“The Southern Tackle Box”
Fishing the Striper Highways in July
As I write this piece, it is mid June and overcast. The water on the lake has back tracked in temperature and the lake is still above full pool. I know that the stripers will be moving south soon but with lake levels above full pool the process has slowed. I suspect the majority of the fish are still enjoying well oxygenated water due to all the vegetation along the shores, our wet weather and the cooler water temps. Still, the fish are called to the south end of the lake as the water temps rise and targeting fish along their travel routes are a good way to find success when fishing for stripers. Over the years I’ve enjoyed catching some of my best stripers in July. The fish are moving and there is plenty of bait moving with them. The schools of Blueback Herring migrate to the south to enjoy the cool oxygen rich thermocline in the deeper trenches of the lake. They bask in the cool water in clouds that are 20-40 thick and can run the length of a football field. There is also a mix of threadfin shad in smaller groups floating around the deeper water that are a favorite target of the smaller, quicker fish.
In July, the stripers are grouping up in full force to work together gorging themselves on the huge schools of bait within the thermocline. As they move south, waves of smaller schools of stripers are using the river channel and creek channels as their traveling routes to get down south. These traveling routes of the migrating stripers are a great place to pick off a few while trolling. The fish that are in the creeks generally use the creek channel to move towards the main river channel and the deeper trenches of the south end. Every year one of my favorite areas to target moving stripers is the intersections where creeks meet the river channels. These areas seem like a loitering area for stripers. It’s like they are hanging out on the street corner looking for trouble. Actually, they are ambushing bait as it travels along the same routes as the stripers. One of my favorite tactics for July is trolling along the edge of the river channel, moving from deep to the upper edges of the channel and back down into the channel. I use this pattern to work the intersections, and if you are patient, you can generally find a few in these areas. If I am working the river channel exclusively, I generally drop my downrigger bait deep in the treeless bottom of the channel and target a bigger fish. Generally the bigger fish travel below the smaller stripers so running downrigger baits deeper in the river channel can yield a bigger fish. As far as my tackle selection, I’m generally running baits that are 4-7 inches in length and a couple of my favorite successful colors for July are a Blueback pattern, chartreuse over white and a pearl white color. Jig weights are generally 1-3 ounces and usually my target depth is 25-35 feet.
I know there is an increase in boat traffic on Lanier during July, but it’s been my experience that the suspended stripers are rarely bothered by the traffic. They are 30 feet below the traffic a they usually go about their business oblivious to the boats above. Leadcore and downriggers with artificials are a great way to target summer stripers on Lanier and checking those striper highways and intersections are a great way to find a few good fish in July. Stay cool this summer and enjoy the hot striper action.