Gaston Lake Thanksgiving Stripers

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So striped bass were crushing trolled baits at Lake Gaston this Thanksgiving.

My brother went up the day before Michelle and I, and ruled out the main lake, which was muddy from recent rains. Then, he found some stripers in a creek we fish a lot. He caught stripers and catfish the first day and kept three nice ones for a game dinner the day after Thanksgiving. I was bringing up a backstrap from my first deer of the season, and the striped bass fillets would go great with it. He and my Dad went out the next morning for a few hours and caught more too. From there on out we stayed on them the rest of the trip.

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As soon as Michelle and I got up to the lake, Joey and I launched the boat as I hadn’t run it in quite a while. I just wanted to run some of the old gas out, which had been treated with Stabil a few months prior. We figured, why not drop a few baits though, right? Without even getting out all the rods, the first doubled over. It wasn’t a huge striped bass, but we knew they were still in the area.

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It was cloudy, overcast and cold, probably in the 40’s, and when the wind blew, it was out of the north and stinging. The trees up there have been dropping leaves a while and there were patches of water that had to be avoided as lines and baits would tangle with pinestraw and dead leaves.

So I called Michelle and told her to get ready as I was coming back to the house to get her. She had never caught a striped bass before, and we had tried a few times on previous trips, but luck hadn’t been in her favor. That was about to change. So we ran back to the house, scopped her up, and motored back to our area.

After a little while the action started. When the first rod started bouncing wildly I handed it over…and she fought it perfectly, bringing the linesider boatside like a pro. I could tell by the look on her face she had the bug. Then, another rod doubled over and Joey fought that one in.

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After dealing with the first two, the action slowed a few minutes. We were still seeing birds moving about though (which is a dead giveaway for feeding striped bass in cold weather). Seagulls will often crash the water violently, snatching scraps, when fish are feeding underneath them.

Soon, it was my turn again and when the rod started going off, I grabbed it and started on the fish. Moments into the battle however, the other rod started really bending over. I hollered for Michelle to grab it and we had our first double on! We had to change positions a few times in the boat as she had a biggun on running out drag and trying desperately to escape the situation. I got my fish netted after a few minutes and used the boat to make her’s easier. It hit the top of the water a few times and we could see it had two of the jigs on the Bama rig in it. I had freed the first fish from the net while she was fighting hers, so it was ready when she got the bigger striper boatside. After some hollering it was in the net, and she had experienced her first striped bass double (feature photo).

I’ve taken her fishing a good bit over the last year, and we have caught a ton of fish, on kayaks and in different boats, but every time it’s been her turn, a different species was on the other end of the line. She has caught largemouth bass, crappie, white perch, white bass, carp, catfish etc. And now finally some stripers.

After the double it was time to go in for Thanksgiving with the family, but the fishing wasn’t over…

The next morning it was freakishly cold. Michelle opted to sleep in and Joey wanted to go on his kayak, so I took the boat out alone. It was 29 degrees with a light wind out of the north and cloudy, no sun greeted us at dawn. But the birds were working. It took a while to get the fish going, but we were marking tons of bait and arches on the sonar. Joey started the morning with a largemouth off a point in nearly 30 feet of water.

A few minutes later, I was almost about to go in for coffee and wait a couple hours for it to warm up when the first rod went off. I could tell it was a nice fish, and set in to battle it in freezing conditions…that’s when things got interesing! The second rod started bouncing much harder (just like the day before, a minute after the first fish hit). The boat was moving about 1.5mph, as slow as I can run without knocking off. As I fought the first fish, hollering for Joey to come my way, I watched the other rod just going off. A few times during the fight it almost straightened up and I thought it was off, but it stayed attached. I used the net on the first fish, as it was a nice one, then set in to fight the second. That’s when I realized it was a big one, for sure.

So I dead-boated it. After killing the engine the fish started burning drag and I just held on. Then, I felt the weird sensation striper fishermen sense at times. There was a strange tug-of-war coming from the end of the line. I had two fish on! It took some time to get the mess boatside, and I had already tangled a striper and hooks in the net, so I tried using fish grippers to get the big one, which looked to be a 30″ fish. But it’s mouth was not going to open. So I opted to reach for the Bama rig and pulled both fish over the rail and into the boat. Another triple by myself, man that’s an adrenaline rush for sure.

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My hands were absolutely frigid by the time the fight was over so I had to leave biting fish to get warmed up. Joey caught a few more, but by the time Michelle and I came back out the bite was over. It was really a brutal day out so we cut our time short and went in to have a wild game Thanksgiving; a second day of feasting. We released everything from the two days of fishing as Joey had secured three nice fish for our feast on the first day.

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We will catch those guys again one day…and they’ll be bigger…

 

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Jordan Lake Report

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Striped bass and white bass were chewing good on Jordan Lake this past weekend.

I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the fishing before this weekend arrived. Weather reports were clear blue-bird skies, with very little predicted cloud cover and HOT. Luckily, Saturday there were storms forming south and east of the lake throughout the day, so the pressure was moving… The large, multi-cloud-form goliaths hovered all day and loomed large late, but never drenched us. Lightning started coming from the thunderheads as we trailered the boat though.

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Captain Stu and I got on the lake around 3pm Saturday and started catching fish right off. We found a very big white bass, close to 16”, after finding good sonar marks in an area with light boat traffic. The fish hit so hard we thought it was a striper, but when we saw the tall profile as it came boatside, I yelled, “I’m having fish tacos for dinner!”

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We ran though the area a few more times, but it was still early, so without another taker we moved on. And we found fish again and again, literally everywhere we trolled the rest of the afternoon. Bait balls are already on the main lake….

We followed the fish from deeper water to shallower water as the evening wore on and though we caught a ton of nice white bass, a few perch and a really nice crappie, we only found one striped bass just short of a keeper. But it was still a nice fish and fight; Stu got the honor…

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We fished til near dark, and continued catching, it was an afternoon of chinese fire-drills for sure; multiple double and triple hookups resulting in the two of us working our tails off… Then finally, exhausted, we hit the ramp. I cleaned the fish once home and had fried fish by 10:30pm lol; long day; then I woke at 4:15am to go again with my friend and his girlfriend.

Well, we did have plans….good ones!

Dawn was beautiful…

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We had our kayaks in motion before dawn and started pulling hardware before the sun was up. And we started catching fish right off. Stripers, white bass, crappie, catfish and perch attacked our lures the entire time we fished, and like the day prior, literally everywhere we fished.

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All the stripers were short, though we landed maybe 20 between the three of us. Then there were the white bass, which we caught a ton of. And although we all caught near citation specimens, Erin caught the biggest. This fish had to be 2 pounds and close to 16 or 17”. She fought it a good while, so it gave me time to cruise over to her and snap a few shots. (Below & feature photo)

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Her man was busy racking up numbers as well; he landed at least 3 in the 15” range. Perhaps the new regs on the white bass are working, I’ve noted bigger fish per catch the last 2 years, and this was the first time in a while I’ve had a couple days catching the numbers we did.

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After fishing the majority of the morning in fairly shallow water, we followed the fish to deeper water and caught them in a variety of ways; mostly trolling though. We used crankbaits, sassy shads, bucktails and spinner baits and hooked up at pretty fast speeds; luckily our adrenaline was pumping!

We released every single one of the critters, and after the crowds and the heat started up just before noon, we hit the ramp and split. Pretty good weekend.

2018 Spring Fishing Report

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The fishing on area lakes is finally starting to heat up.

I’ve hit Falls, Jordan and Gaston lakes over the last few weeks, and here is what I’ve found.

Falls Lake was still slightly stained from recent rains a couple weeks ago. I launched mid-lake and found white bass feeding right off in 15 feet of water. They were taking small inline spinners trolled slowly across points and humps. Catfish and perch were also taken off submerged trees with metal spoons in similar water depths.

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Gaston Lake was slow, as water temps there were struggling to rise. Stripers were non-existant at the mid lake level and all reports indicate the fish are still in the northern extents of the lake on spanwing grounds. Anglers have had success trolling live shad, very slowly, as well as bucktails early and late. Water flow, as usual, is key there in the waters leading to the back of Kerr Lake dam.

I hit Jordan Lake yesterday, on the last day of April, and found striped bass, white perch, castfish and crappie feeding fairly well. The fish hit trolled crankbaits, sassy shads on jigheads, and small metal spoons jigged vertically.

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The fish were staging in 15-20 feet of water, but there were some moving around a bit. I found no fish feeding shallow that day, but bass anglers have been hitting the flooded banks, and flipping soft plastics with success. Crappie are also being taken shallow, but mine hit a fairly large Bomber crankbait in deeper water.

So, the fishing isn’t white hot yet, but with temperatures hitting close to 90 later this week, I’d say it’s about to pop off. This weekend should be fantastic, wherever you decide to venture.

 

 

Spring Stripers, White bass & Crappie

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I got out on Jordan Lake this afternoon and found striped bass, white bass and crappie feeding heavily.

It was a perfect afternoon; the cloud cover was thick, rain was light to non-existent, and the wind was light. I couldn’t stand it.

Launched the kayak around 1:00 and started into a narrow area I’ve found fish laying before. I started with both rods rigged with KVD 1.0’s; the pics will show what happened…after just a few moments, one of the rods bounced, and I decided to reel it in and make sure it was clean; the area I was fishing was shallow and there was no reason to pull crap around. But on the retrieve, as I was approaching a fast rate, the rod doubled over with my first striped bass of 2018.

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I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the fishing Gods, so I tossed it back after a quick pic.

Then after a few more minutes, and having no luck, I thought to myself, I’ve seen this movie before, let’s speed this up, and within seconds this nice crappie joined the party. Well it is spring….burn em!!!!

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After that, the pattern had revealed itself and the fish repeatedly fell prey to the same technique. Stripers, catfish, perch, crappie, and white bass couldn’t resist the tiny crankbaits.

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Then, after a short break, cuz my legs were burning…my first double of the year, a duo of white perch that were far more trouble to document than they were worth…

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I was releasing everything today, and these were no exception.

Then…more stripers!

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And the clouds got really scenic for a bit…

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They seemed to roll in some direction I was supposed to follow, so I did, and then…bam!!

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And then…bam again!!

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At this point it was kind of embarrassing.

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Late Summer Striped Bass Fishing

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Late Summer Striped bass fishing can be very tough.

But Captain Stu called me yesterday around 3pm and said he was ‘trailering his boat and headed to the lake’. I took a quick look at the barometer and it was dropping. There was weather around, the south-westerly wind was light, and it was nice and cloudy…we got on the water around 4pm and decided to run around and look for bait.

Normally, this time of year on our area freshwater impoundments, we are headed towards turnover as the thermocline (if its present) starts to bring the low-oxygenated water from the lower layer of the lake to the top. The stripers are as skinny as they’ll be, as they’ve been chasing bait all summer, trying to stay alive, with an incredibly sped-up metabolism. They just feel like crap, they start to scatter, and they can be very difficult, even when and if found, to get to bite any kind of hardware. Throw in fishing on a lake recovering from a massive kill and, well you get it. I didn’t have much for expectations.

But we caught fish. We started out in deep water, but found no bait, then as we moved shallower we found 15-18 feet of water to be the zone. We pulled spoons and crankbaits over marks and bait for almost an hour without so much as a tail-slap, then when approaching a point a channel catfish doubled over the first rod. Stu fought it and it looked like dead weight. I figured we’d treble-hooked it. But then it started fighting, we thought it was a striper, but it was just a 2 or 3 lbr. I noticed the wind had picked up and thought that was what had triggered the strike and that ended up proving out the remainder of the afternoon. Our strikes came at times when drizzle started or the wind changed. So as we bounced cranks over another point, during a light shower, a decent largemouth pulled a rod down as I was working the deck. Stu got that one too, maybe 2 or 3 lbs again, but it fought him good.

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He likes to run with 6.5’ poles with 10lb test to get more bites. I’ve been warning him about trolling with that light of line……A few minutes later two rods rolled over and the rod I had been working on, to remove a spoon and add another crankbait started bouncing wildly. I knew it. I boat flipped the 17’’er on the troll to help Stu, which appeared to have a bigger fish, but he lost it. Shucks.

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But we had our first target fish. After that the bite died, we ran through the area a few more times, but we had plenty of time. We hit another spot, fully intending to return, and hit a crappie straight off, but then fished that area another hour without a bite. After checking a few other areas, but finding no bait, we returned to the first location and dropped lines. Stu hit the same run on his gps and doubled over one of his ’light outfits’. I grabbed the rod and looked at him and smiled. The fish was pulling drag going for another county and wildly shaking its head. I tried to hand him the rod, but within five or six seconds, before he grabbed it, I felt the line snap. It was a big fish. Of course we debated it a bit.

He’s right on one hand, on many occasions; I have found that a lighter rod and line, on the troll or casting, will out-perform a stronger setup, as far as strikes, but on the troll, with other lines in the water, if a big fish bites a light setup, the only real option is to reel everything in and dead-boat the fish. But we didn’t have time for that. The fish broke us off so fast we didn’t have time to think of that. We pulled around a little longer and noted the wind die down, bait started coming up and the water column had obviously dimmed considerably. We pulled in the gear and hit a spot I know that will often give busting action when protected from the wind, and the breeze was right. We only had a few more minutes, but we found bait up top and within a few minutes noted surface crashing about 50 yards from our position. Stu managed one more bass out of that commotion, while I was jerking a skitterwalk that walked its walk with impunity. It was another schoolie which was quickly released. We called it a day, grateful for the handful of fish which consisted of four species, and trailered the boat in the dark. 

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Tagged Striped Bass on the Cape fear

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

I got out on the Cape Fear river over the holiday with a good friend and caught my first two tagged striped bass.

As long as I’ve chased these fish, its amazing these are the first ones with tags I’ve ever come across. And two of them in the same day was quite the treat. I found stripers feeding readily as soon as I arrived at the first location. Shad were breaching the water trying to escape the aggressively feeding fish. I could see the linesiders thrashing the surface of the water, but my first hookup was a big largemouth bass.

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My buddy Scott Kroggel was along for his first river trip in his brand new kayak. Scott is a very talented artist, musician and photographer and he took several beautiful photographs during our outing. Below is a pic I snapped of him a few weeks ago on his maiden voyage with his new yak.

The river was a little high and the water was slightly stained, but I had success at first with a chugbug by jerking it across the surface. Fortunately, there was abundant cloud cover, wind was almost non-existent, and the river water was cool enough for the fish to be active. It was one of those perfect days.

Soon enough, I landed the first striper.

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The fish was quickly released, as they are still protected on the Cape Fear, and after a few more casts I hooked the first tagger, a red tagged fish close to 25″. These fish are worth $100 bucks to the NCWRC.

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After a couple pics it was also returned to the river. And the fish just kept biting; more stripers, a few white bass, a gar and then I caught a few carp for good measure…

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

This guy inhaled a small crankbait, which was a challenge to remove safely for the fish. But he seemed to swim away unharmed. Luckily, the tiny bait hung short of his gills.

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The white bass wanted the little crankbait too.

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The carp prefer sweet corn.

We moved to a different area and I found the yellow tagger. I was fishing directly beneath a spillway and my buddy took a couple really cool pictures. I couldn’t believe my luck. This fish is worth $5 bucks and a NCWRC marine fisheries hat. Once again, after a couple quick photos the striper was returned to the water to go about his business mostly unscathed and a little bit smarter for his trouble.

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Photo: Scott Kroggel

 

 

 

Summer Stripers & White Bass

Big white bass and stripers were feeding good yesterday afternoon.

I got a call from Captain Stu Dill yesterday afternoon. He was on the lake and the fish were chewing. He had two white bass in the livewell and had already caught a largemouth bass and a crappie.

I got a few rods together and jumped in the truck to join him. It had been raining off and on all night and throughout the earlier part of the day. It was cloudy, the barometer was moving and there was a front stalled just off our coast.

Perfect.

I’m currently in the second round of editing on my book; this time with the publisher’s editor (so it’s easier now after the majority of the work has been done) so a break from the keyboard would be a nice distraction.

I got aboard in the early afternoon and we put the hammer down to cross the lake and drop lines. We went to a spot that’s been producing a few striped bass, but nothing was happening after a few passes watching the sonar. So we motored to the area uplake where Stu had been catching earlier.

After a few minutes of trolling we put the fourth species of the day on the boat; the scourge of the lake; the notoriously voracious white perch. We found them on humps and started catching them 2 and 3 at a time. It was fairly steady action for a while and after only landing one channel catfish aside from the myriad of perch, it took some discipline for us to leave those fish biting. They were stacked on humps just off the sloping red-clay banks that lined that part of the watercourse.

But we knew where we needed to go.

So we made the run back down to another area we’ve been checking lately and after dropping one rod back we started running too shallow, but as I was reeling up some line the rod doubled over in my hands. It fought like a striped bass, shaking its head violently, but after a few moments I saw the taller profile with the stripes and brought a nearly 15″ fish taco into the boat.

I just love everything about white bass. They feed readily in the right conditions, fight like crazy and make excellent table-fare. Especially fried in peanut oil! So now we had three nice ones already in the livewell.

After another pass we hung the first striper (feature photo). It fought hard as it took the crankbait, which was all we caught fish on all afternoon, they wouldn’t touch bucktails of any color, spinners or a Bama-rig. The fish was just short at 19″, but we made the call to put it in the livewell a few minutes to recover. To hell with the ticket if the warden would rather we throw it back to die. Striped bass can’t take the struggle and being thrown back into hot surface water right after the fight. So we took the chance and let it go when we felt it would live. And it did. Right to the bottom! If you can get them past that first 5 or 6 feet they’ll usually do ok.

We started catching perch again and a few more nice white bass before calling it a day. It was a 6 species outing with steady action all afternoon and I took home 5 fatty white bass for a fish taco dinner.