Two Essential Parts For a Successful Striper Trip
|One of the Most frustrating and painstaking tasks for
a successful striper trip is harvesting and keeping the
right bait healthy. Many times after several hours and
hundreds of throws with a cast net, many fishermen are
asking themselves "is this worth the effort? I
thought fishing was supposed to be fun". This can be
harder than digging a ditch in 90 degree weather. In many
cases, the frustrated angler settles for a second rate
bait that can be bought at any tackle store. Most of the
time this results in a lower catch rate, even if you find
a thousand stripers.
The other side of the coin is even worse. Let's say the angler is fortunate enough to harvest some precious herring or shad. Excitedly he drives his boat like a crazed wild man to a location where there are several stripers lurking. The fisherman is ready to battle the arm tiring fish. He lifts the lid of his bait tank only to find his precious pieces of gold floating belly-up, and transformed into worthless pieces of dead smelly fish. This is a pretty disgusting scenario. Big stripers under your boat and no bait to use.
There are several ways to avoid these frustrating situations. First of all you could call in a reputable guide service. Most all striper lakes and rivers have several to choose from. This is a probable solution but most of us cannot afford to hire a guide every time we want to go fishing. However; I do recommend that for the first time striper fisherman to do just that. A good guide service will not only produce fish for you, he will be an educator and teacher. You can learn a lot by fishing with a professional. Many of our customers are fisherman that catch fish on their own, but they will still hire us 2-3 times a year to keep an update of what is going on and to gain more knowledge. It is not a high price to pay to make your year of fishing more productive.
The second option is less expensive and can save a lot of time by buying your bait. The problem with this alternative is to find a bait dealer that handles the right bait. Some of your striper lakes have such dealers but still you may have problems. Shad, as most of you know, are very hard to keep alive and can be very expensive. Even though a bait dealer may have the proper shad or herring, in may cases they are sick or stressed. Buying a dozen shad and arriving at the lake to find them belly up is as frustrating as catching them and having them die. Most bait dealers are equipped only to handle more common bait such as shiners, suckers and chubs. Even though they have shad, sometimes they are in poor condition. Fresh healthy bait is a must for the successful striper trip.
Lake Cumberland is an exception to this rule. Several years ago when I was still in the retail sporting goods business, I designed and built a successful method of commercially harvesting and holding good lively bait. I incorporated all of my knowledge about baitfish, and spent a lot of time on the phone with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources biologist. I gained a lot of knowledge from some of my friends in the Carolina's where they are the true live bait fisherman. After many frustrating attempts, I was finally successful in harvesting and keeping some healthy baitfish. The system was so successful, the KDFWR even took a look at it. Since that time a few of the dealers on Cumberland have adapted and spent the necessary money to set up such a system.
Larry Gillock at Lake Pointe Resort near Alligator #2 in Russell Springs has set up the best system I have seen for keeping bait even in the hot summer. Ron at castaways lodge has a good supply of bait as does Alligator #2, who has good bait until about the middle of June. The hotter the weather, the harder it is to keep good lively shad.
The other option you have is to learn how to catch and keep shad yourself. I want to warn you this doesn't happen overnight and to get set up right it can be expensive.
The first thing you need to do is to check the laws concerning the cast net size on your lake. Conservation Officers frown on illegal net size. When cast nets first started to gain in popularity on Lake Cumberland we were unaware that there were any such laws. We were pretty ignorant about the whole situation. After a few of our cast netters received citations we realized that we had a problem. Our net laws had been on the books for years. Until the introduction of Stripers in Lake Cumberland, no one really used cast nets. Our net size was a 4', 3/8 mesh that opened to 8'. For those of you that use cast nets you know that this is pretty small for catching shad, especially on Cumberland. The net size was becoming a heated issue. I presented a proposal to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources commission at their Spring meeting in the late 80's. They reviewed our proposal and after realizing that the net size would have no detrimental effect on the fishery, the law was changed to 8'. An 8' net opens up to 16', which is plenty large enough to harvest shad on the lake. Each lake has a different net law, and laws are different in every state. Many lakes and rivers have a good supply of shad that can be readily harvested.
Those of you that want to attempt this painstaking task need to realize that several hours of practice in your back yard is required. You will become an artist before you master net throwing. That's right, you will make all kinds of crazy designs with your net. There is the figure 8, the bonna, and the most popular, the eight point star throw.
The artist effect is not your only problem. Just when you feel confident enough to make your first bait catching trip with your newly found skill, your problems may have only just begun. The first time you see a school of shad surfacing, your heart races, your palms sweat, and all of your coordination and grace leave in a split second. You ease up to the shad, no problem you're prepared. You have mastered the skill in your back yard. You're in perfect position, you take your time, this is the moment you have been waiting for. You want everything to be perfect. Now you throw your net and you're an artist again. You make the best eight point star design you have ever made. Disappointed and frustrated you gather your composure to retrieve your net. The you find out that the only thing your $85 dollar net has caught is the top of a stump. After several minutes of struggling to try and free your net, your anger overcomes you. In a disgusted effort to untangle your net, you put your Evinrude in high reverse. With each rip of the net, you feel pains of disgust shoot through your body. Finally you retrieve your shredded net and with great disappointment you bury your net at sea. This will only cause an unwary bass angler problems that he will blame on striper fishermen for his catching of your buried net.
This is on of the many such scenarios you can encounter using a cast net. Bait harvesting with a cast net can be very rewarding, and when things go right, the satisfaction of catching your own healthy bait can be nearly as much fun as catching stripers themselves. Even for veteran anglers, dilemmas such as these still exist. You need to be prepared to buy 2-3 cast nets per year.
Now that you have mastered the cast net, how do you find and keep this fragile fish? I will enlighten you on this subject in my next article. Until then keep on Casting!
For striper fishing charters; contact Tim Tarter/Nancy Guide Service at 606-636-6644 Tim specializes in striper trolling on Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.