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Napa River Striper Fishing - Trolling Rattle Traps in Sloughs

We started planning this trip last week. There are two main factors to consider when fishing the Napa River, tides and weather. Ideally, you want to fish the incoming tide, where freshly oxygenated water is coming into the system bringing some bait fish along with it. As far as the weather, I look at wind speed as a primary factor. Napa River sloughs get fairly narrow and often that’s where the striper action is. Navigating these narrow channels while getting blown side to side isn’t pleasant. If the forecasted wind speeds are over 15 mph, I would probably consider rescheduling the trip. But not always. Today’s forecast was 6 mph winds, which was just fine.




During incoming tide, stripers like to position themselves on the shelves near inlets or even in deeper waters in sloughs and the main river channel. They stage themselves in ready positions to ambush the bait flowing in on the tide.


As far as tackle for trolling, we found that Rattle Traps work the best for us. Here is an example of a kit that contains rattle trap lures that work on Napa River: https://www.catchhappy.co/product-page/striper-base-kit-1


The idea of a rattle trap is a lipless crankbait of various weights and sizes that dive 5ft-15ft when trolling behind the boat. These crankbaits are designed to run nose down, as such, they do a good job running over obstacles in shallow spots - perfect for trolling in sloughs. One of the key features of rattle traps is that they are loaded with loud rattles that get the stripper’s attention and elicit action.


John and I launched at Cuttings Warf and started trolling the main river at around 8:30am. The tide was just starting to come in so we took our time trolling the main river before running into the sloughs. The sloughs are shallow during low tide and I wanted to get a bit more water into the system before taking my North River boat into the sloughs. We’ve tried a couple of different rattle trap colors and weights and had one hit, but no hookups.


The plan for the day was to troll the main, then start working the sloughs, anchoring up and casting near inlet mouths that looked promising. We did just that. Our first hookup came within 15-20 minutes of entering the Napa slough. It was a 16” juvenile, but still, it felt good to get a fish in the boat. We anchored up in a few spots but weren’t able to get any bites casting swim baits or rattle traps. We spent the next couple of hours trolling the slough and anchoring in spots that looked promising. Our next hookup came on the way out of the Napa slough, while we were almost at the mouth to the main. This time a healthy 20” striper put up and good fight, but we got him to the boat. This wasn’t a monster fish, but still exciting to put a keeper-sized striper into the boat.


All fish was released to fight another day.


We ended up running to the 37 bridge and fished another slough there for an hour. Having caught nothing we made our way back to the dock and had the boat on the trailer by 1pm.


As far as fishing goes, the day went fairly well. We worked hard for them and ended up with two fish in the boat and a couple of missed opportunities. However, trolling the meandering Napa River on a calm sunny November day is a both thrilling and rejuvenating experience. Watch the video to get a sense of how it feels to fish the Napa River with us. Ready to give it try with one of our guides? Click here to book your own guided striper fishing trip on Napa River.

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