A group of anglers read the news about when trout plants would begin in Lake Mohave and jotted the dates down on their calendars. A small number of those anglers had no intention of fishing for the rainbow trout planted by the Nevada Division of Wildlife in this desert reservoir. They were interested in striped bass. Big striped bass.
In a seeming counterintuitive act, the best time to catch a trophy striped bass is during the winter. This doesn't make sense. The water is getting colder and all other warm-water fish are getting lethargic and parking on deep structure, eating infrequently, and just waiting for spring and warming water. Even the little stripers, fish that are caught by the 10s of 1,000s during the warmer months by Lake Mohave anglers, tend to move into deep water and the fishing action slows down.
Most fish and most anglers lay low all winter on the Colorado River. So last Wednesday, when the NDOW trout planting trucks rolled down launch ramps and poured thousands of catchable trout into Lake Mohave's waters at Cottonwood Cove, Placer Cove, and Powerline Cove, there were only a few people there to notice. There were the die-hard trout anglers. Then there was this little group of other guys who all had nine to 10-foot rods strung up with 30-pound test line. Dangling from the end of those heavy lines were lures with a remarkable resemblance to the trout that were pouring into the lake. They were all a little giddy.
All those trout were like a dinner bell ringing for the big stripers. No one had seen a striper bigger than about five pounds in nearly 10 months at Cottonwood Cove, but in a matter of three days, there were over a dozen striped bass tipping the scales at 15 pounds or better caught.
The two biggest fish were a 47-pounder landed by Ryan Webb and a 42-pounder caught by his fishing partner Warren Winchester, both of Las Vegas, while fishing out of Cottonwood Cove last Thursday. The pair were hurling huge A.C. Plug Real Trout lures to hook and land the big fish. John Woods of Angler's Edge Guide Service and David Grosshiem of Henderson, Nev., had two fish at 30 pounds, a 25-pounder, a 20, and two at 15, also last Thursday. They were using A.C. Plugs, too.
Allan Cole, the designer and maker of the A.C. Plugs was also at Cottonwood, but he only landed "a couple of little ones." They were 18 and 10 pounds.
The bite only lasted a couple of days, but that is typically what happens, according to Cole, who now lives in Henderson.
"It was blowing and overcast last week," said Cole who still holds the Nevada state record and Lake Mohave record for striped bass with a 63-pounder he caught during a cold snap in March, 2001, right after a trout plant at Cottonwood. "Those are the best conditions. When it's calm you can hardly catch `em. The water here is so clear and when it's calm they get spooky, I guess."
It got calm by the end of the weekend and the stripers had all eaten their fill of the fresh trout. Cole was out again on Tuesday this week but only managed to catch one small eight-pounder. The weather was too nice. If the weather changes, he'll go out again, and he'll be back on Mohave, for sure, when the next trout plants arrive.
The striper chumming program -- make that, "trout stocking program" -- will continue every other week through March next year, and Aztec Wash will be added to the three other stocking locations on Mohave Dec. 28 this month. The next plants at Cottonwood, Placer and Powerline coves will be on or around Dec. 14, just in case you want to plan a little trip.
The two big stripers caught last week are numbers 106 and 107 over 40 pounds caught on A.C. Plugs, a lure Cole started making in has garage in 1985 to look and swim like a rainbow trout. Cole still makes a line of A.C. Plugs in his garage that are sold online (www.acplugs.com) and in a few selected retail stores in California and Arizona. There are now eight different garage-made variations, and there is a Japanese company commercially making and distributing a version of the original A.C. Plug for Cole. This is the lure that started the big lure craze for largemouth bass and stripers, and if this past week's results are any indication, big lures still catch big fish.