Time to try winter striped bass fishing Feb 2, 2019 14:48:22 GMT
Post by Virginia Striper©® on Feb 2, 2019 14:48:22 GMT
Time to try winter striped bass fishing
by Frank Sargeant @ www.al.com
For anglers who have had enough of trying to encourage largemouth bass to strike during the chill of recent weeks, there's another game in town: striped bass not only don't mind cold water, they actually thrive on it, feeding much better in winter than in the warmer months.
And, though there are no big-time striped bass tournaments in our area, the fish are their own reward; they're exceptionally tasty on the table, and their large average size makes them great gamefish. While a 10-pound largemouth is the trophy of a lifetime, a 10-pound striper is likely to be a 3-year-old juvenile. Fish of 15 to 20 pounds are not at all uncommon among anglers who target these fish.
Striped bass are primarily saltwater fish that spawn in fresh water along the coasts, but they can survive for extended periods without returning to the sea. This has allowed many states including Alabama to create landlocked striper populations, adding a gamefish to the roster in areas where really big tackle-busting critters are rare.
The fish are stocked as fingerlings, but put on as much as 3 pounds per year, and occasionally grow to 50 pounds and more. The Alabama state record, which is also the world record for landlocked stripers, is an incredible 69 pounds, 9 ounces, caught Feb. 28, 2013 on the Black Warrior River at the Gorgas Steam Plant outflow, northwest of Birmingham.
Stripers feed almost entirely on shad in open water and can be tough to find, but fortunately the TVA lakes in winter have some "bird dogs" that make it easier. Sea gulls that winter here keep a sharp eye out for shad being driven to the surface by stripers, and anywhere you see a flock of gulls diving--or even sitting on the water--it's likely there are stripers below.
Trolling the edges of the river channel with large crankbaits or heavy swimbaits can also reveal fish locations.
Striped bass are native to the TVA lakes, but numbers were strongest when they were heavily stocked years ago. Now, most found here are native-spawned; the long flow-way of the TVA rivers allows the eggs to hatch in years when there's good rain. Tennessee is also continuing to stock upstream TVA lakes, and some of these fish, as well as their eggs, arrive in North Alabama's TVA lakes as a result.
Fishing live shad or shad-type lures under the sea gulls is one of the best ways to locate these fish in winter. You may have to visit several gull flocks before you find one with active stripers below, but running the main channel near the dam or in the larger bays like Brown's Creek will eventually put you on the fish. A check of the sonar can confirm bait and stripers below--these large fish have a very obvious signature on the screen.
Stripers are great eating if cleaned properly, far better than largemouths, which most conservation-minded anglers release anyway these days. Stripers have snow-white flesh that's much like that of a saltwater grouper--just peel away the skin, cut out the red line and the rib cage and the boneless fillet is ready to be grilled, baked or broiled.
(A side-note--the largest stripers have higher concentrations of mercury than recommended for consumption, as with most long-lived fish. Those under 10 pounds have no issues in most lakes, however.)
The limit is five daily over 22 inches long, or a total of 15 daily including hybrid white bass/striped bass, except on Lewis Smith and a few other lakes, where the limit is two over 22 inches daily.