Family obligations kept me off the boat last weekend, but that didn’t stop my friends Roger and Voe from giving their rods and reels a workout. The duo spent Saturday fishing in the upper reaches of Lake Mead where they found fast action for both striped bass and smallmouth bass.
Though it is still a little early in the year to find full-fledged striper boils, the fish were kind enough to give my friends a big hint as to their whereabouts. That hint came when schools of hungry stripers pinned thousands of shad against the shorelines of coves and began feeding on the silvery bait fish. And since they didn’t want a place on the striper’s menu, some of the shad jumped clear out of the water in a desperate attempt to get away. Some jumped so far that they actually landed on the rock-strewn shoreline.
Unfortunately for the shad, their struggle for life at the water’s edge became little more than a dinner bell for hungry stripers. For eager fishermen, their struggle was like a sign that reads “Fish here.”
Taking the hint, Roger and Voe began casting to the striper school and caught some fish, but their catch rate increased when they began casting their lures over the feeding stripers and onto the shoreline. Then they pulled their baits off the rocks and reeled them back toward the school of stripers. By so doing, their lures resembled one of the frantic shad falling back into the water. The striped bass just couldn’t resist their offerings. Along the way they also managed to catch their share of scrappy smallmouth bass.
Naturally, days like that on the water occur only when I am not around to share in the fun and the stories that follow. At first I thought it might be nothing more than coincidence, but given my catch rates on recent outings I can’t help but wonder whether my friends plan it that way — a conspiracy, no doubt.
Conspiracy or not, “reel friends” don’t let friends not fish. That means you are obligated to invite your friends anytime you go fishing. According to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), “one of the main reasons people don’t go fishing or boating is because no one has invited them. For a newcomer, fishing can feel like an intimidating activity without an experienced guide, but you can help change this.”
One of the best times to invite friends who are not yet reel friends is free fishing day. Virtually every state offers at least one free day every year. These days are an opportunity to fish without having to first procure a fishing license, but all other regulations and limits remain in effect. It just so happens that by living in the Las Vegas area you have the opportunity to take advantage of two free fishing days, one in Nevada and one in either Utah or Arizona.
In Utah and Arizona free fishing day is set for June 7, the end of National Fishing and Boating Week. Nevada’s free fishing day is June 14. The RBFF calls National Fishing and Boating Week a celebration that “highlights the importance of boating and fishing in enhancing people’s quality of life and preserving our country’s natural beauty.”
Consider the story of Austin Madden, the kindergarten-aged fishermen who boated a 13.8 pound striped bass during the Nevada Striper Club’s most recent tournament on Lake Mead.
“Austin caught the monster with almost no assistance from his dad other than free shad and some git-’r-done encouragement,” said Toby Chandler, the club’s tournament director.
After a quality-of-life start like that, Austin is sure to be a reel friend.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.