Call it Kerr Reservoir or call it Buggs Island Lake, it doesn’t make much of a difference to fishermen who are experiencing great striped bass action on the 49,500-acre impoundment along the North Carolina-Virginia border.
“We’ve been killing stripers,” said guide Joel Richardson of Kernersville (336-803-2195), who has been putting his clients on a lot of stripers this winter. It’s been my best year ever at Buggs.”
Richardson said he and two anglers caught 131 stripers the day after Thanksgiving 2014 – releasing all but the two-fish per person daily creel limit that is in place between Oct. 1 and May 31 – and the bite has continued through January, although not at that frantic pace.
“We caught so many that day it was unbelievable,” he said. “Plus, we caught largemouth bass and some monster white bass. A lot of the stripers were keeper size, too, so they’re getting bigger.”
The striper bite tailed off somewhat after Christmas, but Richardson said he’s still experiencing double-digit days, which is good news for fishermen who have watched the lake’s striper fishery tank a decade ago after an infestation of gill maggots (copepods) that travelled down the Roanoke River after wiping out Smith Mountain Lake’s striper fishery.
For several years, catching a rockfish that weighed more than two pounds was a matter of celebration, but Kerr’s stripers apparently have rebounded. The 15- to 20-pounders of the lake’s heyday aren’t back yet, but plenty of 5- to 8-pound fish are available.
“I think stripers turned the corner at Buggs last fall,” Richardson said.
Even more interesting, anglers are finding stripers spread from shallow to deep water this winter.
“We’ve been catching them on flats in 5 to 10 feet of water from daybreak to about 10:30 a.m.,” Richardson said. “Then, they go deep during the middle of the day, and you have to use jigging spoons. Then they go back to shallow water the last two hours of the day.”
Bucktails, swimbaits, shallow-diving crankbaits and Rat-L-Traps are fooling striped bass while they’re up on the flats – along with largemouths.
“It’s easy to find (stripers) on a depth finder when they go deep,” he said. “You’ll see baitfish and stripers in tight groups.”