Additional tips on when, where, and how to catch freshwater striped bass.
[by Henry Cowen]
For a long time now, one of the great yet often unnoticed, game fish available to fly anglers on both the West (Northern California) and nearly the entire East Coast, has been the striped bass (Morone saxatilis). What makes these fish so desirable to fly anglers is its availability to both shore-bound and boat anglers alike, and while they’re not always the easiest fish to catch, striped bass offer anglers a chance at catching a fish on a fly rod that can weigh as much as 50 pounds. Try catching a trout like that.
Freshwater striper guide and American Angler contributor Henry Cowen explains more reasons why sodium-free stripers are great fly-rod fare, and when and how to target them in the March/April 2017 issue of American Angler. (If you don’t receive each issue already, subscribe here.) After you read the feature, check out these additional tips from Henry, and a quick list of striper-rich waters in the lower 48.
- While any time is a good time to chase stripers, try to fish the moon phases. Stripers actively feed seven to eight days before, and three to four days after, a full moon, and three days before and three days after a new moon. As a striper guide, I try to schedule as many of my clients as possible by the moon phases.
- Another tactic is to find and fish around dock lights at night, just like you would fish for snook in Florida.
- If stripers are feeding on small shad (one- to two-inches-long), add three- to four-second-long pauses to your retrieve. Stripers will eat on the pause 90 percent of the time.
- If you’re using wildlife (birds) to help locate fish, look for herons along the water’s edge that have their neck extended rather than tucked in. Birds with extended necks are actively hunting shad they’ve found, and where you find the bait, you’ll also find stripers. Also look for loons that dive and surface in a confined area—it’s a good sign there is a school of shad under their feet.
- When approaching diving terns and gulls, try to approach with stealth as too much noise will certainly spook everything, and running over bait with the boat will send the school into deeper water.
- Finally, try to fish windless and overcast days. Shad swim higher in the water column on cloudy days and stripers blitz on the surface more often when conditions are calm. To that effect, if you can fish on the front end of a weather system where the barometer is falling, you might just hit the jackpot!
It’s easy to do a quick Internet search to locate freshwater striped bass fisheries around the country. To help, draw an imaginary line from New York to California, and then search for waters on or south side of that line. If you need more help, here is a shortlist of some of the most productive sodium-free striper impoundments in the lower 48.
- Elephant Butte Lake; New Mexico (Elephant Butte Lake Map)
- Lake Norman; North Carolina(Lake Norman Map)
- Beaver Lake, Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita, and Norfolk Lake; Arkansas (Beaver Lake Map)(Lake Hamilton Map)(Lake Ouachita Map)(Norfolk Lake Map)
- Lake Thunderbird; Illinois (Lake Thunderbird Map)
- Lake Pleasant, and Lake Havasu; Arizona(Lake Pleasant Map)(Lake Havasu Map)
- Lake Powell; Arizona/Utah (Lake Powell Map)
- Castaic Lake, Pyramid Lake, Silverwood Lake, Diamond Valley Lake, San Luis Reservoir, and O’Neill Forebay; California (Castaic Lake Map)(Pyramid Lake Map)(Silverwood Lake Map)(Diamond Valley Lake Map)(San Luis Reservoir Map)(O’Neill Forebay Map)
- Lewis Smith Lake; Alabama (Lewis Smith Lake Map)
- Lake Cumberland; Kentucky (Lake Cumberland Map)
- Lake George in Florida (Lake George Map)
- Lake Murray; South Carolina (Lake Murray Map)
- Lake Lanier; Georgia (Lake Lanier Map)
- Watts Bar Lake; Tennessee (Watts Bar Lake Map)
- Lake Mead; Nevada (Lake Mead Map)
- Lake Texoma, Lake Tawakoni, Lake Whitney, Possum Kingdom Lake, and Lake Buchanan; Texas (Lake Texoma Map)(Lake Tawakoni Map)(Lake Whitney Map)(Possum Kingdom Lake Map)(Lake Buchanan)
- Raystown Lake; Pennsylvania (Raystown Lake Map)
- Smith Mountain Lake, and Leesville Lake; Virginia (Smith Mountain Lake Map)(Leesville Lake Map)