Strange Day on the Lake today…

Monday  May 6, 2024 – Just two days ago, the weather at San Luis Reservoir was dreary with rain, wind, and cold, and I wasn’t optimistic about today’s prospects given the iffy wind forecast. However, upon arriving at the lake, I noticed the inspection station had been permanently relocated to the front gate, equipped with electricity and internet access to handle credit card payments. The staff at the kiosk seemed pleased with the change, as the internet access kept them entertained during slower periods. I launched my boat at 8:30 AM under cautionary yellow lights, hoping the westerly winds would be mitigated by the terrain, but I was already committed to a day of fishing. I sailed downwind, riding the wind waves to the Bay of Pigs. Recent reports had been underwhelming, and it had been two weeks since Dan, Vaughn, and I last found a large school of fish at the racks, landing over 40 fish from the north pillar.

The water levels had dropped 20 feet in recent weeks, and it seemed the pumps were off, unless they were redirecting water to the forebay. Typically, you can spot currents indicating outward pumping between the pillars. In conversation with Vaughn, I was hopeful that the outgoing water might draw the schools of stripers closer to the structures.

I began fishing on the east side of the Bay of Pigs as the wind made it impossible to stand in the boat near the dam. There were some mud lines in the area; I focused on these and scanned the shoreline for fish. Although I located some fish with my sonar, they weren’t biting. Mud lines usually aren’t productive without baitfish. Typically in May, baitfish are plentiful, but today, my sonar and livescope showed none. As the wind subsided, I moved to fish along the dam, using a technique that involves casting far from the rocks and adjusting the trolling motor to parallel the shoreline. It’s crucial to maintain distance from the rocks to avoid spooking the fish. I used a T-14 line with a 7-foot, 15-pound test leader, casting a 3-inch Lee Haskin-style fly with heavy eyes, a dark brown wing instead of olive, and long orange crystal flash for the gills, which suggests claws. In the absence of minnows, I suspected the stripers were scavenging for crawdads, panfish, shrimp, and gobies along the rocky bottom. The stretch from the Bay of Pigs to Guardrail is ideal for crawdad-style retrieves, and even on slow days, this approach often yields a catch.

The autopsies I conducted on the fish caught near the dam provided some revealing insights. Once again, I discovered a large crawfish in the stomach of the largest fish. Interestingly, the second fish was filled with midge pupae. It was surprising to find them feeding on chironomids given the minimal weed growth in the area. Even the trout at Henderson Springs had fewer chironomids in their stomachs. It seems likely that the fish were feeding on the algae-coated rocks of the dam in the littoral zone, which must be quite narrow due to the steep drop-off.

There was noticeable traffic on the dam; Dam Police trucks were seen alongside other boats, though they didn’t engage anyone. Preferring not to attract attention, I steered away whenever a vehicle approached, returning to fish the wall once they passed. By 1:00 PM, the area had cleared, and I headed to the trash racks to explore. Dodging the Dam Police certainly limited my fishing time along the rocks.

The Yellow Lights were still flashing  around noon, prompting many boats to leave early expecting the wind to just build in the afternoon but from 1:00 to 4:00 PM, the wind unexpectantly died down, and the water flattened, When I reached the dam, I set up near the upwelling before maneuvering closer to the racks. Deploying my livescope, I was surprised to find large schools of fish, an unusual sight without active pumping into the lake. I started fishing in perspective mode on the livescope, which helps in tracking fish movement, though it can be challenging to pinpoint their depth. Managing to align my fly with the fish at the right depth resulted in a catch every 53 seconds. Eventually, I switched to forward mode on the livescope, finding it more effective. I adjusted my strategy to only target schools 15-20 feet deep and within 30-60 feet range, reducing my wait time to 30 seconds. This change significantly improved my luck, and by 2:30 PM, I had caught 25 fish. Despite considering an early departure, I continued to find active schools in the shallower upwelling, ending the day with a total of 32 fish—one of my best days this year, despite the initially discouraging yellow light in the morning.








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