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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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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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.

 

Gaston Lake Schoolie Striper Smackdown

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The striped bass have started biting on Gaston Lake, so Capone and I got out there this past weekend to get in on the action.

I had a little time Friday afternoon and got on the water about 4:00. First, I rode around and checked as many areas as I could before the last hour; places I’d caught stripers in spring there before. I’d caught a few largemouth bass on big #5 inline spinners in 50′ of water on the main lake as soon as I’d got to my first area. They always bust there in the afternoons when it’s warm, there’s low boat traffic and calm. But I hadn’t located any striped bass.

I planned to head back to Pea Hill Creek and hit a few more points and humps before sunset. It was warm but the cloud cover was well received. I passed under the bridge and started into the creek and quickly saw good marks on the sonar in 20′ of water. Nice marks with lots of color. So I dropped lines and started trolling, but as soon as I’d started the wind really picked up and a light rain accompanied it. The sun was peaking through at times and the cloud cover’s colors varied from dark, likely rain holding clusters to light and smooth, low-lying cirrus and cumulus puffs hovering at all heights. It was too windy to troll where I was, so I took off across the creek for cover.

The plan was to wait out the weather and then get back to fishing before dark. And after a few moments I was about to anchor up in a windbreak when fish started busting around a point near me. I dropped the anchor back in the bin, started the boat and carefully got to within casting distance of the commotion.

I had a rattletrap tied on a braid pole and soared it at the boiling water. One dip and a striper was on.

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I snapped a pic and tossed the schoolie striper back into the lake. Then, after a few more throws the fish stopped their assault on the shad. I saw lines on my sonar and opted to start trolling the area. The fish were in shallow water and were positioned in the slot of a cove near an island; so trolling was going to be difficult, but they weren’t hitting anything else.

It’s a good thing I decided to risk losing gear, because I didn’t lose anything, but man did I get on a school of short stripers. I had maybe a three-hundred yard run that ended at one end in a cove and the other in deep unproductive water, and had to navigate two humps that came up into 5′ of water. The fish were active in 15′. I was pulling my gear on leadcore with two colors out, which put me at close to 10′ with the lures. There was also the slot to deal with; I had to turn through both humps and hit the slot where the largest portion of fish were positioned. It was tough but I didn’t hang once.

First, they were hitting the ‘Bama rig.

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Then, the fish tossed any qualms they had with color, shape or size and hit everything I trolled by them. I didn’t measure any of them as I could tell they were short of the 20″ minimum, and I only snapped pics every few fish. The action stayed on fire for a good hour and I fished til dark. I probably caught 15 to 20. Here are the rest of the pics I took that afternoon.

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So the sun set on that day, but I decided to wake up at 5:00 am and get back out. I was hoping some bigger stripers would join the party.

The next morning started a little slow, and I started off catching perch in the same area I’d finished up the prior day. But pretty soon the stripers woke up again…

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It was basically a repeat of the previous day. No keepers, but a ton of fun action and Capone got in on the party!!

I had planned to help Pop out with a few things at the lake house at midday and ended up helping a neighbor with a little labor too. Then, we were gona head back out but another freakish windstorm cancelled afternoon fishing plans. So me, Pop and his wife just enjoyed the cooler weather on the porch and watched the hummingbirds. They’re just starting to visit the swings and feeders up there. There may have been a few cold beverages too.

We thought about fishing again Sunday morning, but I figured that school of fish was tired of my harassing behavior, so I just woke up, put the boat back on the trailer and headed back to town. People who know the lake wouldn’t believe me if I told them where these fish popped up. Never seen them there before and probably never will again. But it was a lucky coincidence of stripers hunting and baitballs escaping wind and current, and I was happy to have experienced and learned from it.

I’ll be back there soon when the action hits the main lake.

Six Species Slab Smackdown

 

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So this afternoon was a no-brainer to go after some slabs.

I wanted fish tacos and I was lucky enough to find the ingredients today. The weather was what I call perfect for fishing. Light winds, overcast, rainy-at-times and cool with constant approaching weather.

I got on the water around 2:00 and started catching fish right off. There was bait on top of the water, but I never saw any surface activity. I launched and headed into the back of a cove I’ve had plenty of luck in over the years and hit a keeper striper before I could get all three lines out.

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I had two rods spooled with leadcore already out and was dropping back a crankbait in the center of the spread when the first rod doubled over. It was a decent fish and fought hard, digging deep repeatedly in 20 fow. I lip-gripped the striped bass and brought it into the yak. It was about 21″, so I took a quick pic and released it. I was only planning on keeping whites or crappie.

I trolled through the area a while and picked up a few small catfish before landing the first white bass. I thought it was a striper, as usual with the bigger whites. It was almost 14″ (feature photo) and hit the ice. Then, I trolled right back through the same spot and hit a nice crappie, just about 12″ and it too joined the white bass.

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Then, the sun popped out, the temperature went up and the bait and fish vanished. The wind picked up a bit too, so I trolled across the lake and hit a different area. Once there, I found fish on structure and started jigging after a few passes with no takers. I caught several bream, with one nice one first. I thought about keeping them, but turned them back.

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Then, I caught another striper, it was short and also quickly released.

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Right afterwards, as the the bait sunk back to the bottom I pulled the first time and felt a huge bite. I was sure I was hung then felt the shaking and new I was on a nice fish. It dug good and shook its head several times before I turned it upward and was able to bring it to the side of the yak. Awww. Anyway it was nice fight…

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The afternoon started getting late and I was headed back to the ramp and the wind died. The clouds covered the sky again and I decided to tie on a chugbug. I love those things. Rivers, lakes wherever. I chucked it along a bank a few times and had one blow up. I figure it was a maybe two pounds, but it was fun for the sixth species of the day.

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After that the wind started up again and I split. Only kept the crappie and white bass but it was just enough. I love overcast calm days on the water.

 

Jordan Lake Stripers

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I got out on Jordan Lake today to chase striped bass and white bass and found the fish feeding readily.

I started out jigging in about 18′ of water and hooked the only striper I kept on a piece of metal. The fish fought like a much bigger striped bass, but once I landed the 21″ specimen I knew I had a grilled dinner, so I put it on ice. All I needed at that point was a fresh lemon. This fish had a fair amount of broken lines, but it was just a striped bass.

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But after a few more minutes of jigging and no takers I could see action on the surface of the water around me. The wind was light and I had trolling gear aboard, so it wasn’t long before I started pulling hardware. I started off in 15 FOW and had marks all around.

And I was quickly rewarded for the change of tactics. Clouds had been moving in from the west, and as the afternoon progressed, the colors changed from reds to purples tinged with orange as the sun found its way to the horizon. The wind slightly changed to a WSW and it wasn’t five minutes into the pass when the leadcore rod with a sassy shad doubled over. I fought the fish while keeping the other line moving and landed another nice keeper striped bass before releasing it after a quick pic.

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After I turned around to make another pass through the area I immediately found my sonar lit up again. And after another few moments the same rod doubled over again and I fought a really nice white bass to the boat. I thought it was another striper the way it fought, but once I boat-flipped the large panfish I knew I had another cooler fish. It hit the ice and I set back out.

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There was a slight lull and I changed jig heads as I was running through the same general area. At times I would pull cranks and at times I didn’t. But after a while I decided to change colors and ran a chartreuse Bomber over shallow structure. I’d been running a white Bomber as my prop-wash bait, but it was a deep crank, so I opted for a 6′ – 8′ model and quickly found fish receptive.

This was my first striper double of the year (feature photo) and after fighting the fish to the boat, I released them after taking pics. I only planned on keeping 1 striped bass for a grilled dinner over the weekend and the white bass was a bonus. As you can clearly see, one fish was caught on a sassy shad and one was landed on a crankbait.

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I caught a few others, but released everything else. All my fish were caught in 14′ to 24′ of water and almost every fish was caught using white sassy shads on chartreuse jigheads.

Good luck!!