My weekly striper slurp evaluation trip yesterday was quite interesting. We started earlier than usual (first light) and I attributed the lack of slurpers at my first stop at the mouth of Labyrinth to timing. Maybe we were too early? Then at the east wall in Padre Bay the lack of slurpers was disconcerting. Timing was right and the most dependable location at the mouth of Last Chance was also disappointing with no surface schools seen.
The mystery was finally solved as we found slurping stripers close to the brushy shoreline between Dove Canyon and Dungeon Canyon. Here is what I think is happening in the southern lake:
The slurping stripers we caught and then examined at the fish cleaning station contained the same size tiny shad as has been noted for the last month. While fishing in the brush, I saw schools of larger shad (1 inch to 1.5 inch) using the brush as a defense against attacking stripers and smallmouth bass. Slurping stripers are still looking for the open water newly hatched shad, which are less every day. Baby shad are consumed quickly by hungry predators but a few grow larger by fleeing into the brush cover. Either way, they are less available to slurping stripers waiting in open water.
Slurps will continue to a lesser degree until shad grow larger and are forced to move out of the brush into open water in search of more plankton to eat. The next progression is striper boils, which have begun in mid-July over the past few years. Expect slurps to occur randomly over the next few weeks. Stripers will blow up on shad whenever they get the chance. There will be more slurps in the mid to northern lake because there are more shad there that have been protected by poor visibility from the muddy runoff water.
A recent report indicated that slurps are increasing in the main channel from the mouth of Navajo to Antelope Point Marina. A new shad spawn could also lead to more slurps from Padre Bay to Rainbow Bridge. Surface fishing for stripers is just beginning and will get much better over the summer. Bait fishing for adult stripers is still steady in deeper water in the main channel and the main canyons throughout the lake.
Smallmouth bass have gone deeper. Adult bass are now at 25 feet or deeper. Smaller bass are shallower. Rapidly rising water has displaced many bass. They are following the rising water into the brush in the backs of canyons that are now getting much longer and covering brush that has not been wet for many years. Largemouth bass are following the rising water and residing in brush thickets in three feet of water at the back of canyons and coves.
Walleye are still being caught in good numbers by anglers using bottom bouncing rigs with night crawlers or trolling over brushy flats with shallow running crankbaits. Walleye really like to perch in flooded treetops while waiting for forage fish to swim by. Rattletraps are a good choice now for walleye. We caught a walleye yesterday on a surface lure fished slowly around flooded trees. That fish now wears tag number 2901.
Summer fishing is a lot of fun. Get out early while it is still cool and fish are active. Look for surface action. Target the brushy shoreline to catch a wide variety of species. Surface lures are very effective during the calm morning and evening hours.