Summer Striper Tactics
By Tom Reynolds from STR Outfitters
As summer approaches Lake Norfork water temperature will continue to rise and reach its peak in late August. Stripers will continue to move towards the dam to find cool waters and oxygen. Stripers require 5 ppm of oxygen to stay healthy and active; as the water temperature rises the stripers will continue to seek deeper water.
As the water warms the striper will move from the mouths of creeks towards the dam. The first area for the mid-lake stripers is the Robinson Point area, the stripers will move to the flats and channels feeding on shad and crawdads. The Big Creek & Brushy Creek fish will move to the Hand Cove, Thumb Point, Shoal Creek, Point 1 and Koso areas. This fish will stay in those areas until the lake turnsover. Stripers will be found in the 40’ water column early in the summer and will progress move deeper. Last August we were catching stripers at 85’, they stayed in that range until fall. This is the easiest time to catch stripers, the three best methods is live shad, trolling, and spooning.
Live gizzard & threadfin shad is and will always be the most productive method to catch stripers. Yes there is a lot of work to catch and maintain live shad but the results are very rewarding. A good depth finder is the most important item you must have on your boat; it’s not worth fishing an area unless you can mark stripers. You should begin to look in the 40’ range and keep moving out until you mark fish, then set your lines from the weight down. I always use a 6’ leader, I never count the leader when I’m counting line down to the fish, shad swims in circles so it’s not important to count the leader.
Trolling is very effective until late summer, the stripers are high in the water column and can be caught using down riggers and long lining with lead core. Umbrella rigs, crank baits, Alabama rigs, and ¾ oz jigs produce the most stripers during this timeframe. When I trolled I would double stack, (2 rods on each downrigger), my downriggers varying the types of baits and depths until I zeroed in on the depth and lure the stripers wanted that day. Late summer the stripers will move close to the bottom and feed on crawdads, trolling becomes ineffective due to the location of the stripers, You cannot get the lure to where the fish are holding, this is when spooning becomes the preferred method.
Spooning is effective year around but the best time of the year to catch stripers using a spoon is when the fish are schooling. You may see thousands of fish feeding on shad anytime during the summer. Just drop your spoon and hold on. As the stripers move deeper and begin to hug the bottom they become easier to catch with spoons. Marking and trying to catch one striper is very difficult, again a good depth finder is your best friend this time of year. From July on you will find stripers on the points near the dam or roaming the channels, its take move patience to fish with a spoon then any other type of fishing. Once you find them drop your spoon to their level and jerk up and slowly lower the spoon, most hits will be on the drop.
Summer striper fishing is the most productive time year, you can catch you limits very quickly, remember, this time of year its very hard to release a fish, they are always deep and will die if you release them. So catch your limit and go home, continue catching and releasing stripers will only kill them.
Tom Reynolds has fished Lake Norfork for over 35 years and guides out of Tracy Ferry Marina; you can reach him at www.stroutfitters.com, 870-421-1541 or on Facebook @ STR Outfitters.