If you live near a southern impoundment, you’ll notice the loons have arrived! And they are here for one reason…to fill their bellies. Every winter loons and seagulls show up on our area lakes to feed on schools of threadfins, shiners and herring. For us anglers, the loons are beacons that tell us where to fish. They are extremely efficient anglers themselves, literally flying beneath the surface as they feed.
And where there is bait, there will also be stripers, hybrids and bass close by.
Actively diving loons are a sure indicator of bait in the area. They work in pairs or large groups. When you see the large floating groups of loons, that’s a great place to drop your live herring, or troll a Captain Mack’s Umbrella rig or a Project-X X-Rig. Casting spoons and bucktail jigs will also generate a bite.
Now, sometimes loons can fool us anglers too. If they are actively feeding, it does indicate a presence of bait. However, there may not be gamefish right there. Remember, there’s lots of bait pods in the lake, and the schools might be targeting a wad of bait 100 yards away from the group of loons. So you may have to do a little looking around.
In the coming weeks, the seagulls will show up, and that’s when it gets really interesting. Seagulls cannot dive in the water for food. They rely on something else, like loons or gamefish, to push the bait to the surface…and they swoop down to pick their meals off the top of the water. Seagulls will hang around flocks of loons for this reason. And, they have great eyesight from above, so they can see schools of stripers working bait below. Sometimes you’ll have all three working together, and that’s the money spot. If you see seagulls whirling and diving, and there are no loons around, get ready for an awesome bite. And this is true for both spotted bass and largemouth as well.
Right now, most lake temperatures are steadily dropping. Temps are in the mid to upper 50’s right now. That’s perfect water for stripers and hybrids.
Fish the major creeks, and you may need to go all the way to the backs of them to find the schools of bait. The key from now til the early spring will be to find bait. Typically, you’ll be fishing water less than 60 feet, but because the lakes are turning over, and dissolved oxygen will be good throughout the water column, you could find them very deep, especially on a sunny day. Start early, and shallow, then move to the deeper pockets around the creek mouths.
If your local bait store has rainbow trout or large gizzard shad available, be sure to put a few of those in your baitwell too. Gizzard shad are hardy, and will last all day in the well. And, provided you hook them correctly, they will last a good while on the troll. Bigger baits will attract larger fish. But always keep a couple of smaller baits in your spread too, like bluebacks or shiners. Remember the old saying… “Elephants eat peanuts.”
Capt. Mack’s Umbrella Rigs, Project-X X-Rigs, and Project-X Saucertails in white will draw strikes. Try putting a small 00 Clark Spoon on the center leader of an umbrella rig. And both downlined and freelined herring are good choices. Pulling planer boards close to the bank will get you some great bites, and a bonus spotted bass too.
You can get all your striper gear, lures and rigs at www.NutsAndBoltsFishing.com. We’ll get you hooked up! And watch our TV episodes on catching stripers and hybrids on CarbonTV.com.
Stay safe on the water and catch ‘em up.
Capt. Cefus McRae and Buck The Wonder Dog.