Fishing improves just in time for summer season
After a very slow start this year, the striper fishing has finally started to pick up on Lake Mead.
And with the granddaddy of all nighttime team-fishing tournaments just a couple of weeks away, the improvement is just in time.
Normally I start to get serious about striper fishing in May. But this year, for whatever reason, the striper fishing in May just wasn't what it has been in past years.
As a licensed fishing guide, I am required to keep records of my outings for the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Lake Mead National Recreational Area.
According to my past records, the fishing trips in May should produce fish counts of 50 to 75 fish a night.
This year our trips produced a dismal take of 25 to 35 fish. It was so bad that some trips in May were rescheduled as I felt it wasn't worth the time and effort to bring up people to catch that few fish.
In other cases where the trips were not as productive as I thought they should be, I offered the anglers the option to come back, at a later date, for a free fishing trip.
It got so bad that my friend and fishing buddy Jay Chan and I spent a lot of time and fuel on the lake just looking for fish on the Eagle graph that I have on my boat.
After finding fish, I would mark the areas and then Jay and I would actually start fishing to see if the fish would bite.
A few weeks ago, we found an area way up from South Cove. We started fishing around 10 p.m. and by 3 a.m. the bite was wide open and we put 46 fish in the boat, but we quit and moved on around the lake looking for more schools of fish.
A few days later, I took a family from Kingman to that spot and we were able to put 75 hungry fish in the boat. A few days after that, I took the Anderson family from Scottsdale to the same spot.
Fishing with me that night was friend Scott Anderson, his wife Jen and one daughter, 15-year-old Allison.
Before I could even get the lights set out, Jen hauled in the first of what turned out to the best trip of the summer so far.
Before the bite turned off at 5 a.m., we had 115 stripers, 12 channel cats and a beast of a carp in the boat. The total haul was 128 fish.
Probably one of the most improbable catches was the carp that Allison caught. In the past five years, her fish is only the second one that has been caught by an angler on my boat.
The one Allison caught weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces, and I thought she had a huge striper as she caught it on a small piece of anchovy.
When the Andersons got home, they sent me a message about the filets they ended up with: 2 pounds, 13 ounces of catfish filets, and 30 pounds, 13 ounces of striper filets.
As anyone who regularly fishes Lake Mead knows, stripers on this lake aren't known to be huge like they are in the river below Hoover Dam. This fishery is all about numbers, for the most part.
My records indicate that the average fish from this massive Colorado River impoundment will weigh between 1 pound and 1.25 pounds measure 12 to 14 inches long.
To me, the best eating stripers are the ones from 10 to 12 inches long. These fish have never spawned yet, and the flesh is firm with a slightly grey color.
Catch a striper over 15 inches long - especially a post-spawn female - and those fish will have big heads, and the flesh will be white and rubbery in appearance.
Despite the good luck in that spot, Jay and I still went searching for more areas that might have better fish.
We had located a spot we call "Snay's Point," which is named for friend Scott Snay. Scott used to fish in this area and he seemed to have a lot of luck there. Each time we went over the spot, we saw a lot of fish on the graph.
So last Saturday night Jay, my brother Gary and his lady Tammy and I decided to try some new spots in the South Cove area, including Snay's Point.
The first couple of places we fished were a bust. We got one or two fish, but nothing special.
Finally, about 1 a.m., we got to a spot that showed a lot of fish on the graph.
While we didn't get a lot of fish, the stripers we caught were definitely larger than we had caught before.
Our largest striper, caught by Chan, weighed exactly 3 pounds.
Our best 10 stripers pushed the scales to 21 pounds, while our best 40 stripers weighed 61 pounds, 10 ounces.
That's significant because the winners of the recent Firefighter's Tournament out of South Cove took top honors with just over 65 pounds of fish. Second and third place were in the 61-pound range.
Considering we fished at that spot Sunday morning for just four hours, I'm thinking we may have found a proverbial "Honey Hole."
We will see, as this week I've got a fishing trip with Kingman residents Hallie Powell and her family. Hallie was a top honor graduate in our March hunter education class, and as such, was awarded a free trip.
I'll let you know how we do.
Right now, though, the striper bite on Lake Mead is wide open.
Go out at sundown and find a spot with deep water. Put out some floating or submersible lights, chum a little and bait up with small pieces of anchovies, squid or a combination of both, then hang on.
One more thing - make sure you have plenty of ice chests that contain a lot of ice. Put the stripers you catch and keep directly on ice, periodically cover them with more ice and in the morning you'll have some great eating filets.