The All You Can Eat Striper Buffet at the Racks

June 10, 2024 – God knows I love a great buffet. For an overweight guy who enjoys a good French Michelin Star restaurant, I’m not sure why buffets appeal to me so much. Today, while fishing at the racks, I had an epiphany.

The day started off like a D-Day invasion at the Forebay, with five boats of fly fishermen converging just to scout the area. There hadn’t been any reports from fly fishermen for a month, and typically May and June mean current in the 152 channel and topwater action. Frank, Vaughn, Dan, Brian, Tim, and I decided to test the Forebay, but it was a bust for everyone except Frank. By 10:30, half of us had decided to try the lake instead. The Forebay was muddy, and the weeds were missing. Despite the current from the dam pumps, a modest amount of water entering from the powerhouse, and some current from Check 12, the fish weren’t concentrated in their usual spots. I found only a couple of schools of juvenile stripers along the rocks and, after getting lots of short strikes, I switched to a small clouser and caught a half dozen dinks before noon. Even the launch lacked any baitfish in the shallows. The Forebay has been terrible this year. Frank called me while I was driving to the lake to tell me he finally found fish in 8 feet of water around the islands.

Recent reports from the lake have been great. It had been three weeks since I last fished there, and some regulars were getting double-digit days off the dam and around the racks. Last time I was out, the upwelling was just starting. I joined most of the guys at the racks and decided to search the upwelling with the Livescope. I found huge schools of stripers and shad swimming together in the surface turbulence created by the trash racks pumping out to the Forebay. It’s over 100 feet deep in front of the dam, and yet the pumps create all sorts of undertow as far as 500 feet out. Using the Livescope in perspective mode, I could lead the big schools with a cast and catch fish all afternoon. The fish in the upwelling ranged from 14 to 40 feet down, and counting a full minute and stripping up through the schools almost guaranteed a catch.

In the early afternoon, the stripers were a bit fly-sensitive. I had better luck with smaller, less weighted flies. Many of the earlier fish would hit a still, suspended fly. But as the day progressed, the fish started hitting everything. After Vaughn and Dan left, the bite took off around the second solunar peak at 4:30. I lost count after 30 and watched as each fly guy left the racks with sore arms to rest and fight another day.

The area around the racks is like a buffet. You can stay all day and catch 100 fish until you collapse, or you can catch as many as you want and leave before you overdo it. A good day like today is all about catching as many fish as you want without hurting yourself. Today was truly an all-you-can-eat buffet.


After cleaning a couple of the fat 20 inchers I caught today,  I couldn’t help but notice the absence of any bait fish in the stomachs of these fish. The question is why are stripers hitting minnow patterns in the absence of minnows?  The schools near the racks are there because they are spawning and the pumps create enough current for them to successfully spawn.    The livescope shows very large schools of Stripers swiming around very large schools of American shad.   My feeling now is that the stripers are hitting flies because its part of spawning behavior.

Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) can exhibit increased aggression during spawning. During the spawning season, which typically occurs this time of year around the Trash rack pumps,  it is common to  observe multiple fish following a hooked fish all the way in.    Both male and female striped bass become more territorial and competitive. This behavior is driven by the need to successfully reproduce, leading to heightened aggression as they compete for mates and suitable spawning locations. Males, in particular, may engage in aggressive interactions with other males to establish dominance and improve their chances of mating with females. This increased aggression is a common trait among many fish species during their reproductive periods.

Striped bass (stripers)  form schools during the spawning season around the upwelling.  This schooling behavior helps facilitate successful reproduction. During spawning, large numbers of stripers congregate in the ebbs and flows around the Racks  where they release eggs and sperm into the water column. The eggs are then fertilized externally.  Schooling increases the chances of fertilization by ensuring that many fish are in close proximity, allowing eggs and sperm to mix more effectively.   The majority of fish I caught yesterday were male.

The schooling behavior of stripers during spawning also provides some protection against predators and increases the likelihood of survival for the eggs and larvae. Additionally, the schools of spawning shad competing for the same current.    This communal activity is a key aspect of the reproductive strategy of both shad and stripers, making this time of year at San Luis Reservoir a unique environment for catching large quantities of Striped bass in a day.

cookie cutter 19 incher

How to catch fish with a livescope

Water levels way down this month

Small Flies


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * logo