Lake Mendocino is a reservoir in Northern California wine country near the headwaters of the Russian River. The lake covers 1,822 acres and is stocked with a variety of fish species, including striped bass, which have thrived in the reservoir. Stripers in the 6-to-10-pound range are common. Anglers go after these hard-fighting gamefish by boat, from the shoreline and in kayaks.
When to Fish
Choose your season. Spring and fall are the most productive times of year to catch striper bass on Lake Mendocino. In the spring, threadfin shad move into shallow water to spawn and stripers move in after them. Shad move to the surface in the fall as the water temperature changes, resulting in spectacular striper opportunities. The striper bass churn the surface of the lake in a shad feeding frenzy, a sight not soon forgotten.
Spring fishing on the reservoir is most productive from 5:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., when stripers are feeding on spawning shad. In the fall, experienced striper anglers fish from noon until about 3 p.m. when the water is at the peak of clarity because of the overhead sun.
What to Fish
Live baitfish, especially threadfin shad, are the weapon of choice for catching stripers on lake Mendocino. Anglers bait the shad through the lips and nostrils, with the hook barb pointing upward to reduce snags. Fish the shallows in the springtime, allowing your shad to mingle with the other spawning baitfish. In the fall, during a boil, anglers cast live bait into the center of the action.
Artificial lures that resemble shad and other small, silver baitifish are also used to good effect. Trolling plugs and crankbaits behind a kayak or with a stop-and-go retrieval from the shoreline is an effective method when the stripers are on the move. These lures are useful during the off-months when stripers are not feeding as aggressively and might need something right in their faces to annoy and provoke a strike.
How to Fish
Kayak fishing for striper bass is popular on Lake Mendocino because the personal watercraft allows an angler to float right up to the areas where these gamefish are in a frenzy for shad. High-powered bass boats cause the easily spooked striper to scatter, even amid a shad boil on the surface. Stripers will stop feeding and vanish if frightened by a boat motor.
For kayakers, this presents an opportunity to glide to the edge of the action and drop a bait in the middle of a boil. Hooking into a quality striper of 10 pounds or more may actually cause the kayak to pull around in the direction of the fighting fish, and some anglers have reported going for a ride when a big striper hit their hooks. Casting into a boil will produce savage strikes on live bait or top-swimming lures, particularly soft plastics that resemble shad.
Shore anglers are successful in the spring because they have easy access to the shallows where baitfish are moving in to spawn.