Spring Striper School In Session

The following appears in the March issue of California Sportsman:

Spring represents an opportune time to get in on some outstanding striped bass fishing throughout Central California, from the Delta into the Sacramento and Feather River systems. (SOO HOO SPORTFISHING)

By Mark Fong

Spring is striper time in the California Delta. Each year legions of anglers converge on the area’s waterways in pursuit of hard-fighting striped bass as they make their annual spawning migration.

In some years the fish will travel up the Sacramento and Feather Rivers to spawn, while in other years the bulk of the fish may spawn in the Delta itself. One thing is for sure: There will be lots of stripers in the Delta this spring.

For over two decades, Jeff Soo Hoo has passionately pursued striped bass and today he is one of the most highly regarded guides on the Delta. Just in time for spring, California Sportsman had the opportunity to sit down with the proprietor of Soo Hoo Sportfishing to get his thoughts on the upcoming run.


While stripers can be caught in the Delta year-round, the two best times are during the spring and again during the fall. Typically the fall is a great time for stripers and last year was no exception.

“The striper fishing was pretty amazing until the storms came; there was really no slow down,” said Soo Hoo. “Normally, the fishing is good until the storms come, and that is exactly what happened this winter. We fished all the way to (the middle of) December, then a series of big storms came and the rain just blew out the river system.”

Capt. Soo Hoo has been fishing the Delta for over three decades, with the last 20 years focused on striped bass. Based in Oakley, in the heart of the Delta, he operates a 23-foot Rogue Jetworks Coastal boat and offers private chartered trips for up to six anglers. (To learn more about Soo Hoo Sportfishing, visit his website at soohoosportfishing.com or follow him on Facebook. He can also be reached directly at (925) 899-4045).

Sunrise on the Sacramento River Delta makes for a spectacular setting to target linesides. (SOO HOO SPORTFISHING)


There is perhaps nothing worse that puts stripers off the bite than cold, muddy water. When we spoke with Soo Hoo in early February, the water was clearing but an extended stretch of dry, cold weather had kept the water temps hovering in the high 40s. Soo Hoo knows that better fishing is not that far off.

“Spring is a great time to fish for stripers in the Delta. The fish are typically in big groups; they can be easy to catch and, of course, lots of fun. I expect the fish to start showing up in the system by the end of February or the beginning of March,” he said.

“Once the water reaches the mid- 50s, the bite should be really good. As long as the water is clean and warming up, the fish will start biting. April and May can be amazing. In a typical year, there will still be a good number of fish to be caught all the way up until June.”

This younger angler enjoyed some of the region’s excellent linesides fishing. Guide Jeff Soo Hoo prefers to go with lighter gear for his clients. “Drifting with live jumbo minnows puts a lot of fish in the boat,”he tips. (SOO HOO SPORTFISHING)


The affable Delta guide is optimistic that this season’s run will be good.

“There should be a lot of fish pushing up from the bay,” Soo Hoo said. “If history tells us anything, the last really big rain year we had, the fishing was amazing.”

He expects the areas around Sherman Lake and Broad Slough to be among the first locations to hold fish. Decker Island and the West Bank on the Sacramento River are sure to have fish as well. On the San Joaquin River side, the fish will work their way up to the Antioch Bridge, to the mouth of Three Mile Slough and upriver to Prisoner’s Point and beyond.


One of the things that makes fishing for stripers so popular is that they can be caught on a variety of techniques and a wide array of baits. From soaking cut bait to casting with artificials, there truly is something for every angler. Soo Hoo is an incredibly skilled guide and his specialty is light tackle fishing.

“There’s nothing more fun than catching stripers on light tackle,” he said. “Drifting with live jumbo minnows puts a lot of fish in the boat. At other times when the wind is up, we will troll minnow plugs and when the fish get into big schools, we may spoon for them as well. When we get on a good school of fish, it’s not uncommon to have multiple hook-ups – doubles, triples and even quadruples. It can be frantic, a little chaotic and a lot of fun for sure.”

It’s all about the timing and being in the right place when it comes to a successful striper outing.

“Knowing when and where to be is crucial. It’s all about reading the water and understanding the current and the tide; you get little bite windows,” Soo Hoo explained. “Last year another fisherman came up to me at the dock and said, ’We see you out there fishing all the time and you’re catching fish. We know because we see your net going and every time we stop near you, you just leave. Why is that?’ I told him that I leave because I have somewhere better to be where I can catch a lot more fish.”

If you are looking for the opportunity to get in on some fast- paced striper fishing action, make sure to head out to the Delta this spring. It’s a bite that you will not want to miss. CS