Category Archives: Striped Bass and Hybrid Bass Fishing

Captain Macks’ Lake Lanier Fishing Report

Nice Lake Lanier Striper with Captain Mack

Also see: Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Country Fishing – fishing reports on Lakes Sinclair and Oconee, and more. (subscription required)

Happy 4th of July! I hope you have a great
Holiday weekend!

The weather for the 4th, and
most of next week indicates hot and humid,
with a pretty good chance of afternoon
showers, a typical July weather forecast. It is
really the type of weather that should make for
good fishing conditions, so get out on the
water! The lake level dropped to 1070.12, .42
feet down form last week, and .88 feet below
full pool. The surface temps also dropped
slightly from last weeks readings to an average
of 84 degrees.


Striper Fishing


Striper Fishing patterns and techniques are
really the same as last week, although some
days the fish were a little reluctant to bite. We
still have several patterns that are producing,
so be versatile and take advantage of patterns
that vary during different times of the day as
well as different areas of the lake.


Live baits on down lines and weighted free lines continue to be consistent producers, and
remain one of the better patterns, Fishing the bait in pockets, as shallow as 35 to 40 feet is a
good strategy, especially early on the day. This pattern has application on the lower and middle
parts of the lake. There are also fish in the backs of the creeks, target pinch points and timber
lines, with some fish holding in timber as deep as 70 feet. Power reeling is a viable technique on
these deeper fish, and I would definitely have a couple of rods ready to go with the spoons and
jigs.


Trolling has been very good, with umbrellas over the humps being a strong technique,
especially from mid morning on. Target humps that top out around 30 feet, or clip points in the
same depth, keeping your rigs in 15 to 20 feet. Contour trolling over a 35 foot bottom is also
effective, and may be more efficient than moving from place to place. I think this method is best
on the lower end, but has also been effective in the middle parts of the lake. I am not sure if
there is a favorite rig, I think it is more about depth control and keeping the rigs in the strike
zone.


Lead core trolling is a decent pattern, the numbers are OK, the average size of the fish has
been very good. A Chipmunk Jig, Under spin bait, or Mini Mack fished 7 or 8 colors back behind
the boat, have been consistent producers. Target the river or creek channels, and don’t ignore
the back 1/3 of the major creeks. This pattern will be effective on the lower or middle parts of the
lake, and should only improve as July progresses.


Bass Fishing


25 foot brush is not the only place the fish are calling home, but it’s safe to say many of them
are. There are still several baits the fish will respond to, and that varies from day to day.
Topwater continue to do well, Chug Bugs and Spooks remain favorites, and a fluke worked over
the brush is also a consistent producer. Keep a swim bait tied on, they are also effective over
the brush and for the schooling fish that have been consistently showing up. One footnote on
the schooling fish: casting spoons to the schoolers can be a great technique. Try jigging spoons
such as the Flex -it, Super Spoon, or War Eagles, and almost any type of spoon should get the
bite. Cast them to the fish, if they are still on top retrieve it on or near the surface. If the fish
sound, allow the spoon to sink and then retrieve with a yo-yo or ripping motion, Asl always,
watch for the bite to occur on the pause or fall.


If the fish are hesitant to chase down the moving baits casting a spy baits to the tops of the
brush will be effective. A Fluke fished on a slower retrieve and subsurface will also be effective
on the finicky fish. Worms on the drop shot, Texas Rig, or shakey will also get plenty of bites.
Falling lake levels indicate increased water releases, typically occurring in the afternoon hours,
which can energize afternoon and evening fishing. The techniques and structures I mentioned
above will still apply. The moving water will in most cases unnoticeable to us, however, the fish
and bait will feel it. This often causes the fish to become active, move, and feed a little more. If
your schedule allows, planning a trip to coincide with the water release can be a big plus!


Good Fishing!
Capt. Mack

Potato Creek Club Classic At Lake Martin

Last Friday and Saturday 20 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our annual Club Classic at Lake Martin.  Each of us qualified by placing in the top eight in the points standings in 2021 or fishing at least eight of the 12 tournaments that year.  Martin was chosen as the site by a drawing held in December from all the lakes we fished last year.

    After fishing 9.5 hours Friday and seven hours on Saturday, we weighed in 198 bass weighing about 258 pounds.  There were 38 five bass limits weighed in, everybody but one person had five both days. Almost all the fish were spotted bass.

Caleb Delay had a good catch on Friday with 10.45 pounds, the best limit weighed in, and held on to win with ten bass weighing 17.38 pounds.  Jason Turner came in second with ten at 16.02 pounds and my ten at 15.70 pounds was third.  Kwong Yu had ten at 15.30 for fourth and Mike Cox placed fifth with ten at 14.76. He also had a 4.71 pound largemouth for big fish.

I went over Tuesday and camped at Wind Creek State Park. Wednesday, the first day of practice, I rode around checking some of my old favorite places and also looking for bedding bass. A big tournament was won by catching bedding bass the weekend before, but I saw none. I am not very good at spotting them, and even if I do see them I am not very good at catching them, but I just had to try.

I did find a brush pile full of fish and caught a two-pound largemouth on a jig in the back of a cove.  That really didn’t give me much to go on for the tournament.

On Thursday I spent more time watching my electronics and checking new areas.  I rode over a shoal and spotted a small brush pile, then a rock pile near it.  When I cast a Carolina rig to it I caught a 15 inch spot, a little better than the average size, so I had some hope for that area. I also found some brush in front of a dock with more way out from it in about 15 feet of water and marked it.

Friday morning I started on the brush pile I had found, it was also in front of a dock with a light on it, and caught a keeper on a crankbait.  Then I went to another lighted dock and caught my second keeper on a swimbait.  Two in the boat before daylight.

In the middle of the day I went to the shoal and caught two decent size keepers, culling some smaller fish in the livewell.  I landed about ten keepers that day but the best five weighed just 7.29 pounds, keeping me in the running.

Saturday I tried a couple lighted docks but got no hits.  At sunrise I went to the shoal and caught a 15-inch keeper and several more smaller fish.  Then in the cove with the brush I landed several 15 inch fish, giving me five fairly decent ones out of the 15 or so I caught that day.

With 20 minutes left to fish I headed to weigh-in.  I decided to stop in a place where I have caught some decent largemouth in the past. As I eased to the bank I wanted to fish, I cast my jig and pig to a sandbar, thinking “I have made dozens of casts there and never caught a fish,” but a thump made me set the hook and land my biggest fish of the trip, a 2.7-pound spot.

That fish culled a one pounder and gave me enough to move me into third place!  Never give up!!

What Do You Do When You Catch A Huge Striped Bass In a Black Bass Tournament?

MASSIVE LANDLOCKED STRIPER CAUGHT

from The Fishing Wire

Massive Landlocked Striper Caught

HOT SPRINGS – Stephen Tyson Jr.’s early competitive fishing Saturday in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League tournament on Lake Hamilton was interrupted by an extended fight with a fish he didn’t count on: a massive striped bass.

When Tyson finally got the striper boated and photos taken before releasing it back into Hamilton’s waters, the big black bass he’d found during practice and in the first minutes in the same area were gone. He had three fish, two short of the five-fish limit, but was just shy of 4 pounds. Other anglers were already in some of the spots he’d targeted to try later where he’d earlier found some big fish in practice, some 6-8 pounds. But he had quite a story to tell and the photos to prove it even if the one-day black bass tourney didn’t quite go his way.

“I caught a 50-something-pound flathead in the Ouachita (River) at Camden. I remember holding that fish, and this one seemed heavier,” he said.

Lake Hamilton is one of the few lakes the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks with stripers. Neighboring lakes Ouachita and Catherine also are stocked with stripers, as are Norfork Lake and Beaver Lake in the northern reaches of the state.

“It gave me a fight,” he said, describing how, once he put the drag on and started reeling in the striper, it began swimming in constant circles around the boat. “I was in a tournament and in (black) bass fishing mode and I had found some nice bass. I saw this big fish (on his Garmin LiveScope) and my first thought it was a bass and I saw it come off the bottom and eat my bait.”

He soon realized it wasn’t a black bass. Tyson was using a jerkbait that dives about 14 feet and caught the fish in 7 feet of water. He was using 10-pound test line. His co-angler in his boat for the tournament had mentioned previously landing a 40-pound striper and thought this one was much larger. “‘This one is way bigger than that! That’s got to be a world record!’” Tyson recalls his co-angler, Philip James, yelling as Tyson got ahold of the striper’s mouth and flipped it into the boat so he could take some photos. “I had a cranking rod by Halo and at one point it was bent back to the reel, and I was surprised it didn’t break off, but somehow the fish didn’t snap the line. It’s not the equipment you usually catch a fish that size on.”

Alas, no one will know how close it came to Arkansas’s state record striped bass of 64 pounds, 8 ounces, caught in the Beaver Lake tailwater by Jeff Fletcher of Golden, Missouri, in 2000.

“When I released it, it really sank it, ‘You let that one go.’ The one thing I regret is not getting it weighed,” Tyson said. “But at that moment, it was literally the first 5-10 minutes of the tournament. I’m not going to stop fishing for bass. Starting out that fast, I knew I had a chance at at least 20 pounds. But then catching a striper that size, oh my god. It’s a fish of a lifetime.”

Tyson said he wants to return to Hamilton soon and target the same area and maybe land the monster again, or perhaps another massive striper. He credits having his sonar to be able to find fish, as it eliminates time in tracking them down, “but you’ve got to put your skills and talent, your technique, to get the fish to bite. It’s key to locating fish, but you still have got to get them to bite.”

Tyson runs a fishing guide service on weekends when he doesn’t have tournaments. The 27-year-old Camden native, who started fishing with his dad at age 3, guides on Upper and Lower White Oak Lake near Camden, along with Lake Columbia and Millwood Lake. “If I have any days off, I’ll book a trip.” Tyson works in packing at American Rheinmetall Systems in Camden, but he said that in April he plans to shift to full-time guiding and tournaments on the BFL and The Bass Federation (TBF) circuits.

“Right now I keep those very small,” he said of tournament plans. “One day I’m going to be at that point that I’ll take off with tournament fishing. But right now, the main thing is keeping my name in the game and running my guide business and spending time with family. I try to stay busy.” Tyson, by being the top Arkansan in a recent Arkansas-Oklahoma qualifying tournament, landed a spot in the TBF National Championship at Lake Conroe, Texas, March 2-4. Also on the horizon later this year is the BFL All-American, scheduled for Lake Hamilton June 2-4.

“That’s my goal, to qualify for the All-American. I feel like I’ll have home lake advantage,” Tyson said.

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. 
Shop now! 

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.