My first trip to Strawberry since early summer took place last week, Monday through Wednesday. Several friends joined me as we tried to find early fall fish.
My usual fall jerkbait bite was a little slow (based on the last few years’ great successes), and I found myself doing something I literally have never done in my life. And, the results were one for the record books.
Heading into open, deep water, I decided to take a look at the Meadows area very near the Renegade Launch Ramp. My idea was to look for a point coming out into deeper water between Indian Creek and the east mouth of the Narrows.
While cruising around looking for a suitable point near which to start throwing my jerkbaits, I noticed something peculiar on my fish finder. The boat was in 55 feet of water and huge schools of fish were showing anywhere from right on the bottom to very nearly the surface.
I generally go prepared to throw Gitzits (tube jigs) in white or green just in case the fish aren’t chasing minnows or it happens to be in the middle of the summer when the larger cutthroats go deep. We put down our jerkbaits and reached for the Gitzits.
The fish were spread from the surface all the way to the bottom so I grabbed a white Gitzit, while others picked up green tubes, tipped them with a tiny piece of night crawlers, decided which depth we wanted to fish, made casts and let our Gitzits (with a 1/4-ounce weight inside the body) drift down to the fish.
To our amazement, fish nibbled at our tubes on the way down; we didn’t get all the way to the depth we had chosen. We set the hook several times but didn’t hook the fish. As we continued to cast, I realized that a lot of fish were literally within five feet of the surface, and began nibbling as soon as they found our baits. Within a few more casts, I figured out how to catch the fish, and passed the information along to my companions.
Once the first fish came to the boat (a 17-inch cutthroat) the rest was easy. Each cast, I slowly reeled in, completely ignoring the first and second bites. Then, on the third bite (not every time but certainly most times) I set the hook and caught the fish.
The key for everyone in the boat was to continue to reel slowly while bites one and two took place. The fish chased the baits, and on the third time around they overtook them and ate the tubes from behind. Once we understood what was going on, with our polarized sunglasses, we could actually see the process from start to finish.
Quite literally, we were able to catch fish almost every single cast for as long as we wanted to fish. Later one afternoon after loading my boat, my good friend Paul Phillips of Strawberry Bay Marina told me they (Strawberry Bay guides) took a couple of groups out on the lake in the past week and between two pontoon boats caught close to 700 fish.
I have never seen cutthroats behave this way. Though we were still able to catch some fine cutthroats throwing jerkbaits around the coves and against the shoreline, nothing compared to catching fish almost at will, in 55 feet of water.
We eventually expanded our fishing area and found active, hungry fish all the way through the Meadows in as little as 15 feet all the way down to 70 feet.
Remember to use either white or green tube jigs, and be sure to tip them with night crawlers (one-inch pieces), and duplicate the retrieve mentioned above.
Who knows how long these fish will stay near the surface or be clustered in such enormous schools, but I if you want to experience the best tube bite ever, you really need to get out to Strawberry, locate the schools and have the time of your life.