I wasn’t surprised to hear from Mark Fowler last week. The extended forecast told me he’d probably be giving me a call, text or e-mail.
Every summer that we get a run of warm, stable weather, avid wiper fishermen like Mark find the fish hungry and in stable patterns. For Mark that means dragging big crankbaits and plastic jigs behind downriggers at Cheney Reservoir. Monday morning Mark and his father caught 10 wipers, the best of which was up to about eight pounds.
Tuesday morning he took Jacob Holem, a 12-year-old friend of mine, (and now Mark’s) and me.
Conditions were perfect when we met at 7 a.m. at Cheney State Park. It was already getting warm, the wind was about 10 m.p.h. and had been from the southwest for hours.
After a short ride, we put the downriggers down near a hump where Mark has caught wipers for years. He’d just said they’d fished for an hour Monday before getting a fish when one of the rods started bucking and Jacob was giggling and fighting his first wiper. When the fish measured 22 inches, it went into the livewell.
Ten minutes later we were trolling when Mark pointed to a bright blog on his electronics and said, “That’s a big blob of shad and we should catch a fish there.” Seconds later the left rod bent deep and the reel started spewing line. Rather than just one nice wiper, the line had one on the bottom crankbait and another on the swimbait a few feet up.
And so it went for the first 90 minutes of trolling. Fish after fish, Mark predicting when they would strike based on what he saw on his fish finder…and his few hundred mid-summer trips to Cheney through the years.
Since we hadn’t fished together in several years, Mark and I largely visited as Jacob took on more and more of the work with the downriggers. That included letting 80 feet of line from a rod, then attaching the line to a clip near the downrigger’s lead ball, and lowering the ball to the exact depth Mark wanted to be trolling.
A boat seeing our success at the original hump fouled things up by anchoring in the exact path Mark needed to keep us on the spot, which cut our
success. Still, the clicker on the boat’s dash showed we boated 17 fish, of which 14 were wipers, of which at least nine were over the lake’s 21-inch minimum length limit.
At the cleaning dock we worked up our limits of two wipers, each, being careful to trim away every speck of strong-tasting red-colored meat. By then it was downright hot walking across the parking lot.
A little sweat seems a very small price to pay for fishing that’s even hotter than August in Kansas.