Gaston: Southside Striper Hotspot Dec 14, 2019 14:51:41 GMT
Post by Ghost Comanche©® on Dec 14, 2019 14:51:41 GMT
Gaston: Southside Striper Hotspot
by Game and Fish Magazine | September 30, 2010
April is a prime time on this southside reservoir as the lakes warm up and the stripers head for the river.
Mike Thacker, a Web site developer from Macon, North Carolina, has the luxury of living in a home that nearly touches Gaston’s water. That, combined with the fact that he works for himself, allows Thacker the freedom to fish almost at will.
“I belong to the Lake Gaston Striper Club and we all communicate by radio, so you pretty much always know when somebody is on fish and where they are fishing. I always leave my radio on and when I hear another club member is catching fish, I’ll hop in my boat and get out there every chance I get. We’re pretty good about sharing information because we all want to help each other catch fish, so if you are down here and you have a CB in your boat, keep it on channel 68. That’s the channel we use, and there’s probably somebody out on the lake every day,” he said.
Thacker says Gaston is completely different than Kerr due to the fact that the water from Gaston comes from the dam at Kerr. When the stripers are running up the Staunton River above Kerr, the fish in Gaston are already finished with their spawning run and are far back down the lake.
“In April, I do pretty much all of my striper fishing within a mile of the Eaton Ferry Bridge. That may seem like a pretty big area, but when you consider that stripers are always on the move, that does help narrow down the search quite a bit,” he said.
At 20,000 acres, Gaston is less than half the size of Kerr, so it does have fewer fish. In fact, Thacker says the striper population in his home lake has fallen noticeably over the last few years. Wayne Jones, a district fisheries biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, agrees.
“There are still a good number of stripers in the lake, but there’s no question that the population is less than it was 10 or 12 years ago. We are also getting complaints from anglers in regards to the size of the fish. Our sampling efforts still turn up a good number of fish in the 4- and 5-pound range, but the larger fish over 10 pounds are pretty rare,” he said.
Jones isn’t sure why that is, but he attributes it to a number of possibilities. Fishing pressure has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, and he says it has doubled or even tripled in that time period. More anglers are taking more fish.
“When the season closes in the Roanoke River in the Roanoke Rapids area for those anadromous stripers, a lot of people move up to the lake. Pretty much any legal striper that is caught is kept,” Jones said. “There’s also a substantial amount of fishing pressure in the summer and we’ve learned that stripers caught in the summer have almost a zero chance of survival when they are released. The water temperature is too warm, and the dissolved oxygen level is too low for the fish to recover from the stress of being caught.”
To help alleviate the loss of fish from angling pressure, Jones and his colleagues have doubled the stocking rate of striped bass fingerlings in Gaston. Now, they put in over 400,000 2- and 3-inch striped bass every year, but since they’ve only been doing that for the last year or two, anglers won’t see any effects for at least a few more years. According to Jones, a striped bass that is in Lake Gaston takes anywhere from five to six years to reach the 20-inch minimum size limit. Biologists are also stocking additional forage, primarily threadfin shad.
Thacker says his catch rate and the catch rate of fellow club members was way off last year, but he isn’t sure if that had anything to do with the prolonged drought that gripped the region pretty much all year. He noticed a decline in the abundance of forage fish, as well. But hardcore striped bass anglers still catch plenty of fish. Most aren’t much larger than that 20-inch size limit, but Thacker and fellow club members do catch some impressive stripers. He knows of some fish around 20 pounds, but says they are rare creatures. Thacker prefers to find his by trolling.
“I’m a hardcore troller. I’ll put out six to eight lines at a time, and I’ll just work my way across points and over flats until I find the fish, and then I just keep working through that area. Stripers are always moving, so if I don’t find them where I caught them yesterday, I’m not worried. They’ll be in the same general area, so I just keep moving until I find them,” he said.
Thacker’s trolling rigs consist of a variety of lures that cover a variety of depths. One of his primary baits is a white bucktail tipped with a white plastic trailer. He’ll use a 1-ounce bucktail on one rod and a 1 1/2-ounce bucktail on another rod, a Cordell Red Fin on two other rods (both on planer boards), and a double bucktail rig on another trolling outfit. That rig consists of one larger bucktail tied above a smaller jig. Another rod, sometimes two, will have umbrella rigs with four soft plastic shad-bodied lures on them.
“Those lures cover depths from five to 20 feet. The stripers seem to hold at around 24 feet petty much all the time, but when they are active, they’ll come up toward the surface. No matt
er where they are, they prefer to come up for a bait and they rarely go down to take a bait, so it’s important to keep your lures above the fish when you troll,” he said.
Later in the month, as the back ends of coves and creek arms warm, the baitfish will migrate into those areas, and the stripers follow. Early in the morning, late in the afternoon, and all day when there is thick cloud cover, the stripers can be caught by casting surface lures such as Zara Spooks, Chug bugs and other large topwaters to points and flats. However, as the sun comes up, the fish go deep and trolling tends to be the best way to catch Gaston’s stripers.
There are plenty of stripers to be caught. Be patient, keep looking until you locate the bass and stay with them. Before you know it, you’ll have a limit in the cooler.