By Mark Fike
After hunting for two months straight it can be very nice to take a break and go wet a line. Some outdoorsmen and women wait for warm weather to fish. I take the opportunity any time I can get it, particularly if the fish are biting.
I have fished with Chris McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service on a few occasions and I have found him to be the most professional guide at Virginia’s Lake Anna. Lake Anna has a thriving landlocked striped bass population and now a white bass/striped bass hybrid population as well. These fish are healthy, thick and bend your rod to the limits.
The trip we took with McCotter was in December and it was cold enough we wore masks making the run uplake to find the bait and therefore find the fish. But, the run was well worth it as we took home some fine eating fish!
The first tip I would offer anyone that is not experienced for fishing in the cold is to layer up and take a bit more clothing than you feel you might need. Take something windproof too, and keep it in the truck on the way to the lake so it is warm when you put it on. Take hand warmers too.
Second, if you have not fished that particular body of water for striped bass or hybrids it would be well worth your time and your money to hire a reputable guide. Fishing in the winter months can be fantastic…if you know where the fish are.
Guides keep tabs on the fish and know exactly what baits the fish have been interested in. During our trip, McCotter knew what area of the lake to run to. We went straight to the spot and within fifteen minutes of arriving we had keeper fish in the boat.
The great thing about the guides is that they work with all skill levels. Despite me, my father and my father in law having a pretty good resume of fishing experience, our guide was able to offer us quick tips as he observed our technique to put the fish in the boat. We gained some valuable experience on our trip.
The guide also has the right arsenal of tackle. Our trip was no exception. I did not have to change lures a half dozen times to figure out what the fish were after. The guide knew.
Third, the fish can be concentrated, but they do move. It is not like the fish just sit in a spot waiting to be caught. Using a fish finder is important, but only if you know how to use it. I got a quick crash course on the fish finder on the boat we were fishing from. The finder was a new model and the guide was kind enough to explain the benefits of it and various settings. This was another perk to hiring a guide.
Once you find the fish, spoons, and jigs tipped with plastic shad imitations are often the top offering. The key to getting strikes on your lures is to be sure the bait reaches the depth the fish are located. Counting down the bait or simply letting it sink and then working it up in hops through the fish will work.
Another big consideration is to approach a school of fish quietly. If you don’t approach quietly or make a lot of noise in the boat, the school may scatter and you may not have them regroup. The fish don’t necessarily feed all day long and they definitely can vanish quickly.
When fishing for the first time in a few weeks, it pays to check in with the marina and fish for some info on the latest fishing reports to include location, lure choice, depth and size class of fish that you may encounter.
These are the basic tips for successful striper fishing on lakes across America in the winter. The devil is in the details though so be sure to do your homework on the particular lake you intend to fish. Marinas, guides and guide’s websites are a gold mine. If you happen to be in Virginia and want a stellar striper trip this winter, give Chris a call at (540) 894-3540 or go to his site www.mccotterslakeanna.com or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/McCottersLakeAnnaGuideService. Tell him I sent you.