Striper fishing a unique opportunity and family-friendly outing

JAMES K. JOSLIN Staff Writer Published October 9, 2011 at 3:05 a.m.
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— Hunters know there is an expected difference in how one behaves when on a deer stand versus when sitting at the edge of a dove field. The former activity requires complete stealth, while the latter one allows for the freedom to express oneself with cheers, jeers and shouts as the action of the day unfolds.

Well, if you ask striped-bassfishing guides Ben Sanders ( www.arkansasstripers. com) and David Cochran (www.davidcochranfishing. com), they’ll tell you that the atmosphere for striper fishing is definitely bent toward the dove hunt. With the fish often a few dozen yards away from the boat, either below or to one side, there’s ample opportunity to converse about whatever subject arises. And, you can definitely whoop and holler to celebrate the fishing successes.

A striped-bass-fishing tripcan even include several boats all fishing in proximity - another similarity to the usual scene for dove hunting. For instance, Sanders pointed to previous company outings that included 20 to 30 employees from one business divvied into a handful of guides’ boats.

“Fishing for stripers is great for a general family outing,” Sanders said. “I’ve had a lot of people come from out of state and bring their sons, daughters or other family members for holidays or birthdays. The relaxed, family atmosphere is accompanied by one of team effort. So, the whole family can participate in fishing and enjoy it.”

This is the case, no matter what the skill level of the angler, Sanders said. He recounted a fishing trip when a Texas doctor brought his wife and son up to Lake Ouachita.

“The rods were going off, and fish were breaking everywhere. We had rods bent double, but the doc and his wife werefilming their son. The son had brought a little spinning rod and had gotten one on that light tackle,” Sanders said.

Cochran, who has been guiding since the late 1990s and fishing more than three decades, chimed in with regard to the family-friendly atmosphere: “This type of fishing welcomes all ages. You can do this with kids from 8 years of age to the elderly who are in their 70s or older. You are doing more catching than fishing, so not a lot of energy is expended.”

That sort of experience is heightened when considering that the fishing method is so different than almost anything else an angler can do in fresh water. For instance, Sanders said that he has often heard striper fishing referred to as “deep-sea fishing in Arkansas.”

“Fishing for stripers is different,” Sanders said. “It offers the average or even the below-average angler the opportunity to catch large fish. It adds variety, and variety is the spice of life.”

Who needs to travel all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, when you can catch fish commonly weighing 20, 30, 40 pounds or more? (The Arkansas state record striped bass weighed 64.5 pounds.) Considering those sizes, it should come as no surprise that Sanders has often heard his clients say, “That’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.”

Echoing Sanders’ sentiments, Cochran said, “I think the attraction to striper fishing is just the thrill of catching a fish that size. There are few other places in the country to catch stripers that are 20 pounds and up on a regular basis.”

In between the big bites, said Cochran, the son of professional bass angler George Cochran, he’s seen families spend time catching up with one another, and business clients get deals done.

“I’ve had three generations of one family fishing on the boat at one time. They had bonding time,” Cochran said, adding that he would later see one of those customers and hear of the great time they’d had. “I’ve made a lot of friends and relationships withcustomers over the years.”

Cochran has utilized the peaceful and easygoing atmosphere of his striper boat to provide trips to terminally ill children through the Make a Wish Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

“It’s been a lot of fun to get to watch them enjoy the day on the water catching those big fish,” Cochran said.

Staff writer James K. Joslin can be reached at (501) 399-3693 or jjoslin@arkansasonline.com.

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