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Texas Sportsman
Here Come The Stripers!
That's what you'll be saying as you cast to the schools of predators tearing into surfacing baitfish on these North Texas waters this summer.

Photo by Tom Migdalski

Midsummer is prime time for catching North Texas stripers and their hard-fighting hybrid striper relatives.

When the fish are actively chasing shad under mobs of circling, diving seagulls, anybody with binoculars can find the fish. When the schools aren't actively churning the water's surface, they can usually be located on sonar as they hold tight to bottom structure such as humps, ridges and points.

Here's a run-down of some of the better spots for getting into exciting big-fish action during a period whose fishing is often as hot as its weather.

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By now, locating and catching stripers at Texoma should be as regular as clockwork for those who know the situation. Some mega-striper schools begin gathering for the day around daybreak and herding shad along the Texas Bluffs down from Eisenhower Park. The schooling action will intensify as more and more stripers join in the feeding melee. The schools work their way past Butter Fly Cove; then, following the shoreline down past the Dallas Water Pump Station, they head in an easterly direction.

By the time the school reaches this point, its members number in the thousands, every fish hell-bent on stuffing itself with shad. By 8 a.m., activity around Butter Fly Cove has as a general rule reached fever pitch. The schools head on to the mouth of Little Mineral Creek and then east along the south edge of Table Top -- a big, deep midlake flat well marked on all sufficiently detailed Texoma maps. The flat is defined by a submerged ledge 60 to 70 feet deep on its southern boundary, and it's along this ledge that the stripers will herd the baitfish.

The underwater race between predator and prey runs along the length of the ledge to the waters out in front of Colbert Boat Club, at which point the stripers track the Red River channel down to near the Railroad Bridge. The schools usually break up there, and the individual stripers head for the channel to recover from the early-morning feeding spree.

During the first couple of hours of daylight, topwater plugs such as Pencil Poppers, Chug Bugs or Zara Spooks draw strikes from these aggressively feeding schoolies. A lead slab dropped below the topwater action can often coax larger stripers hanging close to bottom, where they feed on crippled shad left behind by the fast-moving surface feeders, into biting.

Stripers should be easy to pattern at Tawakoni this month. A pair of binoculars will be a must for spotting distant schools of gulls, terns and egrets circling and dive-bombing the water's surface to snatch up the injured shad that mark the passage of the voracious schools of stripers.

Guide Joe Read offered this tip: "The trick this time of year is usually not locating surface-feeding stripers, but avoiding spooking them. During midweek, when fishing pressure is light, my clients and I have enjoyed nonstop action from the same school of fish for over an hour.

"It's important to approach the feeding fish quietly with the trolling motor to avoid spooking them. Even fishermen without trolling motors can enjoy good fishing if they slowly motor upwind of the schools and allow the wind to drift them through the feeding fish. When the boat drifts out of casting range, quietly and slowly make a big circle and get in position for another drift. All it takes is one careless fisherman to put a stop to the topwater action by running his big engine too close to the feeding fish."

Read suggests keeping three rods rigged with baits that will cover the range of depths during this bite. "I keep a big topwater such as a bone-colored Chug Bug or Pencil Popper at the ready when the fish are actively blowing up on the surface," he said. "It's important to experiment with the retrieve on a day-to-day basis to see what the fish want.

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