First Striper of the Year

It’s been more than a month since I last went fishing at the lake or the forebay. Gina and I spent the latter part of December with my pregnant daughter in Charleston, where I aggravated an old sports injury while playing pickleball with my son. As a result, I ended up with an injured left knee meniscus that still bothers me a bit, but I managed to launch the boat and fish all day without any major issues. However, my return to the lake was further delayed by catching the flu, despite having been vaccinated during the first week back at work this month. It knocked me out for a couple of weeks.

During the past month, I’ve been occupied with a dozen projects, most of them related to preparing for this year’s fishing trips. Unfortunately, the wet weather in the last few weeks didn’t provide many opportunities, but today there was a break in the rain, so I decided to give the forebay a try. The only fly fisherman I know who had gone out in the last couple of weeks was Brian, and he had a pretty good day catching three fish in the lake. Some of my friends who troll and cast plastics in deep water have also had great days in the past three weeks. Typically, this time of year, the fish go deep, and fishing along the shoreline is usually unproductive. I didn’t have high expectations heading out and was just hoping for at least one fish to start the year.

I fueled up the boat and launched it at 9:00 in the morning. The moon had been bright the previous night, and the solunar peaks were around noon. Both the forebay and the lake were as calm as glass in the morning. While driving by the lake, I noticed some birds working bait in Honker Bay, but I was determined to try the forebay first. I needed to buy a new Poppy Pass and address some maintenance issues with the boat, which had been sitting idle for a month. Some of the trailer lights needed replacement, and a guide strut had broken.

Upon arriving, I immediately used the Livescope around the dock.  There always seems to be lots of fish around the dock  but they are very wary fish.   There were only three trailers in the parking lot, and I couldn’t spot any boats on the water. The water wasn’t too muddy from the recent rains, but there was no noticeable current coming in from check 12 or going out at Mederios. I systematically searched for schools of fish in the forebay, and while I did find large concentrations of fish, they simply weren’t biting anything. I tried various gear today, including swimbaits, jigs, and umbrella rigs  after initially attempting to entice them with flies, but I had no luck. I only managed to catch three stripers and a largemouth bass today on flies , despite fishing from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Around noon, I spotted a police boat running towards check 12 with its lights on. I initially thought someone might have drowned, but as it passed by, I noticed some duck hunters in camo on the shoreline, trying to flag it down. I started waving at the rangers as they returned to the dock from check 12. Despite standing and waving both hands above my head, the universal sign of distress, they didn’t even slow down and continued to the dock. I motored over to the hunters on the shoreline and offered my assistance. It turned out to be a husband and wife duck hunting duo who had lost the key to their boat in the water when it broke off its float. I offered them a magnet on a rope to retrieve it, but the key wasn’t cooperating, so I ended up towing them back, which took about an hour. I figured it was a good idea to start the year off with some good karma. The ranger met us at the dock and apologized for not seeing us.

I started the morning by fishing around the power plant and the east side flats and shorelines up to check 12. After the tow-in, I continued fishing in the trench, the 152 channel, the flats next to the 152 channel, and both sides of Mederios. I managed to catch one fish off the wall but made thousands of casts with nothing to show for it.

It was a typical slow January day, which is expected, but the first day back after a long break is always a bit challenging for me. It took some time to get back into the rhythm of things, and the fishing was slow not because there weren’t any fish around but because I found a couple of very large concentrations of fish that all seemed to have lockjaw, and the fish I cleaned for dinner were running on empty.

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