To find the fish, look above the water, not below.
Seagulls are nature’s fish locator when it comes to catching fish at Beaver Lake and other big Ozark reservoirs where schools of threadfin shad dwell.
All game fish eat threadfin shad. So do gulls. Where fishermen see gulls swirling over the water, that’s a good spot to fish.
These minnow-sized baitfish travel the lake’s open water in tremendous schools swirling with thousands of shad. When gulls start feeding on shad from above, chances are good that hungry striped bass, white bass or black bass are feeding below.
Cast a spoon, crank bait or anything that resembles a shad and hang on. These fish are eager to bite
A fishing trip one drizzly March day proved it.
Word from the fishing grapevine is that striper fishing was going strong on the south half of Beaver. Trolling was the way to catch them. Live bait such as shad or brood minnows work best, but lures work, too.
Off we motored down the lake from the Arkansas 12 bridge ramp heading south. It was a chilly ride to an area north of Horseshoe Bend Park where we shut down the outboard. Beaver Lake was smooth as tile in a cloak of fog.
We started trolling with two rods. Each had a lure that resembled threadfin shad tied to the line.
The trolling whispered its hum as we moved at a crawl toward Horseshoe Bend. The depth finder screen showed the occasional school of shad, indicating the baitfish were 10 to 40 feet deep. A hefty white bass was the first fish to bite, but that was our only catch in an hour of trolling.
We knew the action was about to change when we took a gander east to the mouth of Blackburn Creek. A flock of gulls, 50 or more, dive-bombed the water, splashing and plucking shad off the surface.
We fired up the outboard and headed to the gulls. Birds banked close to the boat while we grabbed our fishing rods. This time we lowered jigging spoons vertically over the side of the boat. The lures didn’t sink five feet before attacking fish nailed them. Right away we swung two big white bass aboard that weighed 3 pounds each, two of the largest whites we’d seen at Beaver Lake.
Our catching fever hit the red line when we saw huge fish come splashing to the surface to gorge on shad. These were no white bass. Some swirls were the size of truck tires and could only come from striped bass, big striped bass.
Giant fish right beside the boat rattled our nerves while we frantically tied on Red Fish top-water lures, a favorite at Beaver Lake. A long, minnow-shaped Red Fin can be cast a country mile and makes an irresistible wake on the surface when it’s retrieved.
It took a couple casts, but a 10-pound striper hammered the Red Fin. More stripers surfaced all around while we did our best not to lose the fish on the line. Finally, the striper was in the boat and unhooked.
Now we watched stripers herd a bunch of shad close to shore. The commotion was unbelievable where these leg-long stripers fed and thrashed in water three feet deep, like lions cornering a herd of wildebeest. We vibrated with fishing excitement, but managed to launch the Red Fin toward the ruckus.
A striper chased the lure but missed, then came back for seconds. A hard hook-set and this striper wasn’t getting away.
We had a fight on our hands, both of them. This was a big striper that dug for the bottom, stripping yards of 10-pound line off the baitcast reel and bent the rod to the butt. The striper nearly pulled all the line off the reel before we gained some back. The big fish was getting closer.
A big landing net is a must for big fish. We slid ours under the fish and groaned bringing it aboard. There on the boat floor a heavy striper thumped in the net. Wide-eyed and shaking, we whipped a measuring tape out of the tackle box. Thirty-five inches long. That’s a striper that’ll make anyone’s day.
You can bet the house we’ll be watching the sky as much as the water next time we’re on safari for stripers at Beaver Lake.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports on 04/03/2018