot reds and some up to 35” right know,” says Carter.

“It’s a really exciting time to be fishing right now.”

Cobia represent Carter’s ace-in-the-hole, bonus big fish at this time of year. “It’s interesting; we have some recent studies – which back up my observations over the past several years – that show our cobia aren’t just moving south and north in the spring and fall. They’re also moving east and west, and I tend to catch them in 90-120 feet this time of year,” explains Carter, who says 30-40-lb. fish aren’t unusual. “We see them regularly showing up in the chum slick while drifting on the bottom for kings and little tunny.” Carter keeps two Mojo Inshore rods rigged and ready for when Cobia appear: one rigged with a freelined livie on a 5/0 circle hook, and another set up with a white, 10” Z-Man HeroZ jerk bait rigged on a ChinlockZ hook.

“That HeroZ is outstanding cobia bait,” he says. “They’ll hardly ever turn it down as long as there’s enough distance between the fish and the boat. The Mojo Inshore 7’11”, medium-heavy (JIS711MHF) rod is ideal for both of these presentations.”

Florida Keys
“The month of November can be full of great opportunities in the lower keys,” says owner of Push It Good Inshore Charters, Scott Brown. “Resident tarpon, snook and jacks are gorging on schools of bait and some of the bigger bonefish and permit are still cruising the flats. As long as water temps don’t drop below 75 degrees and winds stay relatively moderate, you can find good numbers of all of them,” he says.Brown touts sight fishing the flats this time of year when conditions are favorable. “I like to pair a 3000 series spinning reel with a St. Croix 7’, medium-light power, new Legend Xtreme Inshore spinning rod (XSS70MLF) for presenting ¼-oz to 3/16-oz jigs to cruising bonefish and redfish.”The lower keys flats can be tough at times depending on the weather and conditions, which warrants a lightweight, responsive and super sensitive rod like Legend Xtreme Inshore.

“The ability for quick, accurate and subtle presentations is paramount when fishing for pressured bonefish. And when the wind starts blowing and visibility is reduced, that’s when Legend Xtreme’s unmatched sensitivity really comes into play; you may not be able to watch it happen, but you know when a fish has picked up the jig.”For cruising permit, Captain Scott likes freelining a live crab. “A 7’6” medium-power rod paired with a 4000 series spinning reel is the ticket,” offers Brown, who prefers to fish with the new Legend Xtreme Inshore version (XSS76MF), but keeps the incredibly capable new Triumph Inshore version (TIS76MF) rigged and handy for his clients.

“These new, handcrafted Triumph Inshore rods are simply amazing, and – in my opinion – offer an unbeatable combination of performance and value.”A big part of the lower keys’ appeal is that there’s always a bite to be had, even when conditions get nasty. “When the north winds kick up and water temps drop, I like to switch it up to live baiting for tarpon, snook and snappers. This time of year, the tarpon and snook are between 10-20lbs and larger snapper move inshore,” says Brown, who prefers a rod that’s not too heavy, but has adequate back bone to set the hook and keep fish out of the mangroves.

“The 7’ medium-heavy Triumph Inshore rods are ideal when fishing medium-sized mullet and large pilchards on 30-40-lb. fluorocarbon,” he says. “You have that fast tip necessary to accurately pitch baits close to cover, plus the power required to pull the fish away from trouble.” When the bite is really on and the tarpon are cruising , Brown switches from livies to ¼-oz. soft swim baits and bucktail jigs. His preferred rod in these cases is the 7’, medium-power Legend Xtreme Inshore spinning rod (XSS70MF).

Texas Gulf CoastFlorida-born Guillermo Gonzalez grew up chasing snook and tarpon in the Biscayne Bay backcountry south of Miami. A transplant to Texas, the 2017 Kayak Angler’s Tournament Series (KATS) Angler of the Year travels extensively to fish and compete, but most often finds himself chasing redfish and trout along the Texas coast.“The majority of our coast is known for sight fishing to shallow redfish, but the marshes are really coming alive right now,” says Gonzalez, who believes the increased activity in most areas is primarily shrimp-related. “There’s definitely more shrimp in right now, and you can see them popping as redfish move through an area.”Given the natural smorgasbord, one would guess that live shrimp and shrimp imitations are the bait of choice right now.

“Shrimp imitations are always going to work,” Gonzalez confirms. “But redfish aren’t the pickiest fish in the world; in my experience, if a red is going to eat, it will eat about anything in your tackle box.” But Gonzalez does choose certain lures that have some well-defined characteristics. When sight-fishing shallow redfish in the fall, he gravitates towards smaller, softer baits that land quietly, and are darker in color. “I’m fishing a lot of belly-weighted root beer-colored flukes, as well as smaller, darker paddletails when sight fishing,” he specifies. “Whatever you choose needs to land softly and small tends to win… nothing clunky.”

For presenting such baits, Gonzalez is bullish on St. Croix’s all-new Triumph Inshore series of rods. “These rods combine incredible St. Croix performance with an almost-unbelievable price, and the entire series has been designed to support the specific regional techniques coastal anglers employ around the country,” he says.“Wade fishing around oysteries, potholes and drains in the marsh is hugely popular along the Texas coast, and many Triumph Inshore models have been designed with this in mind. These anglers are doing a lot of casting, so the rods are lightweight and crisp with great ergonomics,” says Gonzalez, who adds that often means split grips and shorter handles.

“They are also using a lot of moving baits, so rods need to be soft enough to keep fish pinned.”Gonzalez prefers the 6’8” and 7’ medium-power, moderate-fast action Triumph Inshore models for his style of fishing. “The tips on these rods are perfect,” he says. “They’re soft enough to make the short, accurate pitches necessary to have success with shallow redfish in the marsh, with the power and back bone required to tame them. He also adds that the 7’ medium-light power, moderate action casting rod (TRIC70MLM) has a sweet, parabolic action that coastal Texas trout anglers are flocking to.St. Croix pro and lifelong inshore angler, Joseph Sanderson is a former collegiate FLW and BASS competitor and current KBF tournament kayak angler. He dives deeper on the new, trout-centric TRIC70MLM.

“As Guillermo already mentioned, wade-fishing is really popular down here. if I go wading for trout, I’m really working; popping and reeling in slack and then repeating. A heavy, stiff rod will wear you out. This rod is comfortable to fish all day with,” he says, “When wading deep, you can’t use your arm; you have to use your wrist. The medium-light rod and shorter handle of the TRIC70MLM really helps. And since speckled trout have really soft mouths, the moderate action of this rod keeps them hooked up.”

Sanderson recently spent a day sight-fishing for reds from a skiff and wading with the 6’8” and 7’ medium power, moderate-fast action Triumph Inshore casting rods (TRIC68MMF and TRIC70MMF). “We had calm conditions and clear water, so we were making a lot of medium-distance casts in the 50-60-foot range. Accuracy mattered and both rods delivered with 1/16-oz. jigs and small paddletails,” he says, noting that rods also had plenty of power to subdue the 20”-28” slot fish they were catching. “I’m not very conventional about matching rods to big fish,” says Sanderson. “I can assure you these medium-power rods will easily handle 30”-35” reds.”Sanderson drills down on Triumph Inshore’s varied handle options. “I preferred the 7’ version a bit better with the longer, full cork handle because I prefer to cast with two hands, but found the shorter-handled 6’8” split-grip an ideal option for wading. It’s rare to find a casting rod that performs with the lightweight jigs and baits I use so much of the time, and both of these rods excelled.”Sanderson and Gonzalez were impressed with the new Triumph Inshore rods from the start. “When I unpackaged these rods, the first thing I noticed was the surprisingly high quality of the cork and their beautiful finish,” Sanderson says.

“The second was their extreme light weight. These are without a doubt the finest inshore rods in their price range I have ever held.” Gonzalez agrees, adding, “the finish, components, balance and cosmetics of these rods are flawless. I never expected to see that in a rod retailing for $130.”

Catch Up with Radlof, Carter and Sanderson Live
Want to hear even more about what’s happening on the inshore scene right now or ask questions of your own? Join St. Croix pros Joseph Sanderson, Justin Carter and Rob Radlof on Facebook Live @stcroixrods, Tuesday, November 24 at 7:00PM Central.

#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Save 20% off retail on select performance tees, November 16th through the 31st. 
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Fishing South Carolina’s Lake Thurmond

It will always be Clark Hill to me! And most of the lake is in Georgia
Photo courtesy Old 96 Tourism District

By David Lucas
from The Fishing Wire

Whatever you call the lowest lake in the Savannah chain along South Carolina’s “West Coast” the fishing there is red hot, even when the weather turns cold.

Ask an old-time Sandlapper (that’s a South Carolinian for you folks “from off”) what the big lake bordering the Sumter National Forest North of Augusta is called, and like as not, they’ll tell you it’s Clarks Hill.

That was true for a long time, but both the dam and the lake impounded by it were renamed after South Carolina’s longest-serving U.S. Senator in 1987 as the “J. Strom Thurmond Lake and Dam.”  Before that, the lake was known on both sides of the border as “Clarks Hill,” though it’s official name when opened in 1954 was “Clark Hill” (a clerical error later corrected at the insistence of Senator Thurmond.)

Anyway, that’s history (and politics) for you — one lake, three names.

Today, with nearly 71,100 acres of water and 1,200 miles of shoreline at full pool, Lake Thurmond is a haven for outdoor recreation such as fishing, boating and paddling, as well as a major attraction for anglers, tourists and people looking for a nice place to retire.

Though the lake was built with the primary purposes of flood control and power generation in mind, recreation was part of the plan from the beginning. Constructed between 1944 and 1954 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project plan included numerous shoreline recreation spots for camping, picnicking and bank fishing built at the same time that have remained popular throughout the years.

Numerous private camps and marinas also sprung up around the lake in the years after it opened, and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism maintains three beautiful state parks that all offer lakeside camping and water access via boat ramps — Hickory Knob, Baker Creek and Hamilton Branch. 

Four-Season Fishing
Lake Thurmond is sometimes referred to as an “angler’s paradise,” and it’s easy to see why; there’s a reason Bassmasters magazine and Bassmasers.com recently included it on their list of the Best Bass Fishing Lakes of the Decade in the Southeast.

The lake’s abundant underwater timber and large forage base of blueback herring, gizzard and threadfin shad provide the essentials for great fishing — food and cover. Anglers at Lake Thurmond can successfully target largemouth bass, and a large population of stocked striped and hybrid bass. Flathead and blue catfish, crappie and bream are also plentiful.

With the area’s mild weather, late fall and even into winter is a great time to get out on the lake and chase schools of stripers and hybrids. The fish are in winter prep mode and can be found loading up on schools of shad or herring. Landing a forty-plus pound fish isn’t unusual.

Experienced guides on the lake will advise you that the way to find winter stripers and hybrids is to find the baitfish, and one way to do that (other than using sonar equipment) is by looking for flocking gulls feeding on the surface. The birds also show up in big numbers beginning in fall, which just goes to show you – the Palmetto State’s “West Coast” is a popular stop for winter migrants of all kinds (even the two-legged type).Striped and hybrid bass stocked in the lake by SCDNR’s Freshwater Fisheries Section can be successfully targeted nearly year-round at Lake Thurmond. [photo by David Lucas, SCDNR]

In the spring, crappie on the lake begin moving into shallower water to spawn, and that’s when knowing where the lake’s well-maintained fish attractor site can work to your benefit, especially if fishing from the bank is your thing.

Visit the USACE’s Lake Thurmond Recreation pages to find maps, or the SCDNR lakes pages.

The largemouth bass bite also turns on in the spring, when water temperatures begin to rise and the fish seek coves and shallow water to spawn.  But bass can be caught on Thurmond even throughout the dog days of summer if you know where to look, and just like with the wintertime striper/hybrid bite, the key will be locating the baitfish – blueback herring in particular. When the spawn is finished and hot weather takes over, the bluebacks head for deeper, cooler water and the bass will follow.  Points and deepwater brushpiles are key spots, and topwater lures can be deadly effective in that scenario, according to a pro angler who should know – local bass fishing hero Casey Ashley.S.C.-based professional bass angler Casey Ashley knows Lake Thurmond and advises fishing deepwater structure when the weather turns hot. [photo courtesy Bassmaster]

But don’t forget about catfish during the summer months. From June, all the way into early fall, catfish in the 1-10 pound range are pulled out of the lake in large numbers. Fish fry anyone? Anchoring or drifting off of points or humps while fishing cut bait or stinkbaits close to the bottom are the tried-and-true tactics. Night fishing is also popular, and some say that’s when the bigger cats are more likely to be landed.

Whatever time of year you choose to visit, it won’t take long for you to discover why Bassmaster magazine recently included Lake Thurmond/Clarks Hill as one of the top bass lakes of the decade in the Southeast.

If You Go
For more information about the lake’s recreational fishing and camping opportunities, visit the USACE’s Lake Thurmond Recreation web pages.

For a broader look at the area’s other attractions – scenic drives, historic sites, hiking trails and local hotspots for BBQ or country cooking, try the website for the “Old 96” tourism region for help with itineraries, accommodations and travel plans.

Northeast Striped Bass Study

By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
The Fisherman
from The Fishing Wire
Chuck Many nets a good fish for Dave Glassberg during the spring run off the Jersey Shore during the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study.

And now there are four!

“If one’s an anomaly, and two’s a coincidence, will three or more show a pattern?”That was the lead sentence in our first published piece of this year (Born To Run: Hudson River To Canyon Striper) on the status of our 2019 Northeast Striped Bass Study from our January edition. 

By now everyone along the Striper Coast is aware of the results; two post-spawn striped bass caught by our research team at The Fisherman, Gray FishTag Research and Navionics in May of 2019, tagged with high-tech MiniPSAT devices to track migration habits during a five-month stretch, ultimately showing returns from the offshore canyons including the Hudson, Block and Veatch.Two $5,000 “pop-off” satellite tags which incorporate light-based geolocation for tracking, time-at-depth histograms for measuring diving behavior, and a profile of depth and temperature, showing two very distinct paths in waters where we typically wouldn’t expect striped bass to swim.

There’s been some skepticism of course with some questing whether a big white shark gobbled up these stripers before heading east with a belly full of bass. However, the data stored inside the Wildlife Computers MiniPSAT devices – which amazingly were physically recovered by beachcombers in Massachusetts and New Jersey – shows both tagged fish were alive and swimming along the offshore grounds when the tags detached.We had grand plans in 2020, and with financial support from Navionics, Tsunami Tackle, AFW/HiSeas, Southernmost Apparel and the Recreational Fishing Alliance – on top of the thousands in individual donations from The Fisherman readers, regional advertisers, and local fishing clubs – the Northeast Striped Bass Study was poised to deploy up to a half-dozen MiniPSAT devices this past spring. 

“The plan was to have multiple boats ready to go at one time, with a full Gray FishTag Research team in New York again during the week of May 18,” said Mike Caruso, publisher of The Fisherman and an advisor for Gray FishTag Research, adding “It was going to be even more groundbreaking than in 2019.

”Due to travel restrictions and the shutdown of Wildlife Computers in Washington State where the devices are built, we missed the height of the post-spawn Hudson River bite by roughly two weeks.  But thanks to a determined crew at Gray FishTag Research in Florida and a little improvisation, we hit the Jersey Shore spring run off Sandy Hook with a pair of tags, one deployed Thursday, May 28 and another for the following Wednesday, June 3 while fishing with study supporters David Glassberg and Chuck Many aboard Chuck’s boat, Tyman.  The pandemic-related audible paid off with a pair of 46-inch plus stripers, appropriately named Cora and Rona.Tag Return #1With both a MiniPSAT device and a Gray FishTag Research “streamer” tag, a 46-1/2-inch striped bass called Rona is released back in the waters off Sandy Hook for the start of her tracking adventure.So the $10,000 question we’ve all been waiting to answer with baited breath; where did Cora and Rona eventually get to, and did they follow a similar offshore path to what Freedom and Liberty did during the 2019 study? 

Once again – just as in 2019 – our first two tag returns of 2020 reveal two coastal stripers taking a rather incredible journey into depths that few would’ve ever expected from striped bass.

On August 1, 2020, the Argos satellite first began to receive information from Cora’s tag in roughly 650 feet of water some 30 miles offshore of Gloucester, MA in an area southeast of Jeffreys Ledge along the Murray Basin.  According to the information in the MiniPSAT device since uploaded to the satellites, Cora had spent the previous two weeks heading in an easterly direction toward Stellwagen Bank, traveling approximately 85 miles in 14 days from an offshore area home to the Davis and Rodgers basins in the Gulf of Maine. 

That big striper was along the west side of George’s Bank for the July Fourth weekend, following a bit of meandering above Hydrographer Canyon.As unbelievable as it may be for some us to believe that final month of travel, the route to actually get to George’s Bank was even more shocking. 

Cora, a 45-3/4-inch striper tagged on June 3, 2020 off Sandy Hook during the spring run, seemingly took a southeast route soon after her release, following a similar path to overseas freighters coming in and out of New York Harbor using the Hudson Canyon to Ambrose Channel deepwater lanes. 

By June 10, MiniPSAT data shows Cora down past the Chicken Canyon and not far from the Texas Tower, where she would eventually begin tracking northeast towards Nantucket Shoals over a 14-day period before turning north in between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by June 25.For about three weeks, Cora was outside of 3 miles and essentially unavailable to fishing pressure, and her return inshore in late June didn’t last very long either. 

During the final days of June Cora had cruised back through Nantucket Shoals before running that final offshore gauntlet in July.  Anglers along the south shore of Long Island never got a shot at this 35-pounder. We don’t know where she was in the days leading up to her tagging on June 3, nor do we know where she is now, but we have a pretty solid idea about where she was for 53 days this summer, and it wasn’t near the 3-mile-line along the south shore of Long Island.While Cora was the second big striper tagged for the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study – sister Rona being first on May 28 in the same stretch of water 2-1/2 miles east of Sandy Hook – her tag was the first to prematurely pop off. 

According to Bill Dobbelaer, president of Gray FishTag Research, there are any number of reasons why these highly specialized tags may come free.

“That fish could’ve gone under a piece of wood and it got hung up and tore loose…the answer is there are endless opportunities for that tag to come off,” Dobbelaer said, adding “it’s more of a miracle that it stays on, and the amount of information that we’ve already gotten from these fish is amazing. 

Dobbelaer and the Gray FishTag Research team have been involved in countless deployments around the globe with billfish where tags sometimes pop free within days of the initial capture.“It sucks when it comes off two days after we let them go, which happens,” he said.Tag Return #2And then there was Rona.  The first of three hefty stripers tagged in 2020 – Independence coming over the July Fourth weekend off Montauk – Rona was also tagged aboard Chuck Many’s Tyman on May 28, and her tag would begin relaying information from roughly 2 miles outside Moriches Inlet off Long Island on August 21.

When you look at the chart images of the travels taken by each of these fish, the first thing to understand is that the detailed tracking is not as exact as running on your own onboard GPS.  There are quite literally millions of data points collected inside of these MiniPSAT devices bobbing along the Atlantic Ocean somewhere after coming undone from their host.  As the Argos satellite passes overhead, the tag transmits its data where it is ultimately gathered by researchers at Gray. 

The data is then analyzed and input into charts to provide a general idea of migratory paths.

“We must always remember that fish in the ocean or wild never swim in a straight line,” said Dobbelaer, explaining “graphs created are averages based upon light sensors, temperature, and depth information.”  The graphs are reviewed by the folks at Wildlife Computers in Redmond, WA and the Northeast Striped Bass Study team; at that point, the estimated path of the fish is broken down using the Navionics Boating App with my own Capt. Segull’s charts scattered across the office floor.  Essentially, trying to pinpoint a fish’s precise path is like plotting a navigational course.The first striper deployed with a MiniPSAT device in 2020, Rona shows a rather incredible migratory journey between May 28 and August 15.

“They typically transmit for 10 days until the battery dies,” said Roxanne Willmer from Gray FishTag Research explaining how anywhere from 17,000 to 20,000 transmission attempts from the MiniPSAT devices to the overhead satellites once they’ve detached from the fish and floated to the surface. 

In 2019, both tagging devices were returned after being found on beaches along the Striper Coast, which is what researchers hope happens in 2020 as well. 

“If we do find them on a beach in three months then we can plug them in, which doesn’t require the battery, and get all of the data, maybe a more defined tracking,” Willmer said.

Heading back to the nautical charts with Navionics App in hand, we set to plotting Rona’s course from date of deployment off the Jersey Shore until the tag began to transmit 85 days later.  As difficult as it was for any one of us to process – and as hard as it might be for readers to believe – that big fish also traveled southeast along the Hudson Shelf Valley after being tagged, swimming approximately 100 nautical miles to the tip of the Hudson Canyon over the course of just 4 days.

“Likelihood” is a common word used in science; based on the best available science, there’s always a probability or chance of something occurring or not occurring in nature, especially when inserting man into the equation.  And from the data stored in that MiniPSAT device attached by fishermen into Rona at the beginning of the June, the tracking data showed the likelihood that she was finally on her way towards Moriches Inlet later that month after swimming around the edge of the Hudson and Toms. 

It would appear that Rona did swim back and forth across the line off Long Island at some point, but data fed to the Argos satellite shows a lot of ground covered over the span of a few weeks before making her northeastern-most stop along Nantucket Shoals by June 25, at roughly the same time as Cora.While Cora was the second fish “sat” tagged on June 3, hers was the first MiniPSAT to “ping” the Argos satellite on August 1 after coming undone prematurely on July 25.And similar to Cora which traversed darn close to the Texas Tower, data shows Rona making a quick run southwest of the Hudson tip in the area around the Triple Wrecks where yellowfin action was completely off the charts in 2020 with pelagics gorging on sand eels and keeping rods bent through early fall. 

On the move again in a northerly direction, Rona then covers a lot of ground south of Shinnecock at offshore areas during the summer as well, not far from where the Coimbra and Ranger wreck sites were ripe with life in 2020, and at roughly the same time.

“What is surprising is the magnitude of the apparent movements of these fish into offshore waters,” said John A. Tiedemann, Assistant Dean in the School of Science at Monmouth University and a longtime striped bass researcher and surfcaster. 

Tiedemann said he’s gone through 50 years of scientific research without finding any real evidence of such a long range offshore migration; he also noted how there’s never been a satellite tagging effort like this either.“In terms of their range offshore, the striped bass is typically characterized as a nearshore coastal fish and very few life history accounts provide evidence of movements onto the outer continental shelf region,” said Tiedemman, adding “Further analysis of environmental data associated with the movements of these fish may shed light on whether they are moving offshore in response to water temperature, food availability, or simple wanderlust.”

Connect The DotsWhere Cora and perhaps a few of her compatriots continued east/northeast, Rona’s satellite tracking shows her cruising back towards Montauk, maintaining an offshore route and crisscrossing her earlier travels until the tag was released somewhere outside of Moriches.  Whether she’s still swimming today or was brought to market is anyone’s guess. 

But as with all of the striped bass fit with MiniPSAT devices, there’s also a green streamer tag affixed to every fish to hopefully gather data on the final stats of each striper tagged.  That’s all part of an even bigger effort to get more of the public involved on this collaborative work.While a global pandemic impacted scheduling of the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study, the first batch of tagging gear arrived just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.“It is our team’s mission in our tagging work to always keep the data collected as open access to all,” Dobbelaer said of the team’s research, adding

“We will only conclude on the tagged specimen that we are studying, assume nothing of other fish movements or patterns, and continue to look for ways to evolve our own model.”One of those ways is through the use of the green spaghetti tags that have been distributed this season to handful of local charter captains, and which hopefully can be integrated into even more widespread use by anglers in the future science of striped bass. 

Dobbelaer said that the Gray FishTag Research goal is to expand on their tagging model to gather data from thousands of tagged stripers from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and hopefully using telemetry tagging with a robust spaghetti tag effort to not only track mortality and migration, but to better understand this offshore anomaly.“It is shocking in a short period of time the speed and distance in which these fish traveled.  This information is so contrary to what we all have been told,” Dobbelaer said throwing in yet another $10,000 question. 

“So, what do we do with this astounding information and where do we go from here?”Tiedemman said that although individual striped bass exhibit variable rates of transit, it’s been well established they can move considerable distances in short periods of time. 

“For example, a fish we acoustically tagged on June 7, 2019 in Sandy Hook Bay was detected off Montauk less than a month later on July 3,” he said, adding “a study published in 2014 documented a striper moving from Delaware Bay to coastal waters off Massachusetts in just 9 days.”

Although the number of fish tagged in Northeast Striped Bass Study is still small and thus far only conducted with spring deployments, Tiedemman said it appears to be providing new information on spring and summer movements of larger bass in the region, adding “As the number of satellite tags deployed increases the data yielded by this effort will become more complete and robust.”

Again, are we seeing a pattern?  Probably too soon to tell, which is why the Northeast Striped Bass Study will continue with support from the fishing community.  And on July 3, our team deployed a third MiniPSAT device for 2020 in a 46-inch striper named Independence somewhere between the Porgy Hump and Pollock Rip off Montauk.Furthermore, our team is hoping to be back in action in October for yet another expedition somewhere off Gloucester, MA with Wicked Tuna skipper Dave Marciano in hopes of finding another jumbo to perhaps connect a few more of the striper dots. 

As of this writing, we again wait with baited breath.

READ MORE LIKE THIS AT www.thefisherman.com.

West Point Lake Striper and Hybrid Fishing

A little over a week ago I went to West Point to learn how guide Andy Binegar catches stripers and hybrids during the spring. The information will be in the March Georgia Outdoor News magazine. 

We trolled all day in very muddy water and caught a few of both species on a cold, rainy day.

The fish were still stacked up in the mouths of big creeks on the main lake. Maple Creek and Wedhadkee Creek both had clouds of baitfish and bigger fish around them out in 30 plus feet of water.  With the muddy water, the fish would not chase our trolled baits.

Captain Mack Farr, Andy’s mentor, joined us. He has been a guide for stripers on Lake Lanier for many years.  In the post trip discussion, we agreed we probably would have had better luck sitting right on top of the fish and dangling live bait in their faces, giving them time to eat it.

We tried the Chattahoochee River out from the pumping stations, too. Andy says he checks that area often and when he starts seeing fish on his electronics and catches some.  That tells him the fish have started their “false” spawning run up the river. Once he finds them there, he follows them up the river to catch big stripers.

Andy contacted me Monday and said the water was clearing in the river and Maple Creek and the fish were biting much better. Then all the rain Thursday muddied it up again!!

On Facebook some folks are posting picture of big crappie they are catching at West Point and other lakes. They are biting good for people trolling jigs and live bait 15 to 20 feet deep out over creek and river channels.  This is a good time to fill your freezer.

Track of Striped Bass

Track of Striped bass
Born to Run: Hudson River to Canyon Striper
Check out the exciting reveal of the track taken by the second tagged striper in the ongoing Northeast Striped Bass Tag Study.

By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
from The Fishing Wire

Mention Asbury Park to just about anyone and Bruce Springsteen is typically the response. However, for local surfcasters – perhaps even the late Clarence Clemons, who as legend has it, could often be found livelining eels along the Monmouth County rockpiles in the wee hours after a Stone Pony gig – this rock and roll Jersey Shore town may best be known for the celebrated runs of herring at Deal Lake on the northern border with Allenhurst, and the trophy bass it would attract.

The lake was open naturally to the sea until the early 1890s when a man-made channel (flume) was built to allow the ocean to continue its connection. Significant work has been done by state and federal agencies to keep the flume operational over the years; but for Peter Dello of nearby Ocean, NJ, keeping the flume clear of debris is more of a labor of love.

“I’ve got my own little Maxwell House coffee can, with a long stick so I don’t have to bend down to pick up the trash,” Dello told me by phone during a Thanksgiving stay in the hospital following emergency bypass surgery. Dello has been a fixture on the local beaches where he has surfed for the past 40 years, and just recently began surfcasting.

Last October 22 while doing his regular cleanup, Dello became the second northeast beachcomber to stumble upon a veritable needle in the haystack when he found the Wildlife Computers’ MiniPSAT device from the Northeast Striped Bass Study.

“I was cleaning the beach and picked up this thing. I knew it looked weird,” Dello told me while lying in his hospital bed where local surfers and surfcasters alike have been sending well wishes following his holiday scare and noticeably absent from those beaches where he’d rather be.

“I grew up there, we used to play around in the flume,” he said.The $5,000 satellite tag that washed up along that legendary striper hotspot at the Jersey Shore began its transmission on October 19 after popping free of the striper named Freedom; three days later, it was clanging around inside Dello’s coffee can. In early November, that tag was in the hands of researchers who’ve been diligently working to analyze millions of data points stored inside, telling the tale of a 42-inch striped bass caught and released from a Fin Chasers charter on May 21 in the lower Hudson River. Where she traveled in those 152 days, and how far she went, may surprise every striper fisherman and scientist along the entire Striper Coast, north, south, and east of Asbury Park.Suffice to say, this striper was born to run.

GREETINGS FROM THE HUDSON

The Northeast Striped Bass Study kicked off on May 21, 2019 when a team comprised of staff from The FishermanNavionics and Gray FishTag Research set upon New York Harbor to deploy a pair of satellite tags in post-spawn striped bass for a five-month study. The first large striper to get fixed with a satellite tag, aptly named Liberty, was caught aboard Rocket Charters out of New York City on the East River with Capt. Paul Risi. It was considered finding a “needle in a haystack” when the first tag washed up along the beach in Massachusetts back in the summer and was picked up by a woman walking the beach; check out the amazing results of that tag right here!

The second tagged fish, Freedom, was caught a little west of the first fish on May 21, not far from the Statue of Liberty aboard the charter boat Fin Chasers with captains Frank Wagenhoffer and Dave Rooney. The timing and location of the catch, tag and release project was planned around the end of the Hudson River spawning in hopes of capturing a pair of post-spawn bass; at 42 inches in length, Freedom was precisely the fish we were looking for!On December 5 at a conference at Gray FishTag Research in Florida, we learned the surprising truth behind Freedom. After being tagged in the lower Hudson River on May 21, data show Freedom heading in a southeast direction above the Hudson Shelf Valley, making it to the westernmost tip of the Hudson Canyon just inside the Babylon Valley – a distance of roughly 100 miles – for the Memorial Day weekend.

The information collected inside that Wildlife Computers MiniPAT tag reveals that Freedom spent the next month moving out and about within 20 or so nautical miles of that point, eventually zigzagging her way through Block Canyon out towards Veatch Canyon before heading north towards Nantucket Shoals in early July.

The beauty of these high-tech tags is that they incorporate light-based geolocation for tracking, time-at-depth histograms for measuring diving behavior, and a profile of depth and temperature. Some had questioned whether a larger predator like a white shark consumed the fish before making a beeline offshore; the data stored inside however show that both tagged fish were alive and swimming the entire time at sea.

NEW ENGLAND BOUND

Freedom spent the better part of July and all of August covering ground on the shoals outside of Massachusetts state waters, before heading northwest into Rhode Island Sound in what appears from the data points to be a somewhat circular pattern before cruising past Block Island to pay a visit to Montauk in early October.

For inshore fishermen and surfcasters in particular, Freedom didn’t make herself too available for capture for very long, ultimately sticking to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for travel purposes, finally intersecting with her original May track out of the Hudson River in early October, before the tag disengaged pretty much on schedule east of Sandy Hook, NJ on Friday, October 18, just as the crew from The Fisherman was compiling our fishing reports for the November edition.

According to the tag data, a striped bass named “Freedom” spent much of her summer in the deep waters off Southern New England.

“Our predictions of a big bass attack this past week were right on the money,” reported North Jersey field editor JB Kasper that weekend. Sifting through our weekly reports at the time, it shows we had a pretty good nor’easter around that time, with a mid-week storm pushing wind and waves along the coast until that weekend. “When boats got back on the water on Saturday the 19th the stripers were still there and a flotilla of boats found mixed results,” Kasper noted in his New Jersey edition reports for the weekend, adding “Some of the best fishing was just inside the three mile line on Saturday.

”There’s no telling if Freedom made it past the “flotilla” of New York and New Jersey anglers on the grounds that week, but she did also have one of Gray’s green spaghetti tags affixed around her dorsal – as did Liberty – so there’s still a chance to learn more about both of these fish again in the future. One could roughly assume that Freedom enjoyed a bit of heavy feeding on bunker schools in the region before turning south along the three mile line with the rest of those big fish that anglers were finding off the Virginia coast as of early December. But as we’ve learned from the first two tags, our historic presumptions on striped bass migration might be off by as much as a few hundred miles.

According to the MiniPSAT data, Freedom spent much of the summer at depths of 50 to 75 feet, occasionally traveling to depths of between 150 and 200 feet.

“The science doesn’t always bear out the assumptions,” noted Dave Bulthuis, president of Pure Fishing’s North America division while sitting at the December 5 conference held by Gray FishTag in Lighthouse Point, FL. As one of the Advisory Board Members at Gray, Bulthuis and others spoke at length during the session about the need to provide better, more improved data for researchers managing coastal fisheries.

Dobbelaer stressed the ongoing goal “to get the data we desperately need,” while outlining for the group of advisors the urgency for better, more technologically advanced information. “This striped bass study reflects the movement of two fish caught and released in the Hudson River mouth and draws no conclusion of all striped bass behavior,” Dobbelaer said, adding “however, this groundbreaking movement lets us know that further work is a necessity from the team at Gray FishTag Research. There is so much more research that needs to be done to study the current patters and movements of striped bass.”In other words, if one is an anomaly, and two is a coincidence, it could take three or more high-tech satellite tags to help determine actual patterns.

CRITICAL BUY-IN

Another exciting bit of news learned at the Gray FishTag Research Advisory Board meeting in Florida on December 6 was that NOAA Fisheries is already actively engaged in the satellite tagging efforts. Eric Orbesen, Research Fishery Biologist with the fisheries agency and a specialist in highly migratory species and spatial movement is has worked with Gray FishTag Research professionals in ongoing swordfish research. Orbesen works out of NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Miami, but his ongoing participation in Gray tagging programs could be a good intro to other NOAA efforts with striped bass out of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which manages marine resources from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras.“Our goal is to continue to satellite tag many more striped bass in the Hudson River mouth during the same time of year in an effort to control the data collected on these great fish,” Dobbelaer told the folks assembled at the Florida conference. In fact, based on the early success of this groundbreaking work with striped bass, a new “spaghetti tag” project has also been launched with bull redfish in Northeast Florida where proceeds from the Full of Bull Tournament out of Jacksonville have been used to purchase 100 tag sticks and 1,000 streamer tags along with promotional materials as part of an education program there.

Closer to home for striper fishermen, funding efforts for new Wildlife Computers MiniPSAT devices for the ongoing Northeast Striped Bass Study have kicked into high gear. The 2019 study was funded by the charting professionals at Navionics, which has already signed on again for 2020. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) through its Fisheries Conservation Trust is also sponsoring a tag in 2020 utilizing monies raised through the annual Manhattan Cup catch and release striped bass tournament. Also kicking off during the holiday season was a new fundraising effort here at The Fisherman Magazine that seeks to find a core group of 1,000 individual investors to participate in the program.

For every $10 donation online, each “investor” will receive an exclusive Release, Reduce & Rebuild sticker to boast their participation in the tagging effort with their names added to an online list at TheFisherman.com. In just the first week of the fundraising, the effort raised $1,200 towards the purchase of additional Wildlife Computers MiniPSAT tags, which are valued at roughly $5,000 apiece. The initial promotional boost has also led to new pledges from within the recreational fishing community; looking ahead to the next round of tag deployments sometime this spring, it’s entirely possible that we have six or seven post-spawn stripers swimming around with pricey MiniPSAT devices next summer.

Lake Cumberland Striped Bass

Lake Cumberland Striped Bass Heating Up
By Lee McClellan, Kentucky FWR
from The Fishing Wire

Big Striper

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The higher angle of the sun during the day brings warm breezes as we come into the end of April. The glorious sunny days of late and air temperatures in the 70s make people joyous.

This weather makes the striped bass in Lake Cumberland hungry.

“We caught five keepers over 22 inches and about eight short stripers on our last trip,” said Jeff Bardroff, owner of JBs Guide Service on Lake Cumberland. “The fish had me so busy I couldn’t eat breakfast. By the time I got done with one fish, another rod would go down.”

Bardroff said they also caught some smallmouth and spotted bass, known as Kentucky bass along with the striped bass. His largest fish of the day was a 29-incher. Striped bass of that length usually weigh between 11 and 13 pounds. A friend of his fished Lake Cumberland last Sunday and caught an 18-pound and a 22-pound striped bass.

“Every fish we have been catching is plumb fat, full of shad and alewives,” Bardroff said. “There have been many nice, heavy fish caught in the last few weeks.”

This is good news considering how the year started. Lake Cumberland reached record pool level of elevation 756.2 feet on Feb. 26. Normal winter pool for Lake Cumberland is 705 feet while summer pool is 725 feet. Lake Cumberland’s level is currently about 722 feet.

“When they started pulling less water through Wolf Creek Dam about two weeks ago, the stripers started gorging,” Bardroff said. He’s been catching fish in the major creek arms from the Wolf Creek arm of the lake to the dam.

“About mid to three-quarters of the way back the creeks, where water temperatures get a little warmer, is where I’ve found fish,” Bardroff said. “Surface water temperatures have climbed to 64 to 68 degrees during the day.”

Bardroff, who also is an administrative specialist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, trolls shad or alewives under planer boards. He catches bait from the lake using a cast net, but commercially-bought large shiners also work for these fish.

“The stripers are shallow right now, from 15 feet deep up to the surface,” he said. He prefers to stagger the depth of his lines until he finds the depth the stripers prefer. “I put out five planer boards on each side of the boat at this time of year,” Bardroff said. “I use a light weight of 3/8- to 1/2-ounce on the planer boards, but right now I have no weight on the most outside lines.”

He also puts out two downlines off the front of the boat using 12-foot rods with 3-or 4-ounces of weight. “The longer rods help keep them from tangling with lines in the back,” Bardroff said. “It is a lot of fun catching stripers on those long rods.”

Bardroff also puts out two lines off the back suspending bait under large, striper-sized bobbers. He uses 20-pound test monofilament for the main line with 15-pound fluorocarbon for the leader. He ties a 2/0 circle hook on the business end.

This set up works well for bottom fishing for those who don’t have the equipment to troll. Start at the midway point of a major creek arm and beach the boat near a point. Put out a few lines rigged with shad, alewives or shiners at different depths. Give the spot one-half hour and move. Eventually you’ll find stripers.

April through late May is also the time of year for anglers who want thrilling sport, as stripers rip through spawning schools of threadfin shad and alewives at night.

“They are catching them at night right now on Rapala Slivers,” Bardroff said. The Sliver runs from 9- to 11-feet deep and anglers slice points in the major creek arms and the main lake at night with these lures. The best colors are the venerable red and white or silver.

As the water warms a touch, lures such as a Redfin or Jointed Thunderstick draw vicious strikes. These are floating/diving style lures, but gently rock back and forth on the lake’s surface when retrieved slowly. Hold on tightly to your rod and keep your mind on business when night fishing for striped bass. They hit these lures with a savagery rarely found in nature and can pull the rod from your hands.

“I fish main lake points and the points in the major creek arms for stripers at night,” said Major Shane Carrier, assistant director for law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “I hop point to point and fish the 100 yards before the point and the 100 yards after.”

Carrier’s favorite lure is the Jointed Thunderstick in chrome with a blue back and a green tiger color they no longer make. “I’ve caught so many stripers at night on that lure that it no longer has much paint on it,” he said.

Medium-heavy to heavy baitcasting gear and lines of at least 17-pound test are recommended for Slivers, Redfins and Thundersticks. Light inshore saltwater medium-heavy spinning gear also works for night stripers, but throwing large lures on spinning tackle is taxing to the hands and wrists after a few hours.

Avoid setting the hook until you feel the weight of the fish. These lures attract huge walleye at night as well and they must take the lure a bit before you can land them.

“I caught my biggest walleye, a 7 ½-pounder that was 31 inches long, at night striper fishing,” Carrier said. “You catch more walleye in May at night. May is my favorite time to night fish because you can catch stripers and walleye.”

Spring has sprung, and it is time to fish for striped bass at Lake Cumberland.

Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.

White Bass Time Across Arkansas

White Bass Time Across Arkansas
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
from the Fishing Wire

LITTLE ROCK — Each spring, anglers across The Natural State start getting the fever for some fishing action. Sure, die-hard anglers and veteran bass fishermen have been on the water fishing for big fish for the last month or so, and many crappie anglers never put the boat away in winter, but by and large, the best angling action of the year is just around the corner. If there’s a kickoff to “fishing season,” it’s the fast and furious angling action brought on by the annual migration of white bass from large lakes and rivers upstream to their spawning areas each spring.

“The white bass spawn is fishing’s equivalent of the opening day of dove season,” said Chris Racey, deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “You’ll start hearing people ask, ‘Are the white bass running yet?’ beginning in late February and early March every year.”

White bass typically start concentrating near the mouths of streams feeding lakes and rivers each year as the surface water temperature begins to reach 50 degrees. When the water warms to the mid-50s, the fish will move upstream as far as they are able and spawn on sand or gravel surfaces with flowing water that will aerate their eggs.

“White bass don’t tend and fan a nest like crappie, bream or largemouth bass,” Racey, who was a fisheries biologist for the AGFC for many years, said. “Instead, their eggs settle to the bottom and stick to rocks and gravel where the current keeps them aerated until they hatch.”

The fish actually don’t bite much when they are actively spawning, but feed heavily just before and afterward.

“It’s more a matter of fish being concentrated in an area and being easier to locate that makes the white bass run such a big deal for many anglers,” Racey said. “And this is one of the few times of the year that these fish, which normally spend their time in deep water, will be available for bank anglers.”

Keeping things light is a must for walk-in angling, and Racey has narrowed down his arsenal to some specific lures for people to carry in their pack.

“I have three baits in my white bass tackle box,” Racey said. “My go-to is a white 2-inch curly shad Bass Assassin grub on a 1/16-oz. jighead. Then I’ll bring a ?- or ¼-oz. White spinner with a silver blade and a small, blue over orange belly Rapala suspending jerk bait. You can throw all of them on light spinning tackle.”

Here’s a list of some of the most popular places to try your hand at fishing for white bass this spring, according to the biologists who work and fish on these waters. There’s even one location in this list that has no limit on white bass, so anglers looking to have a family fish fry can load the boat.

Magical Millwood
Typically one of the first locations in the state to start receiving reports about the annual white bass run is Millwood Lake in Little River County. This southwestern Arkansas reservoir is known as one of the best places in the state to chase memorable-sized largemouth bass because of an intense Florida-strain largemouth stocking program that has been in place for decades and its shallow-water habitat that is the key to the strain’s success. The river that feeds this giant reservoir also is home to some incredible action during the white bass spawn if anglers know where to look. According to AGFC Regional Fisheries Biologist Supervisor Eric Brinkman, many anglers enjoy fishing the river section of the lake by boat for fiesty white bass.

“Little River anywhere upstream of Yarborough Landing on Millwood is a good place to fish,” Brinkman said.

According to the AGFC Weekly Fishing Report, Millwood Lake Guide Service points out McGuire Oxbow and the entrance to Cemetery Slough as likely staging areas, but when the fish move upstream of the U.S. Highway 71 bridge, the spawn is in full force.

Other areas on Brinkman’s short list for the white bass spawn include Star of the West Recreation Area and Self Creek on Lake Greeson in Pike County and the Saline River upstream of Dierks Lake in Sevier County, although a boat is required for Self Creek and Dierks.

Bust ‘em at Beaver Lake
In the far northwestern corner of the state, Beaver Lake offers one of the best white bass runs for Arkansans. It also has the distinction of being one of the few places in the state where you may find a trophy-class striper working its way up the same tributaries as the white bass. Fisheries Supervisor Jon Stein says this year has already gotten off to an excellent start, with many anglers reporting 100-fish days. And keeping those white bass is no issue because Beaver Lake and its tributaries have no daily limit for white bass. The prolific nature of the species and relatively light pressure on the resource have made limits on the fish unnecessary in this corner of the state.

“The fish move into the river arms to spawn,” Stein said. “The best locations are out of the Highway 45 Access, called Twin Bridges, on the White River and War Eagle Creek below War Eagle Mill. You don’t have to get too technical with it, either. A Mister Twister Sassy Shad on a jighead works just fine for me to catch whites on the run.”

Find the flow at Lake Conway
White bass also make a spawning run around Lake Conway, but the hot bite may be in different locations depending on water flow. AGFC Regional Fisheries Supervisor Tom Bly and Fisheries Biologist Matt Schroeder both agree that the upstream end of Gold Creek beyond Wilhelmena Cove, a popular crappie-fishing location, in the northwest portion of the lake has a good run of white bass. Another place where anglers can look for some action is below the dam where the lake flows into Palarm Creek.

“We will get reports of white bass and some stripers from the Arkansas River running up to as far as the Conway Dam, but there won’t be much action unless the gates of the dam are open to maintain water levels during rain events,” Bly said. But you can catch them on white or shad-colored curly tailed grubs on jigheads, smaller crankbaits or shad imitations on a fly rod.”

Bly notes the weir on Palarm Creek at Cadron Settlement Park on the Arkansas River sees a similar migration of white bass where the fish moving from the river are concentrated into a small area.

Greers Ferry a good bet
Another good white bass run occurs in the river arms on the northern section of Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs. The lake is known as the site of the former world-record walleye, and that species also is known to make spawning runs within the Devil’s Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork of the Little Red River. Chasing white bass on this lake usually means having a boat, but one of the most popular destinations can be found at the Johnson Hole Access of the South Fork arm north of Clinton. Boaters can access the area from the lake or can launch at this access, but the creek has many shallow areas between the main lake and where the whites run, making it a better prospect for small boats, kayaks and walk-in access. According to Bly, many anglers will catch their limits in this section of the river during the annual spawning run.

Maumelle mainstay
It seems like every year, one location sees more attention than the rest in the state from white bass anglers. Perhaps it is because of its close proximity to Little Rock, or perhaps it is because the white bass run here is just that good. Either way, the upstream end of Lake Maumelle is so popular with white bass anglers and creek fishermen that the AGFC and Central Arkansas Water worked together to enhance access at the west end of the lake. Sleepy Hollow Access was enhanced with a campground, two boat ramps for boats with motors 25 horsepower and less and a courtesy dock. A parking area also was constructed for a special walk-in only area called Bringle Creek Access. Both of these access points can be found with a few miles of where Arkansas Highway 10 crosses the lake’s upstream end. You’d be hard pressed to find either of the parking lots of these areas empty from March through May each year as anglers tote their favorite spinning rod and curly-tailed grubs to fool the fish as they feed along the shoals before spawning. The stream is part of Lake Maumelle, so no wading is allowed, but there is plenty of shoreline to walk and fish.

Spring White Bass Runs

Decoding Spring White Bass Runs
from The Fishing Wire

FRANKFORT, Ky. – With all of the rain we received early this year, many anglers are wondering when the white bass run will begin this spring.

“We are about there, 60 degrees is the magic number for water temperature,” said Mike Hardin, assistant director of Fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The redbud blooms are as good an indicator as anything.”

Redbud trees began displaying buds in parts of central Kentucky over the past 10 days and will pop out across the South soon. “We haven’t missed anything yet and the run may arrive on time this year,” Hardin said. “Last year was spotty, starts and stops with the fish as confused as the anglers. We had up and down weather and water levels.”

Reports surfaced last week of a few white bass making a headwater run in the Salt River above Taylorsville Lake, but nighttime temperatures in the 20s this week blunted that movement a bit.

“This week, the night temperatures are increasing, so you won’t get those big cool downs as much now,” Hardin said. “It will be warmer compared to what it was.”

Lakes are dropping dramatically, allaying concerns expressed by anglers about the impact on the white bass runs from the record or near record water levels in some of our major reservoirs in February. Nolin River Lake is now just below summer pool, while Taylorsville Lake is still just above summer pool, but dropping rapidly.

“Knowing when to fish is always a mystery, especially for white bass,” Hardin said. “It’s temperature, light and flow with temperature being the main thing. All you need is that trigger. If you have everything right and you get that flow, it is time to go. If you have the correct water temperature, but no flow, you still should go. You can’t catch them at home.”

Hardin explained white bass runs can occur anywhere from 54 to 68 degrees. Water temperatures in major reservoirs now hover just below 50 degrees. The sunny days and huge warm up expected over the coming weekend and into next week should push water temperatures into the 50s.

“It can happen over the course of one day,” Hardin said. “Someone is going to discover they are running soon.”

The headwaters of Taylorsville Lake and up into the Salt River make one of the best bank fishing spots for white bass in central Kentucky. The best access is via a parking lot on Palmer Road.

It is a matter of walking, casting and then walking a bit more until you find fish. A 1/16-ounce in-line spinner in combinations of silver, white, chartreuse or pink are hard to beat for the Salt River. A pink or chartuese 1/32-ounce feather jig suspended under a bobber and allowed to gently float in the current also scores white bass.

The Nolin River above Bacon Creek boat ramp and upstream to Wheeler’s Mill Road (KY 694) is arguably the best white bass run in the state. The white bass in the Nolin River Lake earned an “excellent” rating in the Fishery Division’s 2019 Kentucky Fishing Forecast.

A white 2 1/2-inch boot-tailed grub or 3-inch swimbait is a deadly lure for Nolin River white bass. Rig them on a 1/8-ounce head for good casting distance. Broad Ford offers good bank access at the bridge over the Nolin River on KY 1214. Boaters using Bacon Creek Ramp to travel upstream must watch the rocky shoals to prevent motor damage.

The headwaters of Green River Lake produce good numbers of white bass up to 14 inches long as does the headwaters of Herrington Lake. Bank anglers may access the Dix River just above the lake at Dix River Voluntary Public Access Area, off Rankin Road via KY 52 between Danville and Lancaster. This area drips with fishing history as Herrington Lake was a white bass mecca in the era after World War II. These waters still produce trophy white bass 14 inches and longer.

Small shad-colored topwater propeller baits make great choices for fishing both Green River Lake headwaters and Dix River.

The Kentucky River below locks and dams produces surprising white bass action. A 3-inch white curly tailed grub rigged on a 1/8-ounce leadhead makes a great lure choice for the Kentucky River. Keep probing the water column until you find fish. Lock and Dam 2 at Lockport in Henry County grants excellent bank fishing access for white bass.

All of the ingredients are now here for the white bass runs to commence. Running white bass, once located, provide as much action as any form of fishing.

Remember to buy your fishing license if you have not already. The new license year began March 1.

Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.