The screech of the reel is a dead giveaway for some rockfish action on the Ohio River.

Even if they are not on the agenda today, rockfish, or as they are often known, striper can be a surprise for catfish anglers. Both species like the taste of nightcrawlers.

The rockfish is a saltwater relative of white bass. It resembles the white, but is more elongated and less compressed with nearly straight back. The color of the rockfish is a dark green to blue on top with sometimes brassy tinge which becomes lighter on the sides. Its underside is silvery. Most prominent are the seven to eight narrow stripes along the sides going lengthwise giving birth to the name striper. Weights vary, but generally they are about 5-pounds by their third year. Fish in the 20-plus range are not unusual.

Created in the 1960’s these fish come from fry originally introduced into Lake Barkley. They flourished and with addition of some larger fish in Kentucky Lake the striper as a game fish became popular with anglers. Later due to flooding, the fish established themselves in the Ohio River. Feeding on shad they became popular with anglers. As they will eat both threadfin and the larger gizzard shad they seem to prefer the smaller threadfin. Their ability to eat the larger gizzard shad aided the other game fish which could not feed on them.

Although they spend most of their time roaming deep water, rockfish will move to more shallow water in dam tailwater to spawn and to pursue shad.

A stout 7-food rod with a flexible tip is a good choice for angling. A flexible tip allows the fish to grip the bait without meeting a lot of resistance before he is well hooked.

Although this fish took a nightcrawler, and others do from time to time, the preferred bait for them is threadfin shad. A shad that is lip hooked on a circle hook is hard to beat. However, most anglers use a Kahle style hook.

Areas like this one downstream from a dam or lock contain a lot of riprap and some concrete or boulders are good prospects for finding fish. The gizzard and threadfin shad are attracted to the plankton and algae in the rocks strewn area. The rockfish follow then in and feast on the shad.

Basically rockfish are found anywhere with a current break and an ample food supply.

Whether fishing for rockfish or accidentally hooking into them it is an exciting experience and they are good eating.


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