Conditions are changing quickly as mild weather has warmed the water into low 60’s, a couple of degrees higher in the back of the creeks. The Typical signs of Spring are here, Pollen blankets the lake, the Geese are squawking and fighting, and the fish are responding to the warming water. The lake level remains elevated at 1073.08, 2.08 feet over full pool and 1.38 feet up from last week’s level.
Overall Striper fishing is good, with several techniques that are producing well. The patterns are basically the same as last week, a mix of free lines, planers, and down lines, with some opportunities to cast to surfacing fish. If you can find a green light that is operational that pattern is also producing well. Many of the fish are still roaming over open water areas, creek channels or over the one of the river channels. Live baits behind a planer board or on the free line are probably the most consistent pattern, but keep the down lines handy as that is also a viable technique as well, especially over the open water. To locate these open water fish, watch the Gulls and Loons, they have been a big asset in the last few weeks. If the birds do not offer any help, pulling baits over as section of the channel will be the other option. Keep moving until you start seeing fish on the sonar, then tweak the depth to maximize the bite. Herring have been the bait of choice but Gizzard Shad are also producing and some days may be the better producer. A Mini Mack is also very productive, on the Stealth troll, either straight down or on the planers, depending on the depth at which you are marking fish.
Speaking of Mini Mack’s, if you see surfacing fish casting the Mini to them has been very good. Cast it to the fish and begin your retrieve as soon as the bait hits the water, if there is a fish there he will come and get it. I do need to clarify this surfacing fish scenario, this pattern really is about seeing the Gulls and Loons. They have been bunching up into really tight groups sometimes (see attached picture)making it hard to physically see the fish. If you see the birds working hard, motor over to them and cast the Mini and hang on, don’t wait to see the fish surface. When you get in an area where this is occurring, and the birds stop working, often if you will deploy the baits and Minis and start pulling you will be able to stay in that area and catch more fish even if they are not activity surfacing. Some other baits that are effective for the schoolers are Fish Head Spins, 1/2 oz Bucktails, and flukes. I’ll try and get some video up to illustrate this pattern sometime early this week.
If you are a night owl, the after hours fishing is better than it has been in recent weeks now that the water has warmed. The green lights are holding fish, both Stripers and Bass. Buck tails, Flukes and pitching live baits are all good choices. Any light should hold fish, but lights in the upper parts of the lake may be best.
Bass fishing is typical for the surface temps, and other than dealing with moving fish and still changing conditions, the bite is good. Most of the techniques that were in play last week are still effective, and you can add in sight fishing some bedding fish over much of the lake. Docks are still a very productive and reliable pattern, rocky points will get some bites, blown down trees, really almost any good shallow cover may hold fish.
Plastics are producing well, the Neko rig with a Senko or Yum Dinger, your favorite worm on a Shakey head, Fish Head Spins, and of course the Keitechs on a jig head. A finesse worm on the Texas rig is pretty much forgotten, but can be very productive. Another bait that can be really good this time of year is an in-line spinner bait. I know what your are thinking, it is too small and the bigger fish will not respond. That is not the case at all, just because these baits are small, small fish can and will eat them, but the bigger fish will eat them as well. Try rigging up a small spinning rod with 4 or 6 lb. test and trying on a small in line bait. Cast it to rocky banks, stump flats, shallow humps and retrieve it slowly letting it follow the contour of the bottom as you retrieve it. The light line is very stealthy, enables you to make long casts, and it allows the bait to hold its depth even on a fairly quick retrieve. You’ll find this to be a fun and productive method, and on really calm days it can make a big difference in the numbers fish you catch.