I hope everyone had a fun and rewarding 4th of July fishing, boating swimming, cooking out and enjoying the fireworks somewhere. We “threw down” big time with a huge fish fry and low country boil. Fun was had by all. Fishing can still be good this time of the year in the heat and here’s what to look for.
Stripers: I’ve had several people ask me “where are the fish.” I honestly reply, just cruise until you see a large gathering of boats. Most of these boats are targeting a school or two of fish or a few boats have started fishing when they have seen a few other boats in an area. The majority of the stripers have moved to the mid/lower lake area in their summer time haunts. As normal this time of the year, fish are normally deeper in the water column. I believe this year, with the cooler than normal temps and rain we have been having, the thermocline just has not set up well. The fish are not running as deep as normal yet as well. I personally have been marking fish scattered and schooled in 20-40 ft. of water. Fishing for them I have been running downlines and flatlines. (flatlines are line weighted with 1/8-3/8 ounce weights fished 55-90 ft. behind the boat). There’s been several days that one method has produced better than the others. I always like to start out fishing both methods in the summertime. Planers are effective right now but the boat traffic can make it hard to run. I have even been catching a lot of fish and surface action on planers with big gizzards, but then again the boat traffic can really make that method tricky. Alewives have been the bait of choice for most folks. As noted above, I have only been running my downlines to 20 ft. When I see a school of fish appear on my sonar I will send the baits quickly to the depths if need be. But they won’t last long, once the school is gone any baits that did not get hit I then rebait.
Linecounter reels are a real lifesaver when downline and flatline fishing. Getting the baits to the desired depth quickly at times is crucial. A popular and inexpensive reel is the Okuma Magda Pro 20. A better quality reel would be the Abu Garcia 6600 c3 linecounter and the Shimano Tekota linecounter.
Jigging is an effective way to boat the stripers this time of the year as well. I always have jig rods rigged and ready. Pure artificial anglers can really keep up with the bait guys right now by jigging. It’s really hard to beat a 1/2-3/4 ounce jig head matched with a zoom super fluke in white ice, pearl, albino, smokin shad and lemon shad. Jigging can even been effective in scattered and single fish. We have had some really good luck jigging on those fish on points and humps in 20-35 ft. of water right now, jigging 2-5 ft. above bottom. When marking scattered and schooled fish in open water, a good rule of thumb is to place your jig in the middle depth the fish are showing. That way on the top of your jig motion most all fish will have a chance to see your jig on the rise or fall. A lot of time, the fish hit when your sinking your jig into them.
With the summertime water temps it is hard to release fish with a chance of surviving. A lot of anglers will catch their limit and go sightseeing or swimming after their limit is caught. Sometimes stripers will turn a yellow color even before you have time to remove the hook. Big fish I try not to even remove them from the water unless they have turned that yellowish color.
Catfish: With the spawn coming to an end look for the bite to increase and increase big time. Flatheads will be scattered about the creeks and coves but target them in low light conditions in shallow water, 5-15 ft. around structure. Like bass, docks make excellent homes for flatheads. Livebait is always a sure bait for flatties. Fresh cutbait will work as well. Channel cats will go after the same bait, just downsize. A popular bait in the summertime is raw shrimp. It’s also an excellent bait for targeting 2-6 lb. channels for eating. Channels will roam when hunting food. Target them in 5-20 ft. of water.
I personally use 50 lb. leaders even when targeting channels just due to the flatheads sandpaper like teeth and the abrasions you will get when targeting both species. Remember unlike stripers, big flatheads can be released in the warm summer waters successfully.
LT Burnette of SML Bassmasters reports:
The bass have definitely gone into their summer patterns. The recent rain event that occurred over the Independence Day holiday has slightly cooled the water and has caused some muddy water conditions in the upper parts of the Roanoke and Blackwater rivers but the fish seem to be holding strong to their typical summer homes. Deep brushpiles and rocky points in the 15-20 foot water depth continue to be productive during the day or night. Deep diving crankbaits such as shad colored Strike King 6xd or the Norman DD22s and big plastic worms such as the Zoom Ol Monster Texas or Carolina Rigged will be effective in these situations. I would go with a natural color worm during the day such as watermelon or green pumpkin and then switch to black or grape at night. Jigs, dropshots, and shaky heads are also effective for catching the deeper fish as well. It is important to try a couple of different techniques at a spot before moving to another one just to give the fish a different look.
The fish have finally begun to school on shad off main lake points and humps and they can be caught using a variety of topwater lures. Rico pop-rs and Heddon Super spooks, as well as Lucky Craft Sammy and Gunfish lures are proven bass-catchers on SML. The bite seems to be best at first light and late in the day, but will last all day if there is significant cloud cover or rain which has not been an issue the last few days!
Good luck, be safe and good fishing!
By Captain Travis Patsell Cats N’ Stripers Guide Service