Stripers 101 – The boss offers a lesson in striper behavior
Lake Elevation: 3,636 asl
Water Temperature 65-72 F
PAGE, Ariz., May 15 – Forgive me for taking off my fishing hat and going biologist, but after conducting a striper fishing seminar over the weekend it became apparent to me that we have just gained significant insight into striped bass behavior. Striper fishing has changed dramatically since the last report. Here is a brief summary of the events leading up to the present.
In most other years there is an overabundance of stripers and not enough shad to go around. That makes fish hungry and easy to catch. Seldom do we see healthy stripers completing a spring cycle in perfect habitat and forage conditions. The current population is composed of young (2-yrs and younger) fish that survived by eating plankton during an adult die-off in fall of 2010. These young fish have since lived in high forage and perfect habitat conditions. Now as mature 4-years-olds they have shown us what their activity cycle would be under ideal conditions.
In early spring, day length and first warming trigger male stripers into activity. Females are not yet ready to spawn but males are anxiously waiting from early April until spawning finally occurs sometime in May. Anglers were able to
find and catch ripe males but females were missing from the creel. In late April ripe males went nocturnal providing excellent fishing morning and evening but then went dormant during the day. Big mature females were only caught at night.
With more warming in late April, yearling (12-inch) stripers became active and schools could be found and caught over the brush forests in the backs (15-25 feet bottom depth) of many canyons. Then this past weekend as water
temperature increased into the 70s another portion of the striper population burst onto the scene as immature (2 year-old) stripers became active during the day. Anglers now were suddenly catching 2-3 pound stripers in unlimited
numbers. The long awaited spring striper extravaganza has now arrived.
It is interesting that this feeding spree coincided with the sighting of abundant young shad schools in the backs of many canyons. Apparently this specific portion of the population has been dormant and living off fat reserves accumulated during past good times. The activity trigger was warming water temperature which also related to forage being available when feeding commenced.
The next step will be surface feeding boils which will follow the spawning event which is imminent. In my long association with striped bass this spring has been truly unique. We now know what the cycle would be like in Lake Powell under ideal forage conditions. Ideal conditions may not happen again for a very long time but this has been very gratifying to witness and record.
Back to fishing. Striper schools are found in close association with brush. Look for a brush covered point in proximity to deep water. Troll over or adjacent to brush with shallow running crank baits where bottom depth is 15-30
feet. This is the same advice that has been given all spring. The difference is that trolling is only used to locate the school. When the hooked striper is brought to the boat the hungry school follows and stays near the boat. Fish are often visible and aggressive. Toss your favorite lure to the waiting fish and catch as many stripers as possible before the boat drifts into the shallows or separates from the school. Then simply troll again to relocate the school and then cast to catch many more fish.
Striper fishing is now equal to the other incredible fishing that has been found at Lake Powell this spring. Largemouth catch has declined but walleye, smallmouth and crappie fishing is still superb. Smallmouth are found and readily caught on virtually any rocky shoreline using plastic tubes and grubs and deep diving crankbaits. Crappie and bluegill are in the backs of canyons where they can be caught on live worms and small marabou jigs. Walleye are
found on the deep water side of brushy rocky flats. Fish for them with tube jigs, bottom bouncers, and crankbaits in low light and under muddy wind-washed areas of low visibility.
Fishing at Lake Powell is still incredible for all species of fish. The addition of striped bass to the fishing party is very welcome.