Several of you (consistent readers) have recently returned from or are soon to be going to Lake Powell. Most went or are going to be with family, enjoying water skiing, wake boarding, pull toys, or swimming along with exploring what has become known as “America’s Playground.”
However, many would also like to take advantage of frequent striper boils in this part of the summer. The problem is that none of those returning from Lake Powell have done so with reports of catching even a single striper.
One reader on his way to Lake Powell this week asks, “Why and where do stripers boil and how can I find them?”
The first thing to get out of the way is the real reason many people never see striper boils: They are NOT there to fish as a top priority.
They are on vacation and their families want to sleep in, play with their toys and don’t necessarily want to get up at 5 a.m. to run around chasing phantom striper boils. There is nothing wrong with this but reality dictates that if you aren’t truly looking for boils, it might be like winning the lottery should you happen upon one.
Let’s take a quick look at what happens as spring turns to summer in the life of a striper. The striper spawn takes place sometime from early May and into June. This happens in the backs of bays and coves in shallow water.
After that, they rest for a couple of weeks, get hungry and go searching for food. Since their main forage is shad (both gizzard and threadfin), and the shad spawn at almost the same time as the stripers, tiny shad go to the surface in huge “mats” and when stripers get hungry they begin to “slurp” these tiny shad on the surface.
As shad get larger or other schools that are a little older or even adults get pushed to the surface, stripers will scurry to the surface forming a circle and will attack the “surrounded” shad. However, this opportunity is short-lived (just a few weeks at best) because of one giant problem – water temperature.
Why Stripers Boil
Sometime in early July, surface water temperatures soar to the upper 70s and low 80s and stripers (unable to thrive in those temperatures) begin to “live” in water deeper than 20 feet. This is where the thermocline (the point in the water column separating warm surface water from cooler, deeper water) creates a temperature “jail” for stripers.
Stripers cannot abide surface water temperatures but still need to feed. So, being “stuck” below the thermocline leaves them finding schools of shad above them, exploding to the surface and beyond to feed for a short time (less than a minute), and quickly returning to cooler, deeper water to rest and recover.
The search for food is why stripers boil… period.
Where Stripers Boil
Predicting striper boils is very difficult at best. I recommend starting in the backs of medium-sized bays and coves in the early morning. Look for water birds or even crows lined up on or very near the shoreline. If you have a fish finder, look for schools of stripers beneath the boat. A combination of water birds, crows, and striper schools is a winning scenario.
Schools of shad — whether young-of-the-year or adult — move around the reservoir being pushed much of the time by other species of fish, including but not limited to large and smallmouth bass, walleyes, crappies, and of course stripers. Just this week, reports are coming in showing one-minute striper boils are showing up in the main channel, the mouths of large bays, and in the backs of small coves.
Be prepared with spinnerbaits, topwater lures, white grubs or tubes, and if you happen upon a striper boil, simply cast into the boil and hang on. Stripers will bite almost anything thrown into their boils. Why and where they will show up depends entirely on shad. Good Luck!