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Fish didn’t cooperate, but good day anyway

Even if we don’t catch any fish, it’s still going to be a good day on the water,” Roger said as we formalized plans for a Lake Mead fishing trip and he described the weather forecast. I agreed but at the same time hoped the thought wouldn’t prove prophetic when it came to the results of our fishing efforts.

After our conversation, I took a quick inventory of my bass tackle and decided a trip to the fishing store was in order. Not because I really needed to add anything to my small collection — what I already had was probably sufficient for what we had planned — but because no self-respecting fishermen should pass up the opportunity to augment his tackle stash. So off to the store I went.

Sorting through the various crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits and soft plastics lining the shelves is always a challenge. Everything comes in multiple colors and configurations and you have to choose what to buy and what to leave alone. The key is learning to differentiate between baits that will really catch fish and those that are simply designed to catch fishermen. One of these days, I’ll figure that out and let you know when it happens.

All in all, I didn’t do too badly, but the new rod and reel were probably a little over the top. Guess they saw me coming. Then again, it is Christmas, right?

It was early Monday morning when Roger and I launched his boat at Boulder Harbor and headed toward Vegas Wash. It was chilly, but not so cold that it was uncomfortable. Nothing that a couple of layers and a knit cap wouldn’t help. Add to that the smooth water conditions and the lack of wind, and it was indeed shaping up to be a good day on the water.

As we motored toward the back of Vegas Wash, I couldn’t help but notice how much the lake has changed with the dropping water level. Much of what once was known as Vegas Bay is high and dry, and a sandbar that once took out a propeller on my patrol boat now stands as a sentinel above what is left of 33 Hole.

On an outing the week prior, Roger and his friend Voe caught more than 50 stripers in the Wash and we were hoping to replicate that. There already were a few boats in the back of the Wash when we arrived. Their occupants were busy casting nets for shad to use as live bait, but we opted to throw lures instead.

For an hour or so we cast our lures in the general area where Roger and Voe had done so well, but neither of us had so much as a bump. So we netted a few shad and moved to deeper water where we baited up our hooks and settled in to wait. The result was the same. Nothing. We left the Wash for a time, but eventually came back and once more tried our luck. The results were the same, and then Roger’s fishing rod suddenly bent hard as a fish hammered his shad. But he missed the fish.

By mid-morning we decided the striped bass weren’t going to cooperate and pointed the boat toward the narrows where we hoped to catch some smallmouth or largemouth bass. The boat ride was nice, and the scenery pleasant to look at, but the fishing didn’t improve any. Though I did manage to catch a handful of rock fish before we headed back toward the Wash.

Just past what once was Black Island we saw a large gathering of water birds and decided to give live bait one more try. Roger also opted to try his hand at jigging. Within minutes he finally caught the first fish of the day, a plump striper that convinced me to tie on a Kastmaster and see what I could come up with. By the time my lure hit the water, Roger had caught another fish or two.

I let the Kastmaster drop until it reached the bottom nearly 100 feet below, then turned the reel handle a half dozen times and began jigging. Once, twice, three times and boom. My line went taught and I set the hook. Another plump striper caught and released. On my next cast, things played out the same way, but only until my hastily tied knot gave way. Then I lost both the fish and my lure.

In the end Roger caught and released four stripers and a catfish, and I only had the one. Not many fish by Lake Mead standards, but fish nonetheless. Roger was right. It did turn out to be a good day.

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 intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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