Striper Trips -San Luis Reservoir
First off, my top specialty is fishing for trophy stripers, so it’s just natural that one of my favorite places is San Luis Reservoir, located west of Los Banos on Highway 152, and where the previous world record striped bass at 67.8 pounds was caught.
First, San Luis Reservoir has two impoundments. There is the big lake located above the Dam which holds over 2 million acre feet of water full-and then theres the smaller and shallower lower Forebay reservoir at the base of the dam. Water from the Delta is pumped up into the big lake and then back out again to the Forebay where it is routed to the south in the California Aqueduct.
The Forebay can be good fishing, but the large upper reservoir is our main focus for most of the year due to more structure and deeper water. This gives us more effective fishing options most of the year. Stripers can be taken year round, but most veterans like the late fall months of Oct/Nov. and on into March. To hit the lake due to low winds and more active fish in the cooler water. It’s a lake that makes it impossible to predict just how big a fish you might hook on the next cast, and that’s why I love it. This is the lake I recommend as my first choice!
The lake has a healthy diverse population of stripers that range from small to huge-making it a great choice for numbers and size. San Luis Reservoir is a large and deep lake , so using techniques like trolling- using downriggers- to cover shallow as well as deep structure where schools of stripers hold –has been very effective for us. Our tackle is typically 8 to 9 foot rods spooled with 20 pound Big Game monofilament line-big enough to handle a trophy.
The average striper is a healthy 20 to 24 inches long, (3 to 4 1/2lbs) more than big enough to give anglers a good battle. Stripers tend to stay down and fight it out-like a bulldog. We have had trophy stripers as big as 42 ½ inches and 30 pounds this season-which we have released after pictures. In 2014 we had 20 fish at/or over 20 pounds and 5 over 30 pounds!
Custom Only Striper Trips – Millerton Lake
My home water for the last 50 years has been Millerton Lake, just 15 miles north of Fresno in central California, where I hold the official striped bass record of 50.3 pounds.
The huge fish was 4 foot long! It’s a much tougher lake to fish for linesides, due to a relatively small population of non reproducing fish as well as unpredictable water flows and changing lake levels.
I will only be offering a small number of custom striper trips this year based on the current conditions – all of which will all be only “catch and release” trips to protect the fishery.
The average striper is near 20 pounds and unofficial fish to over 60 pounds have been weighed in. The main times to fish are from May to July but the winter months can produce some good catches in the main lake areas. Get one on your line here and you better have some serious tackle to land it. This irrigation lake can be good, but the coming wet season will determine if it will rebound this season.
*If you’re interested in planning a custom trip please call me about the possibility.
American Shad -Millerton Lake –
Custom Trips ( May to July)
Millerton has a largely unknown and untapped healthy population of mature American shad that go upriver in the spring to spawn in large numbers. The fish can reach upwards of over 5 pounds and most are in the 1 ½ to 3 pound range. These little rockets are renowned fighters and a favorite target of flyfisherman. They can also be caught on small mini jigs and spoons.
Shad trips will be done on a custom basis since water conditions are critical to finding the schools. The season is usually from May to July for the main run.
Once you find a school it can be epic fishing for multiple fish. Most anglers use light 6 ½ to 7 ½ foot trout rods with 6 lb. test line to fish for shad or a trout rated fly rod.
A note on “Catch and Release”
In today’s high pressured fishing environment its become more important than ever for anglers to practice “catch and release” whenever possible. Our fisheries are not being restocked in most cases, and good anglers are now realizing that the big fish are the key gene pool carriers we need to keep producing giants.
I think many anglers like myself have tried to become much more conscientious about putting fish back now than we used to be. Some species like Stripers have a moratorium against any planting for the present, making them very susceptible to over fishing.
I have ratcheted up my own release program in the last year to nearly 100% because I believe it’s critical!
In response -I have instituted several strategies to put as many fish back in good condition as possible.
First, I use a Boga grip to handle fish as they are landed-keeping them off the boat surface and floor as much as possible so they don’t hurt themselves while thrashing. In most cases we even release the fish after removing the hooks while holding it by the grip over the water – never bringing it in the boat.
In the case of fish caught at depth, we use a “fizzing needle” to release the internal pressure a fish builds up as it comes to the surface. Done correctly the most recent research shows this technique can be nearly 100 % effective in getting fish to go back down and remain healthy.
The greatest breakthrough in returning fish to their habitat with minimal contact and maximum effectiveness has been the Seaqualizer Release Tool. It is a tool that has a clamp you can close on the fishes lower lip, then the angler attaches the other end of the tool to the downrigger cable.
Lowering the downrigger cable takes the tool and the attached fish down to a selected depth where the pressure opens up the clamp and the now free fish swims away at a depth it was at before.
Good pictures and measurements can get you an outstanding mount, while watching the beast swim away!
Let’s keep our fisheries healthy and productive!
– Roger George