Beaver Lake holds big stripers

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May. 03, 2003

Beaver Lake holds big stripers

By BRENT FRAZEE, The Kansas City Star

ROGERS, Ark. -Some fishermen cast out a big minnow when they're trying to catch a trophy fish.

Don Andreasen casts out a whole school of them.

Standing in his boat on Beaver Lake, he tediously tossed out 14 lines baited with shad. Then he began trolling those baits through the water at different depths, hoping to catch the eye of a huge striper.

"When we have this many lines out, we're going to get some looks," said Andreasen, a veteran guide on the Ozarks reservoir. "Whether they'll hit or not, that's another matter.

"But we're going to get some stripers come up and take a look."

Almost on cue, Andreasen watched as the tip of one of the fishing rods in a holder started to vibrate wildly.

"Something has that shad real nervous," Andreasen said as he guided his boat with his trolling motor. "That baitfish is about to get eaten."

Seconds later the rod bent sharply and the fisherman Andreasen was guiding set the hook.

Line zipped off the reel and the fish dug for open water. But the fight was much less spirited than Andreasen would have liked.

In a matter of minutes, a 12-pound hybrid splashed to the surface and was scooped into the net.

A big fish -- but not nearly as big as Andreasen was hoping for.

At Beaver Lake, a 30,000-acre reservoir in northwest Arkansas, guides and fishermen alike dream big.

"We had a fish on yesterday that we couldn't even turn," said Andreasen, who lives in Garfield, Ark. "When it hit, it made a run and took a quarter of the line off the spool. Then it just ripped off.

"I would have liked to have at least seen that fish. It had to be over 30 pounds.

"But you don't always get those fish in. It's like hooking a freight train. You just hold on and hope you can tire them down."

Andreasen and his clients wage plenty of those battles every year. Andreasen likes to tell the story about one of his more fortunate fishermen, Blaine Robinson of Grandview.

"He came out and fished with me in December and caught a 32-pounder," Andreasen said. "Then he came back in April and catches a 46-pounder.

"I told him, `You must be living right. That doesn't happen too often.' "

But Andreasen knows it's always possible. He and the fishermen he guides average 45 to 60 stripers a year that will weigh more than 30 pounds -- "big, mountable fish," Andreasen said.

He is among the many who have landed true bragging-sized fish at Beaver.

On a hot summer day four years ago, he decided to kill some time and go fishing. He went to a flat just behind his house, dropped a few baits in the water -- and caught a 43-pound striper.

"You never know when you'll catch one of these big ones," Andreasen said. "You just have to be at the right place at the right time."

Jeff Wells of Purcell, Okla., was at that place on this day.

Fishing with one of Andreasen's fellow guides, Joe Farkas, and a friend, Paul Anderson of Oklahoma City, Okla., he watched as a striper hit like lightning, then quickly bent the rod.

When he set the hook, Wells knew he had the trophy he was after.

Several minutes later, the 34-pound fish was in the boat and in Wells' hands -- the center of attention for the day.

"I was here last year when Paul caught a 30-pounder and I saw how that fish fought," Wells said. "I didn't even get a hit that day, but I wanted to come back.

"I thought, `I'd love to catch something like that.' I guess it was my turn today."

Andreasen smiled as he watched Wells pose for photos, congratulated Farkas, then headed down lake for more fishing.

There were other fish that size out there, he said. It was just a matter of dragging the baits in front of one of them.

"You have to cover a lot of water when you fish for these stripers," Andreasen said. "They like to roam. They're constantly on the move.

"I've heard that they'll cover 30 miles in a day, and I wouldn't doubt it. One time we broke off on a fish. Three days later, we hooked a fish that had to be the same one -- it still had my rig in its mouth -- miles away.

"That shows how far they will roam."

That's why Andreasen and other guides at Beaver are constantly on the move, trolling shad through the deep, clear water.

Andreasen starts by casting out 12 to 14 lines, setting them at different depths. Those lines will trail anywhere from 30 to 200 feet behind the boat and will cut through the water anywhere from the surface to 24 feet deep.

"There are spots where we know the stripers will hang out," Andreasen said. "But really, you can catch them about anyplace.

"You just have to cover a lot of water. On a normal day, I'll troll 10 to 12 miles."

Days start early when you're fishing with Andreasen. He's a big believer that the best action comes right at dawn or shortly before.

But that doesn't mean fish can't be caught throughout the day. If there's one thing that's predictable about stripers, it's that they're unpredictable.

"We'll catch them year-round," Andreasen said. "Some of the best fishing is in December. That's when the stripers are just gorging on shad.

"But we have a hard time getting people to come out at that time of the year. A lot of people don't want to fish in the cold."

By the spring, that changes. Fishermen flock to Beaver for a shot at catching the fish of a lifetime.

"They're in here," Andreasen said. "I think this lake still holds 50-pound fish.

"Getting them to hit is one thing. And landing them once you get them on is another.

"But they're in here."
 


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