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Dale Welch- The Striper King

Angling with The Striper King

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: One day in 1988, Dale Welch of Crane Hill, Alabama, a biomedical engineer in Birmingham, left his job to go fishing and never returned. No, Welch didn’t vanish. He discovered a new career and a new life as a saltwater striper guide on Smith Lake. Welch has guided for stripers longer than any other guide on Smith Lake and has caught four Smith Lake records. Today, we’ll learn some of Dale’s striper-fishing tactics.

“Fish on,” Dale Welch yelled. “Get him, Sarah! Pull the rod out of the rod holder and start pumping and winding.” As Sarah Hart of Vestavia, Alabama, picked up the 6-foot medium-to-heavy-action rod and tried to take up line, the monofilament ran off her reel, sounding like a long-tailed cat getting its tail squished under a rocking chair. When Hart gained line, the striper would run, bowing the rod and forcing Hart up on her tip-toes like a small child on a seesaw just as the board started to rise. Welch instructed, “When that striper takes line, don’t reel. As soon as it stops taking line, pump up on the rod and takeClick to enlarge up slack as you lower the rod.”

Hart knew she had her hands full with this 15-pound fierce-fighting striper, the biggest fish she’d ever caught. When Hart spotted a huge, dark shadow rising from the depths of Smith Lake, she hardly could believe that she had such a large striper on her line. Welch looked for his over-sized net as the big fish came closer to the surface and coached Hart into reeling in the large striper. All smiles when she landed the striper, Hart showed-off the big striper for the camera. From daylight until 8 am, we caught and released three stripers that weighed from 12- to 15-pounds each, and one spotted bass that weighed 4-1/2- pounds. Smith Lake draws Alabama fishermen to it like a magnet because of the possibility of their catching a 40-or a 50-pound striped bass.

“When I decided to become a striper guide back in 1988, I thought there might be a lot of Click to enlargeAlabama fishermen who would love the opportunity to catch fish as big as they could catch at the Gulf of Mexico without traveling there,” Welch says. Time has proved Welch’s assumption correct. He may guide as many as 250 days some years for stripers at Smith Lake and catches big saltwater stripers all year, every year. “The stripers show up at different places at various times of the year, and I don’t know why,” Welch explains. “But I know where I always can find them because I’ve kept a log of where they are each time of year. Smith Lake is a great home for the Gulf Coast strain of saltwater striper because it’s so deep. Even in the hottest summer months, we still catch stripers.”

Welch’s Striper Recipe:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Click to enlarge Cut striper filets into steaks (white meat only). Sprinkle each steak with Lemon Pepper (liberally), seasoned salt (to taste), onion or garlic salt (to taste), Cajun seasoning (if you like the flavor, to taste). Place steaks in a buttered Pyrex dish placing a teaspoon of butter on top of each. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Place a tablespoon of ranch dressing (or your favorite dressing) on top of each steak and place into the oven for 5 more minutes and remove.

Tomorrow: Where We Caught ‘Em, and the History of Stripers in Smith Lake

To schedule a striper fishing trip with Dale Welch, contact him at: 7932 County Road 312, Crane Hill, AL 35053, (256) 737-0541,,

Tomorrow: Where We Caught ‘Em, and the History of Stripers in Smith Lake

Check back each day this week for more about "Dale Welch- The Striper King"

Day 1: Angling with The Striper King
Day 2: Where We Caught ‘Em, and the History of Stripers in Smith Lake
Day 3: How to Catch ‘Em
Day 4: Why Depth Finders and Trolling Motors Spell Striper Success
Day 5: How Dale Welch Became a Striper Guide on Smith Lake and a Super Striper Recipe


Entry 366, Day 1