First striper trip of the year on the ‘new’ Lake Mead

Roger Asplin, left, and his son, Ryan, show a few of the stripers they caught on Lake Mead.

Photo by Don Martin.

Roger Asplin, left, and his son, Ryan, show a few of the stripers they caught on Lake Mead.

The first trip of the year to Lake Mead is always exciting and yet for me, a trip full of trepidation.

I’ve already got over 20 fishing trips booked this summer, including a number of trips with some very special hunter education graduates who have earned trips by exceling in their classes.

It seems each year, there is something new going on at Lake Mead. This year it is the influx of water to the lake. No, it hasn’t even come close to the level it used to be, but it has risen about 12 feet, and in many ways that created a “new” lake as far as fishing is concerned.

I had seen evidence from several local anglers that the striper fishing was as good as ever on the lake.

Ryan Asplin took out a local doctor and some of his family members and caught about 80 stripers during an overnight trip. They would have had more, but seems a faulty net resulted in the loss of about 15 fish while trying to get them into the boat.

Then Aaron Puskarov posted on social media (Facebook) about a daytime trip at South Cove with his brother and fiancé.

Aaron said despite some boat troubles, they caught 20 stripers and a big catfish.

With this information I was able to convince Ryan to take me along on a nighttime trip to fish the spot where they have caught a lot of fish in the past.

It is interesting that this location is close to a spot I call “Schleeter’s Rock,” where my clients have caught a lot of stripers in the past.

The trip would be a typical overnighter. We’d be on the water near sundown, and fish till sunup the next morning.

After unloading Ryan’s big Lund boat, we headed south towards Virgin Canyon.

Ryan and his father-in-law, Troy Nolte, had figured out a spot where they tie up to a rope that is tied off to rocks on both sides of a small bay. This system keeps the boat in one spot, no matter how hard the wind blows.

Ryan has a very high-tech combination fish finder and graph on his boat, and it really shows the fish.

When we arrived, Ryan put out the rope and got the boat set up where he wanted it.

I was amazed to see that we were over 146 feet of water. I noted that there were a few fish under the boat, but Ryan was confident that once it got dark and he had his two submerged LED fish lights in the water, more fish would arrive.

He was right, but unfortunately the fish this night weren’t that interested in feeding despite schools of threadfin shad that occasionally would circle around the boat.

The first few hours were slow.

Roger did catch a nice channel cat and a decent striper to start off the night.

But Ryan and I struggled.

By about 3 a.m., Roger had six fish in the boat; I had four and Ryan two.

But the fish started biting and for two hours the action was hot and heavy.

Despite issues with broken lines, lost hooks and not much lighting in the boat, we were able to catch and land a good number of stripers.

In the end I took honors with 32 stripers landed. Roger had 19 and Ryan put 14 in the boat.

All in all, a good night of fishing, right?

But as Paul Harvey says, “Stand by for the rest of the story!”

Stripers seem to be “vampire fish” in the part of Lake Mead that Ryan and I fish. Sun comes up, stripers go away. That’s just the way it is.

Ryan went to start up the engine only to find the battery was almost dead.

Didn’t seem to be a huge problem, as Ryan had an AGM battery right there that runs his submerged lights.

“I’ll guarantee you that’s a good battery,” Ryan said as Roger went about methodically changing the batteries, which in a boat are never in an easy spot to reach.

“Ok, try it,” Roger said, and Ryan hit the ignition switch. Click, click, click went the starter, but nothing. That battery was dead too.

Fortunately the boat is equipped with two trolling motor batteries, but Ryan and Roger had to go through the process of getting one of the batteries out of the area it was at. And of course, it wasn’t easy to get to or remove.

As they pulled the battery out, I noticed the date when it was manufactured. It read 1/11 which meant the battery was manufactured on January, 2011. It over 6 years old, which is way past the normal life span of most batteries these days.

But Roger persevered and got that battery hooked up.

“Moment of truth,” he said as Ryan hit the starter switch.

I can’t tell you the relief I felt when the engine came to life!

With that it was an uneventful boat ride back to South Cove and then to my fishing place in Meadview.

We fileted the fish and I noticed that a number of them had very white and rubbery looking flesh.

They were skinny and showed signs of being stressed from the spawn or lack of forage.

This happens every year, and it is tough to see.

If you fish Lake Mead for stripers you will see this. But AZGFD says the fish are okay to eat, even in this condition.

Another thought. In fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass on Lake Mead, I think most of the anglers practice catch-and-release.

But when you are striper fishing, I think of catch-filet-and-eat is the rule. My personal preference is to eat the smaller fish.

Lake Mead is greatly overpopulated with stripers and the “keep and eat” edict there is what we as anglers should do.

I look forward to a lot more fishing trips to Lake Mead in the weeks and months to come and I will be sharing my tips and ideas for those who want to give this fishery a try.