CLEAR LAKE — Yellow bass are continuing their rampage at Clear Lake. Angler success is on the rise.
Although listed among the lake’s most plentiful fish species, yellow bass have remained widely scattered since their annual spawning cycle concluded late last spring.
But times are changing. Schools are regrouping and area anglers are reaping the rewards.
Although increasing numbers of fish — and fishing boats — are being drawn to main lake rock reefs, large numbers of yellow bass are also frequenting the shallows in anywhere from 2½ to 4 feet of water – especially near dense stands of long-leafed pondweed.
Pondweed seed heads have reached the water’s surface which makes finding preferred habitats a piece of cake.
Warm-weather yellows are not the finicky creatures encountered earlier this season. It’s a whole different ball game now. You can forget the micro-lures and dainty presentations used during May. These fish want meat.
Drop a minnow or chunk of ’crawler in front of these piranha wannabes and they’ll be on it like white on rice.
An angler doesn’t have to be overly concerned with when to set the hook, either. Warm-water yellows will usually take care of that detail on their own; when the slack line is gone, the fun begins. With hyped-up summer metabolisms, local stripers are more than willing to defend their reputation as being, ounce for ounce, the lake’s scrappiest sportfish.
Whether fishing from boats, off docks or stalking the shallows on foot there are some basic keys to capitalizing on Clear Lake’s yellow bass bonanza.
I prefer ultralight tackle without exception. Ultra-sensitive rod tips give anglers a much better feel for what’s going on below the surface and it’s just a whole lot more fun to catch fish on light gear.
The most important point is not to become too comfortable in one location – keep searching until you hit paydirt. If fish are present you’ll find near immediate action, usually on the first or second cast.
How long the action continues depends on the mood and size of the school. Sometimes, I’ll catch six or seven stripers in rapid succession from the exact same spot.
But if the action suddenly stops and you go a half-dozen or more casts without a hit, then it’s probably time to move. The move may involve going just a few yards or could mean traveling to a completely different reef, weed bed or dock. Generally speaking, the more you move the greater the reward.
It’s no secret that yellow bass provide nutritious, full- flavored table fare. Short-lived and prolific to a fault, this is one species that anglers never have to worry about over-harvesting.
A time-honored staple at Clear Lake, old-timers used to tell of yellow bass becoming a major protein source for Depression-era families.
Although I used to try for striper mega catches, I don’t anymore. These days I usually quit when I have enough fish to keep the fillet knife busy for 20 minutes or so, which usually yields enough fillets for at least a couple of good meals.
Although we usually pan fry our yellows, the species’ firm, white fillets are equally suited to any number of Asian fish recipes. Although I’ve never attempted a batch for myself, I have also enjoyed Chinese fish soup where Clear Lake yellows were a main ingredient. The robust flavor was out of this world.