Striper Breakdown

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    Zach Matthews
    The Itinerant Angler

    So, I am going to be giving a talk to the Upper Chattahoochee TU group on Chattahoochee striped bass next Tuesday, August 25, at Ipolito’s on Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell. The event starts at 6:30PM.

    I’ve been asked to give this talk several times in the past and have always demurred. I agreed to do it this time because conditions on the ground have changed; this fishery is much less of secret now and is starting to really need some support. I fear it is in danger of being loved to death.

    First and foremost the talk will address conservation issues. I spoke with some DNR guys on Saturday who were checking licenses, and they reported that they had made 7 busts of people fishing live bait over the preceding week. Live bait IS ILLEGAL on the Hooch from Morgan Falls Dam to the last takeout at 41 Bridge, because it is a designated trout stream all the way to Peachtree Creek. Cut bait is legal in summer time.

    Also illegal on the Chattahoochee from Morgan Falls Dam to 41 Bridge: having multiple rods out at once. Night fishing later than 30 minutes after sunset is illegal (I saw three groups of night fishers violating this rule last night). The NPS maintains a summary of the regulations here:

    With respect to tactics, my experience has been that flies start out big and get smaller as the season progresses. I use 10 weight rods and SA Mastery Streamer Express Clear Tip 400 grain integrated shooting heads with 20 lb. straight mono leaders tied with a blood knot to 15 lb. fluorocarbon tippet, about 8 feet in total. Casting distances are long, sometimes over 100 feet. Longer casts allow you to search more water and maintain distance from the fish, improving stealth. I think minimum reasonable casting range is 60 feet to have a reasonable expectation of success. Float tubes and belly boats or sitting in a kayak is just about pointless. You need to be able to stand to do this right.

    Conditions are everything in this kind of fishing, especially on fly. The most notable correlation between a finite statistic and good fishing that I’ve found is with temperature, although I believe this is a correlation more than a causative factor. If you look at the attached image, anglers I have polled and my own experience shows that the best fishing years have been those in which the minimum river temperature got above 20 degrees celsius. The hotter the year, the better the fishing.

    Hot water temps are correlated with low flows and low turbidity. Years with lots of rain, like 2013 and like this year up until the last two weeks, produce poor fly fishing, although there may be fish in the river for catching on cut bait. Most years the majority of the fish arrive in the river in early to mid June, although they make an earlier spawning run in April/May before returning to West Point lake for a few weeks. The ones which arrive in midsummer are chasing bait fish which themselves are seeking thermal refuge from heat down in West Point. I don’t believe the river stripers themselves need to seek thermal refuge (they can always go deeper to stay cool), but they follow their food source.

    By August the fish tend to be spread out, leaving their original pods behind and establishing feeding positions in the river. They like logjams and will orient sideways to the structure. They also like to patrol the front edges of lateral rock shelves, and will sit in relatively shallow cuts on the fronts of those shelves to ambush fish. In late summer almost every deep hole will have at least a few stripers.

    Tactically the talk is going to focus on soloing for these fish in canoes or kayaks, although this summer I have primarily floated in my drift boat. We’ve been working with Tracy to get comfortable so I have not done as much fishing personally this year. Yesterday, though, Jay Malyon and I together landed four fish out of seven which chased, which is pretty good. Striper fishing is typically more like deer hunting with any day landing more than a handful of fish counted as good. Some anglers will post up on a hole with a pod of fish in it and catch several; these tend to be small but there can be some big fish mixed in.

    Stripers on the Hooch range from the low end of about 3 lbs. up to around 30 lbs. The biggest I have caught on fly is 17 lbs. I’ve seen an 18 lber landed and I know one guy who has broken 25 lbs a few times. An average fish is probably 7-8 lbs. at present.

    From yesterday:

    All are welcome at the talk.


    Scott K.Scott K.

    I spoke with some DNR guys on Saturday who were checking licenses, and they reported that they had made 7 busts of people fishing live bait over the preceding week

    This is fantastic. Great.

    Peter E.Peter E.

    Zach I have read just about everything you have posted on river striped bass, I appreciate you sharing the info on a subject that has way too little written about it. Keep em coming!

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