Editor’s note: See Part 1 of this story here
We will now rejoin our last column, floating amid in the scenic and angling glory of Lake Ouachita, Arkansas.
We had traveled 10 hours for a media event at the reservoir west of Little Rock. There, what started out as a half-hearted interest quickly turned into full-blown wild enthusiasm for this new favorite lake.
Lake Ouachita is a huge Army Corps of Engineers impoundment swaddled by the southern end of the Ozark Mountains near the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. As such, it is scenic beyond imagination for a lake that, being on the same latitude of Huntsville, Alabama, really should be a big muddy puddle full of largemouth bass, catfish and snakes. Instead I found a beautiful, almost Canadian, lake of clean water, islands, inlets and towering stone cliffs topped by pine trees.
Better is the fact that the lake is relatively pristine. There are just three private businesses along the reservoir, including the only known floating Subway Sandwich Shop, while the rest of the lake is ringed by unbroken national forest.
The sandwich shop is located at the Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa marina, our headquarters for the event. As explained in the last column, this Resort is far too nice for riff-raff such as outdoor writers and we are confident even the most cultured spouse would find the digs exceedingly pleasant.
Now that we are up to date, let’s talk about the prime reason for our visit: the fishing, specifically for striped bass.
Lake Ouachita is home to a thriving population of these bruisers, with 50-pound fish not uncommon though most will run in the 10-20 pound range. We would be fishing for them from Old Town PDL pedal-driven kayaks equipped with Raymarine Dragonfly-7 Sonar/GPS units. For human-powered fishing, this is probably the ultimately platform and I plan to continue selling plasma and other valuable body fluids until I can purchase one for myself.
Striper fishing is a game of trolling to locate fish so the pedal-powered kayaks and sonar units were perfect for the task.
Day one proved very enjoyable, provided you are a waterfowl. What dawned as clear, beautiful sunrise suddenly turned into a chilly all-day rain until I eventually gave up around 5 p.m. because of chronic dismay. However, on my way to the dock, something happened.
Tired of pervasive undergarment dampness while fighting wind and growing whitecaps in the main lake, I was headed home when I noticed a mud line drifting from the bottom of a cliff where the waves were crashing into a small pocket of clay. Reasoning that the lake’s abundant largemouth or spotted bass might be chasing minnows along the distinct boundary, I cast a Livetarget shiner crankbait into the brown soup and prepared to crank it hard along the base of the cliff.
I didn’t get a chance. A washtub-sized swirl erupted as my bait hit the water and I felt a throbbing weight through the fiberglass St. Croix Mojo Kayak rod.
A striper, somewhere in the 10-pound range, had been unexpectedly grocery shopping in the dirty water and attacked the bait with an aggression usually reserved for congressional candidates at a political fundraiser.
There isn’t much to do in such situations aside from hanging onto the rod. It was impossible to discourage the fish in his determination to head towards Oklahoma and the relatively-light kayak didn’t provide much resistance anyway. He doggedly burrowed toward deep water and for a while it was an angling standoff with neither party gaining a clear advantage. Man and fish were locked in a semi-epic battle for what seemed like hours though it was only a couple of minutes.
Just as I was planning how to actually boat the angry striper for photographs, the lure came free when the fish gave that famous second-wind burst upon seeing the boat. Nothing had failed aside from the angler; I hadn’t hammered the hooks hard enough into those bony jaws and they eventually pulled free, leaving a dejected, wet outdoor writer bobbing and sobbing in a large lake.
Truthfully, there was no crying. In spite of losing the object of my intense desire, I actually felt quite satisfied with myself.
After all, I had hooked one of America’s premier freshwater game fish from a kayak in fairly challenging conditions on an incredibly scenic lake. In spite of near-terminal dampness, I didn’t have to remind myself that there are far worse ways to spend a day at ‘work.’
With that high point achieved, the rest of the stay was fantastic if not so dramatic.
And though still a striper tenderfoot, we close by again giving a hearty recommendation to Lake Ouachita as a vacation destination for both the serious angler and those seeking serious pampering.
And if you go, and happen to catch a striper with sore lip, give him my regards.
For more information:
Listen to our Podcast featuring Randy Zellers, the Assistant Chief of Communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, talking about the wonderful vacation opportunities offered by Lake Ouachita. Listen Here