We set out for Rock Creek with temperatures above freezing and very little wind. When it gets cold this winter the Rock Creek trip may not be possible for me unless I am wrapped in an insulated bubble with a 70 degree thermal layer inside.
This trip uplake was magical as it seemed the gentle breeze was always at out back. Fog clouds were wrapped around cliff tops with occasional sunlight spotlighting cliff walls. It was absolutely beautiful and unique for the always dramatic scenery from Padre to Rock Creek.
As we headed toward the back of main Rock Creek the gentle breeze lessened and flat calm conditions prevailed. The trip was already a success so we turned around and went back, NO! That was not going to happen since there was another plan to be completed.
In the back of the canyon there is a deep trench that runs from 50-70 feet but on the right hand side there is a bench that averages 35 feet. For the last month or longer, the magic holding depth for striper schools has been 35 feet. So we started there.
My basic technique is to troll a deep diving Thunderstick and a mid depth Shad Rap. The graph is studied while trolling and a floating marker is in hand ready to mark the location of any large striper schools that are passed over. We could just graph and then stop on a school and drop spoons, but it is also necessary to get the school activated. The best way to do that is to hook a fish which excites other schooling fish almost as much as it energizes me. As the hooked striper is reeled in, the curious school often follows to see if there is more free food close at hand. As the troll-caught fish is lifted into the boat the striper school pauses under the boat wondering where the hooked fish went and more specifically where they might find free food.
This time the first fish hit the shad rap which allowed me to reel in my Thunderstick and quickly deploy the spoon rod. Sure enough! As soon as the first fish was hoisted in, the school appeared and my spoon was eaten on the way down to the bottom. I played my fish until another spoon was in the water. Then I flopped my 3-pound striper on the deck by holding the spoon and the jerking it while letting the weight of the fish disengage the hooks from the lip. Luckily it worked that time and I could immediately put the spoon back in the water as my partner played his spoon caught fish.
We deployed a marker at the spot where the first fish was caught. We worked this school over for about 10-15 minutes before they left us. Then we picked up the fish off the deck, and put them in the cooler on ice. We had drifted about 200 yards away from the marker as the school followed us. The next step is put out the trolling lures again and search for the next school.
The trolling/spooning technique located about 5 or 6 separate schools. The floating markers showed the most common school location to be at the breaking edge of the 35 foot terrace before it dropped into deep water. Later in the day and further back in the canyon where depth was commonly 18 feet, we found a 50 yard long basin that was 30 feet deep. Sure enough schools that had been holding on the shallow bench now dropped into the deep little basin. They could still be activated with spoons and catching continued.
At midday fishing success slowed. We had a cooler full of fish from 2.5 to 4 pounds. There were no yearling fish and only two that might have been 5 pounds. Back at the Wahweap fish cleaning station we counted 33 stripers. What a great day for fishing in December!