LATE SUMMER STRIPES!
There are lots of fish to be caught in the summer, but hardly anything can stand up to the raw power of a big lineside. The striped bass, Morone Saxatilis, is one of the most formidable creatures looming in the depths of any reservoir it inhabits. This month's journal will take a look at some of the habits and characteristics of the landlocked Striper and more importantly, a few VERY effective ways to catch them this time of year.
If you've felt the power of a striper, you know what I'm about to say is true. If you haven't, you need to. Hooking into an average sized (20-30 LB) striper on bass tackle is like having someone deposit your hook on the back bumper of a Greyhound bus doing 70 MPH down the interstate. That's a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea.
Where I live in Knoxville, TN, the reservoirs get too hot on the surface for stripers. Most southern impoundments share a common characteristic called stratification. This is where the sun heats the upper layer of the lake while the lower layer stays cool. There are different factors which determine the temperature a lake will reach. Some of these factors include latitude of the lake; elevation; clarity, or turbidity of the water; current and the source of the current; and wind/wave action on the surface.
Ideal temperatures for stripers range from 55 degrees
to a maximum of about 75 degrees. They do not tolerate warm water
at all and won't inhabit it. In southern lakes and lakes where
the upper layer reaches above 75 degrees, they seek deeper,
cooler water. The biggest problem with this is that stripers need
a lot of oxygen and deep water holds very little. Thus, in some
lakes the striper lead a very uncomfortable summer life,
balancing their need for cool water with their need for oxygen.
Often times, they will swim above the thermocline for oxygen,
then they will dip back down below it to cool their bodies off,
but they must repeat the cycle over and over again.
This leads us to how we may use this information to catch these fish. Let's see...If we can find cooler water, we can catch striper right? RIGHT!!! It's this simple sometimes. Now where is the cooler water? Well the easiest place in a reservoir system to find cool water is to go below a dam. This water almost always comes off of the bottom of the lake above and is therefore consistently cool. The only problem with this water is that it holds little more oxygen than the water on the bottom of the lake above. Make sense right? This cool water and heavy current in combination with the fact that a dam is an unnatural structure and causes fish to "bunch up" at the base makes tailwaters excellent places to striper fish.
Many people use live bait to catch striper and it is
an effective method. It is hard sometimes, though to acquire bait
below the dams due to the high volume and velocity of the water.
I prefer to use shad jig heads ½ oz and heavier rigged with
plastic shad or soft jerkbait style lures. Spinning and
baitcasting tackle are both effective. The best time to fish as
far as I'm concerned is in the evening and at night. Nearly all
of my striper from below the dam have come from the top 3 feet of
water, so keep your lures up top. I recently landed my largest
striper ever at 12:15 AM on a ¾ oz shad head with a 5 ½"
fin-s fish. It weighed 30 LB 7 oz and was a great fight. Other
lures that will produce fish are bucktails, crankbaits, and big
Another great place that consistently produces large striper for me is on the other end of the lakes, up the river. Here, the water is constantly flowing and takes on a river characteristic. I find that the water temperature rarely reaches above 78 degrees and is continuously flowing which makes for higher levels of oxygen in the water. Around the shoals of these areas are great for striper. If you can find a deeper hole with some form of bottom feature like a hump, there are most likely stripers present in the area. Lures that are hot when it's hot are Super Shad Raps in chrome, gold, and shad; Rapala husky jerks (be careful to change out the hooks and split rings on these lures as they were designed for smaller fish); Red Fins; long A's, etc....soft plastics are good also, with a 6" sassy shad being hard to beat.
So, whether you're fighting the current below a dam, or drifting some shoals up the river, know that there are some monsters in there just waiting for a hapless lure to wander into sight.