Cooling water gets High Rock stripers feeding

High Rock Lake doesn’t spit out great numbers of stripers, but quality fish are regularly caught. (Photo by Tony Garitta)

Low water also helps anglers seeking High Rock stripers

For about 10 years, the Ole North State Line Siders have held their annual benefit striper tournament at North Carolina’s High Rock Lake in November — and with good reason.

“November is one of the better months for striper fishing at High Rock,” said guide Jerry Hill of Triad Fishing & Guide Service. “The water temperature is dropping with the cooler weather, and the stripers are feeding up for the winter. The fish will be in the main river from High Rock Dam to Crane Creek, wherever there are balls of forage.”

Hill (336-247-1265) said stripers become active when the water temperature ranges from 60 to 65 degrees. And they will bite until it drops below 55 degrees.

“The clearer the water, the better,” said Hill. “But they’ll strike in dingy water, too. High Rock is never clear. There’s always some color to it.”

Hill likes the lake level down several feet, but not more than 8. Navigation becomes treacherous with extremely low lake levels.

When conditions are favorable, participating teams at the benefit striper tournament have brought in impressive 2-fish tournament limit catches.

“One year, I had two fish totaling 24 (pounds), 6 (ounces) and lost to live-baiters who weighed in two that went 31 pounds,” Hill said. “High Rock has never been a numbers lake for stripers. But the fish caught in November tournaments have ranged from 8 to 12 pounds, with several fish in the teens.”

Unfortunately, November can be a dud as well if cold rains, trashy water and high winds are present.

“We have had events in terrible conditions where only two or three fish came to the scales,” Hill said. “That’s why it’s called fishing.”

Trolling and live-baiting are keys to hooking up this month

Hill is an avid troller who doesn’t like to waste time catching and messing with live bait. His trolling spread consists of a combination of downriggers and leadcore line outfits. He uses 8-foot medium and medium-heavy rods paired with Penn Squall reels.

He fishes 36-pound leadcore line, typically letting out three to four colors to cover depths from 16 to 20 feet. His downriggers place his baits 14 to 20 feet deep.

Hill’s outfits feature 3-way swivels tied to the main lines with 3- and 8-foot leaders connected to the remaining two swivels. His baits include 3-inch Sassy Shad in chartreuse/green or white and 1/2-ounce green or black bucktails with green and black plastic worm trailers. The Sassy Shad go on the 8-foot leaders. The bucktails go on the 3-foot leaders.

He usually trolls the mouths of Abbotts and Crane creeks and Sailboat Neck, targeting underwater high spots at these places.

Hill said live-baiters catch stripers by either pulling, down-lining or free-lining with large gizzard shad.

He offers one important observation.

“This season, the stripers have been holding in water deeper than usual,” he said. “I’ve caught some as deep as 29 feet. Usually, they’re in 14 to 17 feet.”

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