Bank and Small Boat Stripers? Its Doable!

Written By: Roland Aspiras, March 12, 2012
Species: Stripers

With a majority of public shoreline access now closed in and around the California Delta, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for bank anglers to fish good areas for striped bass.

Some are resorting to areas, which are less than ideal, while others are using small boats, prams and canoes to access fish-producing waters.

Sure, fishing from a fully rigged North River with all the latest and greatest electronics can be the best case scenario for chasing striped bass, but fishing from a small aluminum boat or hanging out on the bank can produce fish if you know what to look for, and when to look for it.

The seasons will usually play a major role in your success. Typically, I like to work the West and East Delta in the fall and winter.

As spring approaches, I branch out from those areas as the stripers move to their spawning grounds.

But, by far, my favorite time of year to fish for striped bass is in the fall, during the months of October, November and December. This is when schools of striped bass move into the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers around Rio Vista, filling up on forage such as shad, crawfish and mudsuckers in preparation for the winter.

Bank access is now limited in the Rio Vista area, however access is still available in several areas.

Sherman Island Road to the south has available access along the levee; Sandy Beach, run by Solano County Parks and Recreation located south of Rio Vista, and Brannan Island SRA, run by California State Parks.

There is also a public pier located at the west foot of the Rio Vista Bridge.

Montezuma Slough is accessible via Grizzly Island Road in Suisun City and has a public access area complete with a fishing pier, and various pullouts are available for parking along the main road. Small boaters also work these areas.

To the north of Rio Vista, Miner Slough is a popular destination for small boaters, with a launch ramp available at Arrowhead Marina. Fishing here is good throughout the fall and winter, and spring.

To the east, the Mokelumne River is a good bet, with ramp access available at Tower Park Marina off of Highway 12 in Lodi.

There is also boat ramp access to the north at both Wimpy’s and New Hope Marinas located off of West Walnut Grove Road in Walnut Grove.

Small boaters can also fish the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, along with Sherman Island and Frank’s Tract. Discovery Bay to the east is also a good bet.

Montezuma Slough has a boat ramp and self pay station.

The wind can be almost non-existent during the fall and winter months, but always check wind and weather reports before setting out on your trip, and be advised that winds can go from flat to choppy in a matter of minutes.

Safety is the rule when fishing big, open water in small craft. Make sure you have a Coast Guard approved flotation device for each person on board your boat (it’s the law).

Also, pack only enough gear for your trip. If you’re planning on bait fishing for the day, check the tides and only bring enough weight to match the conditions you’ll be facing. I.e., don’t bring 10 and 12 ounce weights when you have minimal tides on the day.

Generally, most shore anglers fish with fresh or frozen shad in the fall, however cut anchovies and sardines also work.

You can also try using pile or blood worms, along with live mudsuckers. Boat fisherman can try drifting with jumbo minnows if the wind and current allow it.

Two rigs are used by shore anglers for bait fishing are the sliding sinker rig and the hi-lo.

The sliding sinker rig starts with a 5/0 or 6/0 hook on a 20 to 24 inch leader with a quality swivel.

Above the swivel is a plastic sinker slide with a snap, which allows the angler to adjust the weight to the depth and current. This rig is used by both boat and bank anglers alike, due to its simplicity.

The sinker slide also allows the fish to take the bait freely as your mainline moves through the slide.

When a fish hits on a sliding sinker rig, I like to pick up the rod and point it towards the water. A sweeping hook set is administered if you can feel pressure.

The hi-lo has gained popularity over the years with bank anglers. The rig starts with a three way swivel attached to your mainline. On one loop of the swivel is an 18 to 24 inch leader and a 3/0 to 6/0 hook.

On the remaining loop, another leader is attached, twice the length of the leader with the hook but of lighter test than your main line. This allows the angler to easily break off the sinker, leaving the rest of the rig intact in the event of a snag.

The rig works very well in deep water or fast current due to the angle in which the bait is presented as it sits perpendicular to the bank.

It is also very popular among anglers who use smaller, live baits like grass shrimp, pile worms and blood worms, where anglers will use a 1/0 to 3/0 hook.

Setting the hook using a hi-lo rig is different from a sliding sinker rig. When you feel pressure from the fish, set the hook using only the handle by reeling down.

Plugging with swimbaits, lipless crankbaits, and topwater will produce for both shore and boat fisherman, but the key is to move often.

Concentrate your efforts on weed lines, rip rap shorelines, and around running irrigation pumps. Don’t be afraid to fan cast flats; if you don’t get hits after a short while, move.

Working the incoming tide is best for shore anglers working plugs, as the fish tend to occupy flats, which are normally out of water during the low tide.

By far, plugging is my favorite method for chasing striped bass – there’s nothing better than getting your lure crushed by a hungry linesider.

Trolling is best for small boaters when winds are at a minimum. Deep or shallow running Yo-zuri’s, Rebels and Rat-L-Traps are good baits to try.

Fishing during the spring in terms of locations and tactics are similar to the fall, but I look to branch out further in an attempt to keep up with the fish as they move towards their spawning grounds.

The Old Sacramento River and the connecting sloughs are a good bet, with shoreline access available on the Sacramento County side of the river from Freeport to Courtland, and some select areas are open to access around Isleton. Just be sure to observe any and all signs if they are present.

The north end of Steamboat Slough at its confluence has public access for a fee. The sandy beach located there is excellent for springtime stripers.

Bait fishing is the primary tactic, with cut sardines and anchovies being the most popular, however live mudsuckers and crawfish are also good bets. Small boaters can try drifting jumbo minnows – again, if the wind and current allow it.

Late spring and summer can be spotty, as many of the fish move back towards the bays and ocean, and the resident fish tend to move around from area to area looking for forage.

The key during this time of year is to move if you don’t have success. One day the fish will be thick in a particular area, and barren the next.

With public bank access slowly dwindling away, its important that we do everything in our power as anglers to make sure they stay open.

Trash is a primary reason for property owners and the reclamation district closing down the levees to access, however construction of fire pits with rocks (damages the levee), and improperly parked vehicles are also to blame.

Always ensure that the areas that you fish are cleaner than when you came so that other anglers can enjoy the spot you just fished.

Despite the closed public lands, chasing striped bass is still a good bet for shore anglers and small boat owners. Fish during the fall. Give plugging a try. If bait fishing is your cake, give a mudsucker a try. I’m confident these tips will improve your success.

For more information on shore and small boat striped fishing, contact the following bait shops, or shoot me an e-mail! Hap’s Bait (707) 374-2372 Suisun Bait (707) 429-2078

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