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Lake Texoma striper fishing – as good as it gets

Lake Texoma Striper Fishing

By Luke Clayton

June 29, 2020

Sitting under the covered boathouse at Mill Creek Resort on Lake Texoma last week, several boats loaded with anglers anxious to get out on the water for a morning of striper fishing were sipping coffee and making small talk. I was in one of these boats, along with my grandson Jackson Zimmerman and good friend Jeff Rice.  Rain was pounding on the metal roof above us and off in the distance, lightning was popping and thunder booming.

Prudent guides do not take their clients out in such conditions. Guide Chris Carey with Striper Express is a prudent guide; he is also a highly skilled one with years of striper catching experience. Chris held his cell phone up for us to take a look at the weather radar. We could look at the sky, off in the distance and easily identify the two banks of ‘heavy’ weather that encircled the lake that were showing up on radar.

“It appears both these cells are moving around the lake, we might just luck out and get out on the water after all. We could possibly catch fish closer, but a 26-mile boat ride should put us right in the middle of some striper action that you will have to experience to believe,” says Chris as the rain continues to hammer on the metal roof.

Chris had briefed me on a pattern he had discovered a few days earlier. He had located some big schools of stripers that were feeding on shad at first light in a big cove. The trick to catching them up in the shallow water was getting there soon after the break of day. Because of the storms, we were obviously going to be too late for this early morning action but with the cloud cover, Chris was hoping the fish would continue chasing shad on top for a few hours.

Another glance at radar and it appeared we were going to get the break in weather that we needed. Thirty minutes later, Chris had the throttle down, feeding fuel to the big 300hp engine and we were on our way to the distant hot spot. It doesn’t take long to travel 26 miles with 300 horses pushing on the stern of one’s boat. Chris pulled the throttle back at the mouth of the cove and began glassing the area with binoculars.

“Nothing happening back in this big cove,” Chris tells us. “The stripers must have already pushed all the bait out into the open, deeper water.” 

Chris swung his binoculars around to the open water and fixed his gaze on a patch of water several hundred yards in the distance. I could see a few birds working near the water’s surface.  Sure enough, the big striper schools our guide had been fishing the past few days were right on schedule. 

Normally they would not have been churning the water’s surface on a feeding frenzy this late in the morning, but the overcast conditions prolonged the bite. Actually, the stormy weather with lightning earlier could have postponed the bite entirely.

Stripers are aggressive fish by nature, voracious feeders especially when they have a huge school of shad pushed up close to the surface.  This was my grandson’s first time to experience a big school of surface feeding stripers pushing bait and Chris handed him a rod with a topwater plug. “Just pick a spot where you see a big fish blow up, throw past him and jerk the bait back so that it will move lots of water.”

Jackson followed instructions and his first cast was perfect, it fell a few feet past a big swirl made by good-sized striper. The fish instantly made its move on the plug and the drag on Jackson’s reel was begrudging allowing the line to peel away in short bursts.  A smooth drag on a reel used for striper fishing is a must and the Sixgill reels Chris uses are ideal; light and smooth, they were up to the task. The reel’s drag system, coupled with the steady pressure applied by the medium action rod, soon had the big fish of the day alongside the boat and in the net. 

While Jackson was enjoying his first top-water striper action, Jeff, Chris and I were throwing Sassy Shads. These baits cast like a rocket and they can be fished using several techniques. With the stripers feeding on top, the trick was to make long casts, hold the rod up high and crank fast so the baits would work just under the surface. The fast gear ration on the reels, 7:1 and 8:1, made it possible to easily keep the baits up near the surface. A feeding striper doesn’t ‘bite’ a lure, it attacks it while on the run and if you’re fishing with a bait caster,  as we were,  it’s important to have the spool tension cranked down, otherwise a birds nest of gigantic proportion is apt to occur.

That first school of feeding stripers kept us busy for a good 15 minutes of steady catching and then they sounded and the action stopped. Then, a couple hundred yards out in deeper water, they began churning the surface again. So the next hour and a half went, periods of steady catching, a lull and then back in the action.

I love catching stripers on all types of lures but I love the feel of a striper nailing a lead slab. There is just something sudden and immediate to the ‘hook up’ when slab fishing. When Chris pointed to a huge school of fish holding near bottom, I tied on a 1.5-ounce slab and began vertical fishing it within a few feet of bottom. BOOM!  A chunky striper crushed it and made a couple of hard runs, deep. Of course, the other guys were staying busy with their Sassy Shads fished deeper but I just HAD to catch a couple on slabs.

The ‘slab bite’ should be underway by the time you are reading this. During this period, huge schools of stripers begin their morning ritual of pushing shad near the surface on runs that often last for several miles. The drill is to get ahead of the fish, catch them as they come by and then, ‘leap frog’ ahead and intercept them again.

Lake Texoma with its natural striper spawn is the mother of all striper lakes and we here in Texas and Oklahoma are fortunate indeed to have such a fishery close by.

Lake Texoma Fishing
Two Lake Texoma fishing legends, Bill Carey and his son Chris, showing off what will become the centerpiece of many tasty fish dinners. (photo by Luke Clayton)

For more information on striper fishing at Texoma, contact Striper Express www.striperexpress.com.   Check out ‘A Sportsmans Life’ on YouTube to watch a video of the action.
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via www.catfishradio.org.

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Toby Keith Foundation Fish Bowl 2020

Fish Bowl 2020

The Fish Bowl 2020, hosted by The Toby Keith Foundation, will take place on Lake Texoma June 20, 2020. First place in the Bass Division will be $10,000 (based on 150 boats) and a $500 prize will go to the worst fisherman. Entry fee is $200 for a two person team.

“We are beyond grateful and excited to have found ways to revise The Fish Bowl to ensure everyone’s safety and keep it on our schedule,” said Executive Director, Toby Keith Foundation, Juliet Nees-Bright.

The Foundation’s goal is to keep the momentum of this event going through a difficult time and do everything in their power to keep the fishermen safe while they enjoy the tournament. The Captains meeting will not be mandatory this year and will only be for those who did not register online or send in their registration via mail. The Captains Meeting will be at 6 pm, June 19, 2020 at the Rally Pavilion, Rooster Creek Campground, Lake Texoma State Park, Kingston, Oklahoma.

Fish Bowl 2020

Anglers can launch from any launch site in either the Texas or Oklahoma. Weigh-in will be at Rooster Creek by 3:00 pm.

Register online at www.tobykeithfoundation.ort/news-and-events. Entries will be accepted through 6 pm, June 19, 2020. For more information call (405) 271-6552, email Juliet@tobykeithfoundation.org or visit the website tobykeithfoundation.org/news-and-events. Registration will also be available at the Captains Meeting.

In the event of inclement weather and the fishing tournament has to be cancelled, your registration fee will be considered a donation to The Toby Keith Foundation or will be refunded upon request.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the OK Kids Korral. A haven for the entire family as a child with cancer receives treatment, the OK Kids Korral provides comfort for the family in a time of pain. Located only a few blocks from the Children’s Hospital, The Ok Kids Korral provides spaces where children can let loose and parents can simply relax instead of spending long hours traveling to the hospital for treatments. Donations will be accepted.

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Lake Texoma Free Fishing Days

Texoma offers great spring fishing

The first Saturday in June each year is designated as Free Fishing Day in Texas. Texans can fish on any public waterbody in the state without a fishing license on June 6, 2020.  Everyone can fish (while practicing social distancing, of course) without a state fishing license on Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days June 6 -7, 2020.  If you are fishing on Lake Texoma, you will need a Lake Texoma or Texas fishing license for June 7th.

All of Lake Texoma is open for free fishing June 6, but free fishing will only apply to the Oklahoma portion of the lake June 7. Anglers must abide by all Texas fishing license and permit requirements when fishing the Texas portion of Lake Texoma on June 7.

“Free Fishing Day is a wonderful opportunity for anglers to share their knowledge, skills, equipment, and love for fishing with a new participant, yet it’s also more than that,” said Craig Bonds, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries director. “We hope those trying fishing on this special day will also learn that purchasing a license is an act of conservation. A fishing license purchase is one of the simplest and most effective way people can support fisheries science and management.”

“These are some of the best days to take a newcomer or youth fishing with you,” said Skylar St. Yves, fishing coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “There’s no state fishing license requirements, so someone who has never been before can just wake up in the morning and head out for a fun day of fishing. And someone from out of state can visit and enjoy what Oklahoma’s waters have to offer without worrying about having a state fishing license.”

Even though the outdoors are always open on Lake Texoma, the Wildlife Departments encourages everyone to heed health officials’ recommendations for staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.  For anglers, it’s easy to distance yourself from other by the length of an adult’s fishing rod.

License sales are one of the primary sources of funding for the Wildlife Departments of Texas and Oklahoma.  Sportsmen and sportswomen pay for conservation projects when they buy a license. The Department’s Free Fishing Days can help us introduce new anglers and ensure that great fishing and habitat work will continue for years to come. There’s no excuse not to take someone fishing on June 6 and 7. The weather is usually nice, the fishing is great and, best of all, it’s free.

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