Time to strip the old line off the reels, get your lucky hat on, and get spring fishing!
The last month the striper bite as not been ideal and very inconsistent. The water temps really did not climb or maintain a warmer temperature for the month of March. The water temp at Lake Pleasant is finally staying in the 64-67-degree range.
The females are full of fully developed eggs and the males are leaking.
Lake Pleasant striper catch rate on the rise
The last week the bite has really improved. Whereas last month most anglers reported only catching and average of 3-7 fish daily, that has now increased to 11-30 (or more) fish during a trip.
Last month live shad seemed to be the only consistent method producing fish on a slow bite. Lately anglers are reporting frozen anchovies, silver Kastmasters, plastic swimbaits, and top-water lures as producing good results.
I think the next 2-3 weeks will produce moderate-to-good fishing conditions for striper. Northern coves are still recommended for best results.
Anglers are catching fish in 20-48 feet of total water depth and still having success cast-netting shad in 4-8 feet of water.
Recommended swimbait colors would be sexy shad, white, smoking grey, money shot and baits with some chartreuse color in them. The night bite is slowly picking up and night fishing will become more popular moving into future months. If using anchovies, don’t forget to chum.
Some misspell them, “strippers.” True enough, they are just that: strippers of line.
Today, though, we’ll be talking about stripers.
Just northwest of Phoenix, the striped bass fishery is buzzing. Lake Pleasantis a haven for these linesiders, known for their line-stripping potential, excellent table fare (their mild, white meat is great for fish tacos) and, under special regulations at this 9,500-lake, no bag limit.
Great to eat. No bag limit.
Yep, and this type of fishing is suitable for men and women, great-grandparents and children.
So during the next month or so, here’s one way to catch these feisty fighters.
Summer and early fall striper fishing at Lake Pleasant, Arizona
Fishing at night is usually the best option during the summer and early fall. The process can be simple: submersible lights below the boat at Lake Pleasant (above) attract tiny shad, and the shad attract the predatory striped bass. The green-tinted surface shows juvenile stripers chasing and flashing and dicing balls of one-inch shad. Nature’s aquarium.
A key is to find darkness. Again, fish at night. And away from full moons and removed from other boaters who are dropping submersible lights. Check asolunar calendar before heading out.
On Friday, Sept. 18, multiple boats — 13 in an 80-yard radius — flashed their green submersible lights. Coupled with red-and-yellow lights streaking off the dam, the scene hinted at Christmas:
It also meant the lights weren’t as effective because, in this scenario, the shad disperse among the additional light. Anglers want them congregated. Find a lonely cove on a new-to-quarter moon. Corner the shad market.
Boat anglers can head out with medium-action spinning rods filled with 12-pound fluorocarbon line (or monofilament to save some money.) Rig up a dropshot with No. 2 baitholder or circle hooks and 1/2-ounce weights. Do not set the hook with circle hooks; baitholder hooks, on the other hand, will allow the angler to set the hook, an advantage with light, bait-thieving bites.
Also pick up some anchovies (the north Phoenix Sportsman’s Warehouse and most WalMarts have them) and keep them frozen in an ice chest. Head out to 50 to 100 feet of water and lower the submersible lights, chum the waters with bits of anchovies, kick back, and tell your fishing buddy a couple old line-soaking stories (true or not) as the food chain under the boat forms like bubbles into foam.
In general, quality stripers tend to suspend right off the bottom, and aggressive, smaller fish around the middle of the water column.
Monitor the fish finder for the indications of fish. If you’re fishing from a kayak/canoe, cover a lot of water until you find the bite.
Cut one-inch sections of anchovies (frozen anchovies stay on the hook much longer). Hook a piece anchovy through one side of the skin, rotate the hook 180 degrees, and hook it back through the anchovy. If your fish finder is marking fish at, say, 30 feet, or on the bottom, drop the rig into the water, counting the seconds it takes for the bait to get into the target area. Keep that count in your mind — once you’ve found the depth of the fish, it’ll be time to figure out the next number on the fish-finding combination: the bite and hook-set.
“One is the ‘dink, dink dink,’ really weak bites: these guys are master thieves at getting anchovies off. The second is where you get two feet of slack (in your line). They’re coming up, so you’ve got to reel in the slack and whack them. The third bite is your rods just bends.”
Arizona fishing offers more than just striper action at Lake Pleasant, so see our www.azgfd.gov fishing page for a mixed bag of resources, such as stocking schedules, maps of our top fisheries (including access points to Lake Pleasant), and details of where to fish.
Mmm … fish tacos
Stripers make for great fish tacos because of their mild, flaky, white meat, and medium texture. Also, the average-sized striper (10-12 inches) naturally fits into taco shells. If anything were meant to be …
And here’s why: once an angler fillets a striper, he or she should cut out the blood line along the center. With average stripers, that leaves two strips tailor-made to relax in those crunchy or soft, curved-corn delicacies.
Here one way to prepare them: dip the fillets in an egg wash and roll ‘em a bed of white corn meal and either Panko bread crumbs or your favorite spices (I used a creole seasoning). Heat vegetable oil (enough in the pan so the fillets float) to the point that a pinch of corn meal flicked into the oil will sizzle. Fry for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets.
Fish tacos can be as simple as adding your favorite salsa and greens. Simple can be delicious.
As head we deeper into fall, expect successful striper techniques to involve jigs and swimbaits. Stay tuned to this blog for updates. Also, the Arizona Striper Fishing Facebook page has a helpful article on jigging for stripers.
In the end, whether you’re catching stripers or “strippers,” the result is the same: lots of action, unlimited bag limits, and local, organic fish.
Many stripers had likely fed during a full moon on masses of creeping crawdads. But trolling choppy water that had ideal temperatures of 72-75 degrees, the Striper Snatcher still targeted schooling fish with 3 1/2-inch paddletail swimbaits on 1/4-ounce darterheads with 10-pound fluorocarbon line on ultralight spinning outfits:
Franks, a licensed professional fishing guide, dyes his clear paddle tail baits with these pink/purple/green hues to mimic the purple the shad fry have been glowing. That said, for the next 2-3 months, he recommends throwing 2-inch swimbaits on 1/8-ounce jigheads — the fry we spotted were around that size.
We trolled at about 2 mph.
The schools of stripers cooperated. In this video, Franks lands an average-size striper of about 12 inches — a perfect eating size. The daily bag limit of stripers is unlimited at Lake Pleasant.
“The water temperature is starting to warm up,” Franks said. “This lake has changed so much depth-wise this year. We’re actually 8 feet higher than this time last year and that affects the water temperature significantly. So that delayed the spring-time pattern a bit.”
Anglers also can target the big stripers, largemouth bass and white bass on points, ledges and brush off windblown shorelines.
All told, a party of three caught about 15 stripers — keeping 11 — weighing up to 3 pounds. We fished from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (the full moon had not yet taken a peek at the lake.)
Anglers who need a license can purchase one online and help conserve wildlife for future generations.