Archive for the ‘Stripers’ Tag

SUMMER ON THE OHIO RIVER   Leave a comment

The Ohio River has a long and varied history. It can be the mother of commerce or it might turn against civilization with floods beyond imaginations.  But to the angler it can lead to tributaries plump with a number of game species.

Nestled beneath a large bluff on the Ohio River, is the Golconda Marina, gateway to Smithland Pool.  The marina is the entrance to the some 23,000-acres of recreational water that is the river and its tributaries.

Unusually wet weather swells the normally placid looking main channel with high water.  It is not so much the volume of water that crimps the fishing in this region; it is the junk that washes downstream during the high water.  It can make navigation dangerous as huge cottonwoods floating down from areas to the northeast can damage a boat and snag fishing gear.

Smithland Pool refers to the section of the Ohio above the Smithland Lock and Dam at Hamletsburg.  The pool is more than 72 miles in length.  The shoreline, numerous islands and deep clean water attract thousands of anglers each year.  They prowl the shoreline in search of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, sauger, striped bass, white bass and catfish.

Located in the town of Golconda, the marina offers overnight moorage, covered slips, boat rental, gas, diesel, shower facilities, mechanic service, and food.

Down river, the Smithland Lock and Dam is an exciting fishery of striped bass and hybrid striped bass.  These battlers are very challenging in the current of the river.  Anglers target these fish with big surface poppers, plastic jerkbaits and jigging spoons.  The fishing is best as the river is on the rise as well as when the water levels run about 35 feet.  Good locations for those looking for these scrappers are the heads of islands early in the morning and late in the evening. When the locks are open the stripers seek out the fast flowing water that washes bait fish through the dam.

Largemouth bass inhabit the river.  Generally the better bass action is in the feeder creeks just off the main river channel.  The brushy areas and stump fields of Lusk Creek are the most popular area for bass anglers.  The mouth of the creek is just a short distance from the marina and convenient to enter.  One just exits the marina cove and enters the first creek to the south.

The best summer fishing times are from dawn to about 9:00 a.m. and two hours before dusk until the light is gone.

During summer months, bass require a little finesse in lure presentation.  Slow roll spinnerbaits in standing timber of the old channel.  Following any rain, the creek tends to muddy up.  Then it is time to get out the salt craws.  Black, electric blue and chartreuse are the best colors.  Again it is good to fish the wood, any wood, which is just off the main channel.

Best known as a catfish factory, the Ohio has huge numbers of channels and blues.  Anglers present natural baits such as cut shad on the bottom near current breaks.  The best time to go catfishing seems to be when the water is rising or is at a high water mark.  The action seems to be best in about 10 to 18 feet of water and near the wing dams on the river.

For the bluegill anglers, the streams agree the best bet.  Good quality fish will take baits such as worms, pieces of shrimp, or crawfish.  Work the baits around the submerged tree tops and brush.

Crappie anglers jig with long poles back into the wood.  They “dip minnows” near the wood seeking big fish resting in the shade.  The key is to jig near visible cover.  The creeks have plenty to choose from.

Although the best known fishing locations are downstream from the marina, there are numerous feeder creeks to the upstream side.  In all the 51 miles stretch between Smithland Lock and Dam and the Saline River, there are 10 major and 12 minor streams entering the river from the Illinois side.  An additional 8 major streams and 5 minor ones enter the river from the Kentucky side.



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.


Ohio Backwater Striper 1

Reel screeching runs from a big brawny fish breaks tackle.   Hybrids and Stripers of the Ohio River are a difficult challenge.  Anglers in western Kentucky find these transplants pay big dividends in fishing action.

The striper is a saltwater relative of the white bass.  It resembles the white but is more elongated and less compressed with a nearly straight back.  The color of the striper is a dark greenish to bluish on top with sometimes a brassy tinge that becomes lighter on the sides.  The underside is silvery.  Most prominent are the seven to eight narrow stripes along the sides going lengthwise from which they gain their name.  Generally they reach a weight of about 5 pounds by their third year.  Fish in the 20 plus range are common.

The introduction in the 1960′s of striper fry into Lake Barkley created a fishery that is flourishing.  It was part of a number of such stockings across Kentucky and parts of Tennessee.  Some larger fish went into Kentucky Lake.   Over time they moved out of the lake and down river into the Ohio River.  Additional stocking by the Kentucky fisheries people added to the population.

Feeding on gizzard shad they provide a service to the other populations of game fish in the area.  They feed on the larger shad which the bass and catfish ignore.

Stable water levels are important to striper fishing success.  Both Kentucky and Barkley Lakes vary in water level beginning in April through September.  The Tennessee Valley Authority controls the levels.  Although water levels can vary from day to day generally they are stable from October through March.

Over the years stripers have made their way through the Kentucky dams at the north end of the lakes and established strong populations in the downstream waters especially those below Smithland Dam.

Although stripers spend most of the year roaming deep open water in pursuit of shad, they seem to be more concentrated in the spring.  Stable water conditions coupled with spawning shad cause the stripers to move to the more shallow water and dam tailwaters.  Anglers move in and cast both lures and live bait into the fast moving waters.

Heavy bass gear will handle these fish.  A medium or heavy rod and bait cast reel with 15 plus pound monofilament line will work well.  A 7-foot rod with a flexible tip is a good choice.  The flexible tip allows fish to grab the bait without meeting with a lot of resistance before they are safely hooked.

Live bait, either shad or skipjack are productive bait.  The rockfish’s voracious eating habits allow it to gobble up the bait before the angler is even aware of the strike.  A 2/0 to 4/0 Kahle or circle style hooks hold the live bait.

Some rockfish take topwater lures such as the Cordell Redfins trolled in the early morning hours.  Later in the day one can move up close to the dams and locks and cast large jigging spoons and Shad imitations.  Large jigs (l ounce) with plastic bodies in pearl or white colors seem to work well.

Electronics locate large schools of fish as they chase the shad.  Once a school is located anglers probe it by jigging, trolling lures or with live bait on downriggers.  The jigging is more exciting and productive.

Downstream from the dams or locks, rip rap banks are most productive.  The gizzard and threadfin shad are attracted to the plankton and algae between the rocks.  The stripers follow them in and feast on the shad.

Another good downstream location is the sheltered side of islands.  Small islands deflect current.  As the bait fish move into eddies to rest, the stripers will be waiting for them.  Some stripers are found on the upstream end of islands but not as many as will be found downstream.  Generally stripers are anywhere that there is a current break and a good food supply.

Fishing for stripers is an exciting sport and if you decide to keep a couple, they are excellent eating.





Spring mornings in southern Illinois are often wooly with the mists off the water.  But, they are for fishing.  No more so than on Cedar Lake near Carbondale, Illinois.

Originally envisioned by Wayman Presley as a private lake for land development, Cedar Lake never got off his drawing board.  The city fathers of Carbondale, determined that it was more important as a water source for the growing college town.  They took over the project.  The end result is a deep clear lake with no development along the shoreline and water that the citizens of Carbondale now consume.

Started in 1973, this lake is nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, four miles southwest of Carbondale.  Cedar Lake reached full pool by 1975.  The shoreline belongs to the City of Carbondale and the U.S. Forest Service.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages the fishery.

The awesome hills and cliffs enhance the fishing experience.  To those who have fished Canadian shield-lakes, the surroundings will look familiar.  The lack of development on the shoreline, rocky bluffs, and towering hills make one think of the unspoiled past frozen in place on this lake.  Wildlife abounds in the woods that come right up to the water’s edge.  Bass are the most popular species taken, but bluegill, crappie, catfish and a few walleye also prowl these waters.

Largemouth bass fishing in Cedar Lake is good with numbers of legal size and trophy bass.  There is a 14″ – 18″ protected slot length limit.  Harvest of bass less than 14 inches appears to be almost non-existent according to IDNR studies of the lake.  The daily creel limit on this lake is five bass under 14 inches and one over 18 inches.  Anglers are encouraged to harvest the bass less than 14 inches to improve the overall condition of the population.  Thinning out of the smaller bass increases the growth rate and body condition of the remaining fish.

Largemouth bass take such crankbaits as Pop-R and Rat-L-Traps.  During the first half of the month, the bass are usually just completing their spawn.  Although the females are not actively feeding, the males are protecting the nests.  They guard the nests until the fry hatch and for several days later.  This makes the males very aggressive and they will attack lures presented to them.  Fish are off drop-offs and ledges, the basic structure in the lake.

Early in the month bass will be in the shallows and bedding areas.  The smaller fish seem to be shallow and the larger fish in deeper water.  Later in the month they move around the points and break lines leading to deep water.  Springs best fishing seems to be in about 20 feet of water.  For those deep fish, try a plastic worm at about 25 feet.

Crappies tend to be off structure in 12 to 14 feet of water.  They begin to school up near major points, drop offs, and creek channels.  They can be quickly located by trolling small crankbaits through the areas over structure.  Areas with good cover are best.  Minnows and small jigs are the preferred baits, with the average fish running 8 to 10 inches in length.

Bank anglers do well with bluegills.  May is usually the first and best spawning month for this species.  Early in May, they will take mealworms and red wigglers.  Red wigglers and crickets are the ticket later in the month.  Suspend the bait is beneath a very small float for the best action.  Most fish come from about 6 feet of water early in the month and get deeper as it wears on.  By the end of the month they could be as deep as 15 feet.

Channel catfish prowl the shorelines in search of food and a place to spawn.  Bullheads, a catfish sub-species are here as well.  Worms and nightcrawlers are the favorite food of these fish this month.  If the weather is unseasonably cool, then dip-bait, a cheese based lure can produce results.  In warm weather, the results are not so consistent.

Most fishing on Cedar Lake is from boats with access in a number of locations.  There is a 10-horsepower limit on boat motors.  For more site specific information on regulations, contact the U.S. Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest, Murphysboro, IL 62966.  The phone number is 618-687-1731.




There is nothing that will stir the heart like the whine of a reel when a Striper or Hybrid Striper has taken your bait.  These striped rockets are the state’s greatest battler according to Steve Pall, former IDNR Fisheries Chief.

Although Illinois does not aggressively stock the river, Illinois anglers benefit from the extensive stocking program of Kentucky.  Although the stripers and hybrid stripers are to be found all along the southern edge of Illinois in the Ohio River, it is one of the under fished for species.  The river produces 3- to 10-pound striped bass and 8- to 10-pound hybrids.

Most of the stripers and hybrids are probably caught incidental to catfish and sauger fishing.  They bite on both cut bait and artificial lures.  If they are in feeding mode, the fish takes topwater lures like the Zara Spook, according to local angler Charles Vaughn.  He fishes the river frequently for stripers.  In high water conditions, he prefers the Rat-L-Traps and other crankbaits.

If the water is clear, he recommends chrome and black or another other shad imitation.  In darker water he selects bright colors.

Vaughn prefers 7 to 7 ½ foot rods spooled with 12-pound line in areas where there are rocks.

Charles fishes the fast running water in the tailwaters below Smithland Lock and Dam.  Fishing from a large flat bottom boat, he anchors with the bow into the current for safety.  He reaches the fishing waters by putting in at the Golconda Marina (618-683-5875) and then traveling down stream and through the Lock and Dam.  Once through the locks, he then moves back up to the dam area.

Stripers are a saltwater relative of the white bass.  Stripers have a straighter back and are dark green on top with a brassy tinge that is lighter on the sides.  The underside is silver in color.

The most prominent feature is the presence of seven or eight narrow horizontal stripes on the sides.  Hence the species name.  The side stripes on the hybrid are less distinct and definitely broken.

Hybrids tend to grow faster making them more popular with anglers.  They usually are 5 pounds by the third year of their life.

Fishing for the Smithland striped rockets is usually best when he water is at normal pool and moving well.  Water in this area of the river can change quickly due to weather and storm water run off from up river.  In high water as well as low water conditions the turbidity affects the fishing adversely.  Regulars on the river check the U.S. Corps of Engineers website for water levels.  The site is at www.CorpsLakes.US.

Information on accommodations is available from the Southernmost Tourism Bureau at their website of



Stripers caught in survey nets by Shawn Hirst, IDNR Fisheries Manager in a Pyramid State Park Lake

Pyramid State Park in Perry County presents a tailor made fishing experience for anglers of all levels of expertise. Twenty-two lakes spread over the 19,700 acres of the park provide anglers with a wilderness fishing experience, a child’s experience, bass boat experience, deep water fishing, and wade fishing. Just match your fishing style to the lake that provides the species you seek.

This unique fishing opportunity includes a chance to catch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, muskie, northern pike, both black and white crappie, bluegills, redear sunfish and channel catfish. One lake also has striped bass hybrids. Gizzard shad, common carp and brown bullheads are found in some areas as are spotted gar, freshwater drum and quillback.

The park is accessible from DuQuoin, Illinois via Illinois Highway 152 West (7 miles) or from Pinckneyville, IL on Illinois Highway 127 South (6 miles).

Site specific regulations are posted as well as being available at the IDNR park office on the property. They also have a list of the lakes and what species are stocked into them. The idea of the stocking plan was to place fish in a way that does not give a specific species the advantage over all others. For instance, Green Wing Lake (Lake #2) has an excellent crappie population. Also present are channel catfish, common carp, gizzard shad and brown bullhead. A few walleyes up to 25 inches have been caught.

Striped bass hybrids up to 20-inches in length are found over in Super Lake (Lake #13). These fish come from a one time only stocking of 1150 two-inch fish in 2003. There are a good number of hybrids in the lake as well as common carp, bluegill, channel catfish, freshwater drum, quillback and largemouth bass.

Goldeneye Lake is known for redear and other sunfish the lake.

The clear clean water of these lakes can be as deep as 70 feet but the water quality is so good that fish do very well. It also means that fish have an excellent view of surface activity such as approaching anglers. Some lakes can be fished from boats, canoes, or even a bass boat with a 10 horsepower or smaller engine. Others must be approached only on foot via hiking trails.

For those with physical limitations there is Crystal Lake at the entrance to the park. It has several boat docks from which people can fish. There are some big bass in that area.

Canvasback Lake (Lake #4) contains crappie, bluegill and channel catfish. Mallard Lake (Lake #5) has black and white crappie, common carp, bluegill and gizzard shad. Bluewing Lake (Lake #6) produces white crappie as well as a number of white bass, channel catfish, common carp, gizzard shad and spotted gar.

For information about park hours and site specific rules contact the IDNR Site Superintendent’s office at: Pyramid State Park, RR #1, Box 115A, Pinckneyville, Illinois 62274. The phone number is 618-357-2574.

CRUISING KENTUCKY – DAY 2   Leave a comment

In a previous posting of this blog I told of fishing below Kentucky Dam for stripers. (Tailwaters & Hybrid Stripers) That was Day 1 of my cruise across western Kentucky to attend the AGLOW Spring Cast & Blast at Eddy Creek Marina and Resort.

Day 2 begins in a tackle shop next to the Pelican Restaurant in Lake City, KY. Guide Jim Doom ( and I loaded up for a shot trip down to the ramp on the Tennessee River. Jim guides for catfish, bluegill, redear, sauger smallmouth as well as our target for today of Hybrids and White Bass.

The wooly mists dissolved into the woods as we approach the ramp and drop the boat. The water is rising and Jim explains that it is water that is backing up from the Ohio River as it enters the flood stage.

First item on the agenda is to catch some shad for bait. You can’t get any more fresh bait that this. A few casts of the bait net and we had some gizzard shad in the bucket. But, we cannot find any threadfin shad which are Jim’s preferred choice.

We move up river to Kentucky Dam from whose shore I had fished yesterday. The rig was simple. A bait cast reel with 12 pound line is the basic tool. The end of the line contains a 2/0 circle hook with the gizzard shad attached. About two feet up the line from the hook and bait, a drop line with a sinker is attached. The result is the sinker moving along the bottom with the bait held just off the bottom to entice a striper.

Drifting from the dam area down stream a couple of hundred yards does not produce any bites. We repeat the process a number of times with no results. We even attempt to anchor near the bridge downstream with similar results. Jim sees some threadfin shad in the rip rap and our luck is going to change.

A single cast of the bait net catches a goodly number of threadfins. We motor downriver several miles to a spot that Jim knows well. A grain field is flooded and a current break is formed on the shore. We switch to spinning gear and lighter line but with the same rig. The exception is that we now have threadfin shad as bait.

Casting to the shoreline, we allow the bait to drift down stream toward some flooded brush and timber. Almost immediately, Jim catches a couple of hybrids and I hook into a nice smallmouth bass. I lose the smallmouth. Soon we are catching hybrids and white bass with regularity. We continue until our time is almost over.

Deciding to give the smallmouth bass a try, we move to another area. There we anchor between a barge and a rip rap cove. Shortly I hook into a nice channel catfish right up on the rip rap only inches from the shore. Jim catches a nice smallmouth and our time is over. It is back to the ramp.

Our catch for the day consists of hybrid stripers, white bass, channel catfish, Asian carp, smallmouth bass, threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and yellow bass. Not a bad half day.


A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to fish western Kentucky as part the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers annual Spring Cast & Blast event.  We were guests of:  The Lake Barkley Tourist Commission, City ofMarion Tourism Commission, Eddy Creek Marina Resort, and Winghaven Lodge. 

On the way, I saw a sign for a visitor center atKentuckyLakeDam.  Deciding to learn a little about the dam I headed that way.  I was met with good news and bad news.  Bad news was that the center was closed.  Good news was that the fishing along the rip rap below the dam was great.  The sun disappeared behind cloud cover promising good fishing conditions. 

The dam is 206 feet high with half of that below the surface of the water.  The lake behind the dam stands 50 feet higher than the original surface of theTennessee Riverto the south.  Down river theTennesseeeventually flows into the Ohio River to the north of the dam nearPaducah,KY. 

Using a white fluke rigged Texas-style I succeded in catching a couple of skipjack herring.  Then I got serious about the stripers.  I used the skipjack as cut bait and proceed to catch a couple of stripers about 10 pounds in size.  Others around me catch more and also catch them on the white flukes.  I happened to notice that the smaller skipjack bore a strong resemblance to the new Sebile Magic Swimmer lures. 

I happened to have some of the soft ones in my tackle box and decided to give them a try before heading up toEddyCreekfor our event.  I did not have any circle hooks but did rig one on a 1/0 worm hook,Texasstyle.  I only had a few minutes to rig it and get the lure in the water.  Second cast resulted in a strike from what seemed to be a big fish.  He broke off before I could get a good look at him.  A few more casts and I caught another skipjack and a small white bass. 

Some of the gates of the dam were open and they contributed to the current flow.  Most of the fish are caught along the edge of the current flow about 50 yards down stream.  About 6 skipjack were caught for every striper bite.  I was told that the stripers are in this water in search of the skipjack as forage.  Many of the stripers were not landed.  They would break off in the heavy current and large rip rap rocks. 

The locals fishing along side of me claimed that the skipjack are not good eating and they only keep enough for bait.  The stripers on the other hand are prized for their taste. 

Parking at the dam is ample in the lot and there are concrete stairs leading down to the shore.  However the walking along the shore is difficult.  Large rocks along the rip rap shoreline are extremely difficult to transverse.  Walk slowly lest you sprain an ankle or worse. 

All too soon it is time for me to leave and continue on my travels across the westernKentuckycountryside to the Eddy Creek Resort onLakeBarkleyfive miles south of the town ofEddyCreek.

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