The Fish Sniffer - Delta Striper Time? Almost…
Delta Striper Time? Almost…

Written By: Cal Kellogg, February 17, 2014
Species: Stripers
Location: Sacramento River- Delta, San Joaquin Delta, Sacramento River- Middle,

Delta Striper Time? Almost…
Delta Striper Time? Almost…

When it comes to fishing, conditions are very important, but luck or lack there of play a role as well. The Delta striper adventure I took part in yesterday is a prime example of what I’m talking about.

I hit the West Delta with Captain Rick Kennedy of Tight Lines Guide Service, Rick’s son in law Steve and my father in law Gene Rush. Rick is going to be working the Delta for stripers this spring and he’d been itching to get out and do a little prospecting, which sounded great to me.

The four of us left Auburn at around 5 o’clock and we rolled into Rio Vista around 7. After stopping at Rio Vista Bait for some live shiners, we dropped Rick’s Rogue Jet into the water at Brannan Island State Park and motored through 3 Mile Slough headed for the shoals on the San Joaquin.

We made our first stop at Light 35 and it didn’t take us long to find good numbers of bass holding from 15 to 25 feet deep along the edge of the shoal.

Rick deployed his electric trolling motor and we dropped a variety of offerings down to the fish, including a lively 3 inch shiner, a Fish Trap swimbait and a couple Duh Spoons.

The water temperature was 51 degrees and the clarity was good. A low pressure area was approaching and the water wasn’t overly weedy. In short, the conditions weren’t perfect, but for February they were pretty darn good.

When we dropped our offerings, I figured we’d be hooked up in short order. I was particularly optimistic about the shiner getting slammed. After all we were setting over the top of dozens of bass, how could they lay off a juicy minnow?

Do you see where this is going? Yep you’re right, we didn’t get so much as a touch. After getting blanked for a half hour we decided to check out some other areas.

Our next top was a big pump on Connection Slough. We briefly hooked a pair of small fish on the pump. One hit a spoon the other hit a Sebile swimbait. Once again, I thought our live shiners would be pure poison around the pump, but the bass completely ignored them.

And so the morning went. We moved from spot to spot and found stripers pretty much everywhere we went, but they just weren’t biting. We even tried trolling to see if we could generate a reaction strike with zero results.

Finally about 11 o’clock I broke the ice. We were drifting over a series of sandbars I was fan casting with a Berkley Flat Back Shad swimbait when a 17 inch striper slammed the bait.

A dozen casts later I hooked a second fish that was a clone of the first. A few minutes later Rick followed up with a small keeper in the 20 inch class. For a moment I thought we’d cracked the case, but Rick’s bass turned out to be the final fish of the day.

After a while we got tired of being rejected on the San Joaquin side, so we headed back through 3 Mile Slough and ran up the Sacramento to Clyde’s Shoal above the Rio Vista Bridge.

The bass were there, lots of them and the water temperature was up to 53 degrees, but the results were the same….zero, zip, nothing! At times we could feel our shiners panic, but a strike never developed. Clearly the minnows were surrounded by bass and the prospect of being eaten terrified them, but they weren’t in any real danger…

As an angler it’s situations like these that drive me nuts. We found plenty of fish. The conditions were good. Our baits were top notch and our presentations were solid. Yet the fish were totally unresponsive and I have no idea why. But one thing is abundantly clear, there are a bunch of stripers in the Delta right now and they seem to be grouping up in preparation for the spring spawn. When the bite breaks loose the fishing should be outstanding.

The big variable in the mix as I write these words is the weather. It looks as if our dry streak may be broken. It rained all night and heavy rain is in the forecast on and off for the next 5 days. I think we are all hoping that this rain breaks the storm doors open in Norcal. If that’s the case, the bass bite will be delayed by high water and poor clarity.

Bring on the rain! Let’s see the rivers run high and our reservoirs fill up…Those stripers will be there when the water clears and there look to be plenty to go around!

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