Fishing Las Vegas Style!
I can't resist fitting in a day or two of fishing into my annual holidays if I can help it but when this years destination was Las Vegas I thought I would be losing out.
I didn't know much about the area but I did know that Las Vegas was in the middle of the desert and I guessed that my odds of finding some fishing weren't good. Like many of my fishing trips nowadays I started my research with a Google search and was presently surprised to find that there was some fishing to be found on Lake Mead, an hour's drive from Las Vegas.
I stumbled across Captain Michael Swartz's website www.fishvegas.com and discovered that a realistic target would be the Striped Bass that inhabited the 193 miles of Lake Mead. A few emails were exchanged and a trip was booked for me and my new wife, Michelle, who will join me on a yearly fishing trip or too so long as it is sunny and warm.
Once in Las Vegas I needed to sort our permits and so I made a trip to the Outdoor World Bass Pro fishing shop and also stocked up on some cheap lures for back home.
It seems that the Americans are strict with their permits and my one day permit for $21 (about Â£10) allowed me to fish in the whole of Lake Mead that goes across the states of Nevada and Arizona. I needed my passport number for the permit as well as providing my height, weight and eye and hair colour!
With permits obtained and hire car sorted we set off at 4am to meet up with Captain Mike at Lake Mead Resort and Marina. The journey takes just under an hour but with the darkness, unfamiliar roads and having to drive on the wrong side of the road the trip just took a little longer than planned. If you do make a trip make sure you don't miss the turning off the main route 93 after passing through Boulder City. Turn off left towards the marina and resort following a very small sign. You will pass through the National Park entrance and turnings off for a few other marinas before reaching the Lake Mead Resort and Marina, which was about 3 miles from the route 93, and our meeting place with Captain Mike.
It was essential that we got there on time and we had a couple of frantic phone calls from Captain Mike to guide us to our meeting point as he wanted to get us on the water as soon as possible. Throughout the summer months a top tactic is to fish with lures early morning as the vast shoals of Stripers hit the surface to feed on the shad.
The feeding period is intense but quickly over and once we witnessed the Stripers in action we could see why Captain Mike was keen to make sure we were on the water and fishing at the crucial time. At 5.15am we motored to around the Las Vegas bay area of Lake Mead and Captain Mike quickly steered the boat between 5 or 6 fishy looking bays intently scanning the surface for â€˜boils' as the Stripers fed up in the water.
The report from Captain Mike's website in July 2007 describes the lake and feeding frenzy that we were looking out and waiting for :
Lake Mead Fishing Excellent Despite Drought
â€œIs there any water in Lake Mead?â€
As the drought in the Southwestern U.S. lingers, this is a question I get on almost a daily basis.
The simple answer is: â€œyes.â€
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir, by water volume, in the United States. At this time, it's 50% full. This is a staggering amount of water. The lake is currently 480 feet deep, and has 500 miles of shoreline available for fishing.
When lake levels drop dramatically, the answer to fishing is easy. The fish simply move to new areas. They don't disappear, they don't quit eating, they just move, and the savvy angler moves with them. The more difficult question is ï¿½" where are they moving to?
Lake bottom contours and structure have to be re-learned. Areas that were 150 feet deep may now only be 50 feet deep. Peaks, valleys and humps you only glanced at on your depth finder four years ago, now become critical habitat. Islands appear to grow out of the water, and main channel migration routes have changed. Quality electronics and the ability to interpret the signals become a necessity. But seasonal catch methods remain the same.
It's summertime in the desert and the heat is on at Lake Mead. The yearly shad spawn was over two months ago and the fry are now growing to a size stripers like. Every year in July, the Stripers come to the surface, chasing the fry. As the shad grow, so does the action, until it reaches feeding frenzy stage, causing the water in the feeding areas to appear to â€œboil.â€ This kind of action will continue through the Fall until approximately the first of November.
When the water begins to cool in mid-September and October, we can add another method to our fishing arsenal. When the bait and fish are not visible on the surface, they can still be located using electronics. Once large schools of bait combined with fish are found, jigging spoons can produce fast action and poles bent in half taking 3-5 pound fish from water sometimes over 160 feet deep. This is not the style of jigging most anglers envision for Bass or Walleye. Since the water is deep and the action is fast, this style requires weights from 2-4 ounces, line up to 20 pounds and a medium-heavy-to-heavy action rod.
When the bite is on, the fishing is fast, hard and produces fantastic results. It can completely exhaust you. As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, â€œThis not a girly-man's sport.â€
All fishermen, by nature, are optimists. Every time you throw your line in the water, you expect to catch the biggest fish in the lake. The glass that is Lake Mead is half-full, and the fish have only half the glass to hide in, making some of the best fishing for schooling-size stripers in the United States.
Don't just visit Vegas ï¿½" FishVegas !!
We located a few boils in a large bay and Captain Mike cut the engine and we sat silently for a few minutes as we watched the Stripers feeding and he assessed whether we should fish. Apparently, the activity wasn't intense enough so we noted the spot and zoomed off to another couple of bays before locating more feeding activity and two other boats in a bay towards the main body of the Lake.
We silently drifted into place and then I made my bid to catch my first Striped Bass using a small lure rod, mono of about 6lb and a surface popper. Michelle used similar gear but opted for a sub surface lure that dived down to about 2ft under the surface.
There were fish boiling away and no doubt feeding hard. After several cas
ts we had no fish and I'd just had just one take on the surface lure that I pulled out of.
The boats around us were catching and Captain Mike was worried we were wasting valuable time in the short feeding period. As he declared that he couldn't take anymore and was going to have a try himself to show us how it was done, bump , bump, we both hit into a fish.
The Striper I had hooked fought long and hard (much to Captain's Mike amusement as he says us English play our fish in gently while the Americans crank â€˜em in and then are straight out for another) but eventually it was beaten and swung into the boat.
We went onto catch a few more fish even taking a couple after the other boats had drifted away and the boils had stopped. I thought that we should have stayed in the bay for a little longer but Captain Mike knew better and we set off back to the larger bay looking for a proper intense group of feeding fish.
We hung around the large bay and a couple of bays off it and saw a few signs of boiling fish and caught a few more Stripers but our guide wasn't happy we were in the spot.
Another circuit of the large bay located the feeding area we were looking for and we hit into several Stripers as they boiled frantically on the surface. The visual aspect of the fishing was fantastic and it was true sight fishing as you cast to the rising fish.
Captain Mike was happy we had found the fish but we weren't getting any of the big ones. While we continued to catch on the surface he located on the echo sounder and drifted the boat over a big shoal of Stripers and tried jigging.
The jigging turned up some bigger fish for Captain Mike and so I swapped over to a jigging outfit to catch a few bigger specimens.
The sun was now rising in the sky and even though it was only 7.30am we were getting dehydrated and needed a drink and had to apply the sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.
As the feeding fish drifted across the bay, we and the other boats followed, working our way across bay casting at the rising fish and then cranking in any takers.
The feeding activity then ceased and the bay fell silent. The constant rising and splashing of the Stripers as they fed had filled the bay with noise but it was only when they ceased feeding that you actually noticed just how loud the activity had been.
We motored around a few bays and the boats dispersed as they all set off to try and find pockets of feeding fish before the ever increasing heat killed of the action totally for the day.
We spotted a few splashes off a point and had some success mainly with small Stripers and a few also fell off, probably because they were only small.
The activity then just died as quickly as it had started and as we gently motored around the bays it was obvious the fish had switched off.
By 8.30am it was getting very hot and the fishing day was over. We had caught over 30 Striped Bass between around 6am and 8am and were very happy with our efforts.
Captain Mike sensibly advised us that we should call it a day and get out of the heat. He kindly took us on a tour by boat of the Hoover Dam (not part of the itinerary for everyone but a welcome addition to our trip) and we were back at the marina by around 9am.
The fishing with Captain Mike on Lake Mead was really enjoyable and it is worth a trip for any angler wanting a bit of fishing on their holiday. The surface fishing was great fun and the Stripers boiling on the surface was a sight that must be witnessed to be believed.
Anybody fishing the Lake would be foolish to attempt to fish alone on a short trip and a guide is a must. In the heat of summer fishing is restricted to early morning and you don't get a full day for your money but you do get a wonderfully different fishing experience.
I believe that over 9 million people visit Lake Mead every year. If that happened in the UK then you would be constantly crammed in by people. However, Lake Mead is in a National Park and tight controls and kept on the park. I understand that there are only 7 marina on the whole lake. The facilities available at the marina were basic. There was a small shop and toilets but very little else to do.
There are also carp in the Lake but they only ones we saw were in the marina were they are very tame and fed by the visitors. It was amusing to watch the Stripers quickly nip in and steal the popcorn from the carp that we were feeding. I can understand why I missed so many lightening takes off the surface.
We did see lots of fish splashing out in the Lake and Captain Mike explained that these were carp feeding in the upper layers. I think anybody trying for the carp should try floating breadcrust.
We combined our fishing trip with a sightseeing visit and tour of the Hoover Dam. It is only a ten minute drive from the marina and was well worth a trip.
I had an ideal base in San Francisco to undertake a spot of fishing when I could fit it into our busy holiday schedule.
Our hotel was in the centre of Fishermans Wharf, which overlooks San Francisco bay. See www.fishermanswharf.org for lots of information on the area. Whilst many travellers avoid staying at the commercial wharf area I found it an ideal location as we cycled to the Golden Gate bridge, visited Alcatraz on a early morning start (go towww.alcatrazcruises.com and make sure you book in advance and before you arrive or you'll miss out), enjoyed Pier 39 and the sea lions and all the other associated tourist attractions.
With a two minute walk to the harbour where the Charter boats are moored I was bound to capture a fishing trip at some time. There are a variety of charter trips available. If you wish to go out and fish in the ocean then it has to be an all day trip but there were plenty of half day trips for â€˜pot luck' catch whatever comes along or trips targeting certain species depending on the time of year.
The bay area and ocean charters offered fishing for salmon, rockcod and ling, striped bass, halibut, shark, sturgeon and cod.
With a quick walk along the wharf you can obtain flyers with contact numbers for the charter boats. I was a bit less organised and simply turned up at the wharf at 5.30am and was lucky enough to find a boat with a space on board although I wouldn't recommend this. Book in advance if at all possible.
I boarded the Sole Man Sport fishing charter for a morning after sharks, more particularly the scavenging leopard sharks that were providing good catches in the bay at the time of my visit in early August. The trip was a worthwhile $100. See www.solemanfishing.com
There were 5 of us fishing and once on board and underway we were each issued with our one day licence that was a requirement and cost $12. This licence had to be worn and displayed at all times in case the fisheries patrol boarded. The one thing I've learnt is that the fishing in America appears to be quite strictly licensed.
It wasn't long before we were anchored up and large chucks of salmon as bait were swung into place.
My first success was with a bat ray that used its wingspan and strong sea currents to put up a strong fight. Once it was on board I stayed my distance as it flapped away and I let the crew do the unhooking!
I also had a seven gill shark and soup fin shark but the leopard shark proved elusive for me.
The others on board managed another bat ray, a seven gill shark and around 9 leopard sharks. Five of the leopard sharks were above the legal limit and were taken for the barbeque.
In a few short hours the sport was fast and furious and the marinated steaks cooked on board were beautiful and filled the short time when action was slowing.
For more information on the fishing available go to the www.fishermanswharf.org website and look at the sports tours section and you can also see www.flashfishing.net and www.solemanfishing.com
Bat rayThe steaks tasted lovely and were a welcome distraction when the action slowed.Richard from Germany with a leopard sharkThe 5 leopard sharks were gutted and will taste lovely on the barbeque.Back at Fishermans Wharf after a successful mornings fishing.
Yosemite National Park
Any trip to the San Francisco area would be incomplete without a trip to the beautiful Yosemite National Park, 3 hours drive from the city.
I only had a day trip to the park to see the sights and didn't have a chance to fish the crystal clear river that runs through the park. I saw a few people fly fishing as we drove around the park and spotted some nice trout laid up when walking around. I'm not sure whether there are huge stocks of fish but there were definitely some there to be caught.
If you intend spending a few days in the park then it may be worth trying a few hours fly fishing early morning to tempt the trout in what would be exciting sight fishing.
Anybody fishing over the age of 16 would require a licence, once again, clearly displayed. The fishing is fly or lure only and there are stocks of rainbow and brown trout. The trout season is April to November. The lakes are open all year round. See www.dfg.ca.gov/fishing www.nps.gov/yose www.yosemitepark.com
The snow melt means that the rivers running through the beautiful and spectacular Yosemite National Park are crystal clear.
Back nearer home, I have recently had another good guided fishing trip with Lake District fishing guide Eric Hope.
My friends and I have fished with Eric over the last few years for pike on some of the Lake District waters and we've always managed a few fish whether it was November, April or August!
Our last outing saw 6 pike to the boat on deadbaits and lures with 2 going 12lb-plus. Eleven year old Jan Detko, who accompanied me on my latest trip caught one of the monsters, and his largest fish to date.
Eric is a great angler and has lots of knowledge to pass onto anyone who is learning.
He keeps his tactics simple and concentrates, like any of the best anglers, on location and watercraft. My lure fishing skills and understanding (and even my casting after 20 years of practice) have improved under Eric's guidance.
He caters for all sorts of anglers of all ranges and abilities. He can take you out for trout, salmon, pike and perch.
If you are looking for a treat for yourself or a friend/relative, want your youngster to learn about fishing or merely want a fun fishing day out check out www.hemmingwaysfish.co.uk
Jan Detko and monster Lake District pike.
First pike for Kevin Britton.Martin Salisbury, with his killer copper spoon, is happy with any size pike on a cold November day.