One of the ironies of the fall fishing season is that the best angling for the mid-atlantic's premier saltwater gamefish-the striped bass-will occur in freshwater .
This wasn't always the case. Responding to fall's dropping temperatures, stripers once broke water in acre-wide schools, giving exceptional sport throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Though anglers have stumbled on a few promising schools of surfacing pansized rock in recent weeks, such action is tough to come by in the brine these days. For quality fall rockfishing, lake prospects are as bright as saltwater prospects are dim.
Forty years ago there was no such thing as freshwater striper fishing. But when workers closed the gates on sprawling Santee-Cooper Reservoir in the lowlands of South Carolina in the early '40s, they did more than control malaria-carrying mosquitos and create hydroelectric power. They also midwifed the first self-sustaining population of landlocked striped bass.
It took a decade or so for anglers and biologists to fully fathom this, but once they did, freshwater striper fisheries snowballed.
Virginia has been a leader in developing striped-bass culture. Its Brookneal Hatchery has bred over 50 million striped bass and most of them have gone into Virginia's lakes.
Kerr Reservoir, immediately upstream (west) from Gaston, is one of a handful of lakes in the country with a naturally-reproducing striper population. Don Diamond of Clarksville Marina says striper fishing is just getting underway and should continue to improve through November.
Breaking fish offer fast sport on Kerr when you can find them, but the most consistent action comes to troller. Mornings and evenings are top times, and the favorite lure is a 3/4-to 1-ounce bucktail (white or yellow) with pork rind or plastic worm trailer. Mack Elliot (804/374-2338) of Clarksville guides for stripers on Kerr.
"Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught a large striper goes home through an alley."