Salmon Hog The Spotlight And Fall Stripers Live In Ignominy
Written By: Mike McNeilly, September 21, 2013
Location: Sacramento River- Delta, Sacramento River- Middle, American River - Lower, Feather River- Lower, San Joaquin Delta, Mokelumne River- Lower, Consumnes River,
It’s no surprise that in years like this one when the black mouthed hordes of chrome Chinook rampage up the rivers that stripers take the backseat in Sacramento Valley. Who can blame people for getting salmon fever?
Stories are bandied around the campfire of massive chrome kings filling ice chests, and as a result boat ramp parking lots at popular salmon beats are filled to capacity. Tensions run high on the river from guys competing for each other’s fish. Competition can be fierce, tempers short, and the salmon are running scared.
Are you tired of fighting the crowds? If so, there’s another big game option that is just collecting cobwebs. Oh, the linesides are coming, and nobody seems to give a hoot. For the savvy angler, the fall striper bite can be the best opportunity of the year for hooking into a trophy, and you will likely have a bed of tulles, rip rap wall, or slough all to yourself.
When I think of fall stripers, one town in particular comes to my mind, Rio Vista. I don’t know if the town forefathers of Rio Vista knew that they were building their city on the future epicenter of all things striper fishing, but I’m guessing they were clairvoyants and must have had an idea.
Here’s a tip from me, if you want to make some extra cash this fall, take all your money out of your savings, and bet it all on the fact that there will be some great striper fishing within a 5 mile radius of Rio Vista at some point in September-November. Of course, Rio Vista even sponsors a derby honoring our immigrant friends, Morone saxatilis. S
Let’s be honest, you’re reading an article written by a second rate striper fisherman. I’ve caught a lot of stripers, and even quite a few nice ones, but my quiver of techniques isn’t as full as that of the elite guys. Therefore, I will focus on the things that I do best in this article and keep my feet on the firmest ground.
For me, I am a troller first and foremost, a spooner on occasion, and a bait dunker at times. I look at great striper fishermen like the Fish Sniffer’s own, Ernie Marlan, and I realize that he defines what a well rounded striper fisherman is.
Alas, Ernie isn’t the author of this piece. Ernie is a striper scientist, using his knowledge of striper hotspots, tide cycles, and boots on the ground knowledge to consistently catch fish. He’s the kind of guy that cruises up on a spot with a bass rod under his arm and a swimbait, throws out two casts and has two big bass.
I’m much less of a scientist, more of a bumbler actually, but I still catch fish. My method is more based on solid science like, “gut feelings,” “hunches,” and “luck.” For me, I look at spots that historically have produced stripers on my boat, and I start there first.
If the bite is good on the West Bank, then I just might sit there and pound those fish for all their worth. If it’s dicey and they aren’t coming over the rail at a fast enough rate, it’s time to burn some boat gas and find other fish. That’s the beauty of Rio Vista in particular; there is so much good striper water to be had for any technique, and with most guys further upriver chasing salmon, you’ll have the spot to yourself.
As mentioned earlier, I am most often times a troller. Why is trolling just so awesome? For starters, you will be pulling your plugs at a brisk 3-5mph clip, and that means you will cover a whole lot of real estate.
Plus, I usually am the only guy sober on my boat, and as the boat operator it puts the catching or lack of catching on my shoulders. My guys will catch fish if I put their lures in the right place. It’s easier to deal with amateurs, youths, or buzzed fishermen if all they have to do is see their rod bouncing and reel the fish in.
Plus, if you’re like me, and you like to troll with your rod in your hand, then you will be rewarded with the most vicious strike in the angling world. There’s nothing like when a double digit striper pulls an all out assault on your plug.
Here are a few quick trolling tips: If you’re in water deeper than 16,’ you’re probably too deep for even the deepest diving plug and the fish are probably inactive anyways. If you aren’t afraid of wrecking your boat or propeller on submerged obstructions, you will catch more fish.
In other words, if you can find stripers in less than about 8 ft of water, they are almost certainly actively feeding. If you troll in less than 8 ft of water for long enough, you will eventually hit something. There are a few pylons and rip rap banks that can testify to me hitting them.
Lastly, keep your thumb off the spool and your drag loose. I know of an idiot…. myself... that found himself in a group of trophy fish and not only put his thumb on the spool when the fish struck once, but twice. I lost two huge fish due to my own stupidity that evening.
Finally, on the third fish restraint got the better of me, and I actually didn’t set the hook and landed the fish.
Alright, so we’ve talked a little about trolling. If I had to lay odds on what technique is most likely to win the derby, my money would be on somebody soaking a fresh shad, bullhead, sardine, or mudsucker.
There is even a sturgeon division in the Rio Vista Striper Derby, so if you fish striper baits on one rod and a piece of eel, roe, or shrimp on your second rod, you might have a shot at both divisions.
To me, the biggest mistake I see most novice bait fishermen making is fishing way too deep of water for stripers. Undoubtedly, stripers move up and down the deep water channel of the main river, and yes, people catch them, but those aren’t the fish you want to target. If it was me, I’d position my boat in about 5-7ft. of water and cast my baits into about 10-20ft of water right on the edge where the shallow flat tapers quickly into a deep trough.
I’m out of room, and Cal and Dan are going to beat me for going long, but here’s my final tip: There is also a salmon division in the derby, and there will definitely be salmon around the Rio Vista area in early October.
If it was me, I would have some Silvertrons on board and make a run up to the mouth of Cache Slough/ Long Island area around the peak of the high tide.Back To Reports