March 29, 2017 - Waiting for Warming
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 09:56
Lake Powell Fish Report – March 29, 2017
Lake Elevation: 3595.40 MSL
Water Temperature: 52-56F
By: Wayne Gustaveson http://www.wayneswords.com
Lake Powell is rising. It has come up one foot since last week. Spring runoff has begun way early and should continue unabated during April and May. That is exciting as it may get the lake level up to the brush line in time to allow bass and crappie youngsters to find cover shortly after they hatch out. That has not happened for a very long time and will be very beneficial for restocking the lakes sport fish and forage fish supply for the next generation.
Cool blustery weather has kept the lake water temperature down in the low 50s and slowed down fish activity. Fishing results slowed down after a very warm week but did not stop the fish from biting. Here is a recap from San Juan, Escalante, Bullfrog and the northern lake.
Water clarity at mid lake is crystal clear. Fish were easy to see in water as deep as 25 feet. Unfortunately, that makes it easy for fish to see boats and anglers making them shy away before they can be caught. The key to catching all species of fish in clear water is to fish in the afternoon as the water warms up and throw very long casts so the fish are not as flighty. Warming water makes fish more active but they can still see the boat. The only guaranteed method in this clear water world is to head to the back of the canyon where visibility decreases, water temperature rises and fish are much more likely to hit your lure offerings.
The backs of canyons in the Escalante and San Juan provided decent fishing but not much better than that found in Bullfrog Bay where striper trolling was working at the rate of about one fish caught every 10 minutes. I suggest waiting until the next warming period before making a long run to the San Juan or Escalante.
No matter where you are on the lake, the most effective technique this week was to cast double or single tail plastic grubs to the bank in slightly colored water. Work the bait slowly along the bottom in 15-30 feet of water to find smallmouth bass, crappie, stripers and largemouth bass. Add a piece of night crawler to target walleye. In all cases, look for the edge of drop-offs and focus on habitat where fish hold before moving to a new spot. The drop off is an excellent place to drop a lure or plastic bait.
Stripers in the southern lake have been going crazy down at the dam. Average catch was about 50 fish for each boat checked this week. Bait used was typically anchovies but those using striper meat as chum and bait also had great success. Many are fishing right at the barricade but some are finding willing fish further away from the barricade along the west wall. Fishing pressure has not been heavy this week due to cooler weather so all have been able to find a good fishing spot. I have received no recent reports of fishing success further uplake, but I think that if the good spots are all taken at the dam then fishing on the left turn just upstream from Buoy 3 would be a good choice. Then the standard spots at the Power Plant intake, Navajo Canyon points, and other spots along the main channel will provide good catching results as well.
Pick a spot where a broken rock point or ledge is found along the steep cliff wall. Cut up 3-5 anchovies and chum the area. Then cast out a chunk of anchovy and cast it out 30-60 feet from the boat and let it settle slowly back toward the boat. When it is hanging straight down under the boat slowly reel it back in and repeat the process. If no fish are caught in 15 minutes try another spot. You should be able to find your own school after trying 3 or 4 spots.
The weather will warm dramatically in April. Watch the weather reports and plan a trip as soon as the air temperature warms into the high 60s and low 70s. The next warming period will ignite super fishing in all Lake Powell species. They are ready and willing and just waiting for warming before incredible spring fishing starts again.
March 22, 2017 - Choose you Species
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 09:46
Lake Powell Fish Report – March 22, 2017
Lake Elevation: 3594
Water Temperature: 58-63 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson http://www.wayneswords.com
Lake Powell is rising. It has come up 6 inches since last week. Spring runoff has begun a bit early due to warm days in March. That may change as another storm front is now on the way. Early runoff is a double edged sword for fishing success from Trachyte to Good Hope Bay. This week, reports indicated good steady fishing success for smallmouth bass, walleye, stripers and largemouth. Catching was steady for those using bass jigs along the shoreline and trolling with wally divers and shad raps at 2.5 to 3 mph in open water.
Early runoff will “muddy the water” and have some impact on fishing success in the northern lake. Right now the mudline is in the vicinity of White Canyon/Trachyte. The muddy water could move quickly downstream depending on the strength of the Colorado River inflow. Anyone headed to the northern lake this weekend will find good fishable water and good success in catching a wide range of species.
In the southern lake bait fishing was working better for stripers than most other methods. Most anglers were finding success at the dam. One reported suggested cutting an anchovy in half and hooking it on a 1/4 oz. leadhead. “Then cast the bait out about 50 to 60 feet into deep water and let it just drift down on its own arc controlled by the length of line out. By the time it gets to about 40 to 50 feet deep you'll get a good bite.” The Wahweap fish cleaning station was busy every day with many fishing crews bringing in 20-30 fish to fillet.
My weekly trip was less productive than the previous trip. This time we went to Last Chance to see if the schools there were cooperating. We found only a few striper aggregations that would respond to our trolled lures, but when we did we often doubled by tossing out a lure behind the hooked fish as it was reeled in.
We tried Buoy 25 cove on the return trip and found the shallow visible stripers still holding there but they were less aggressive than they were a week ago. Striper count there was only 12 fish with a total of 24 stripers filleted at the cleaning station.
We should have focused on Warm Creek where the best reports were coming from. Large schools of stripers were in the back of the canyon past the floating restroom where bottom depth quickly changes from 60 to 40 feet. These fish were willing to hit diving lures attached to downriggers set at 40 feet. Graph a school and then drop a lure deeply to catch lots of fish.
Right now you can choose which species of fish you wish to catch by using the technique best suited for that species. Bass are in the backs of canyons and on rock slides in the main channel and main canyons anxious to find plastic grubs. Crappie are hiding in certain spots with overhanging rocks or a submerged weed pile. They like small plastic or hair jigs. Stripers can be caught trolling, casting, and bait fishing. Walleye are feeding at first light in the morning. They really like night crawlers near the bottom. A slow retrieve works best for them. Whichever species is your favorite, they can be caught now, lakewide, through the end of May.
It’s time to go fishing at Lake Powell.
March 15, 2017 - Jerk Bait Stripers
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:13
Lake Powell Fish Report – March 15, 2017
Lake Elevation: 3593
Water Temperature: 55-61 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson http://www.wayneswords.com
Spring weather has been warm and wonderful. Surface water temperature this morning has risen to 55 degrees which is 6 degrees warmer than last week. That is impressive and the various fish species are reacting in their own way. Here is a rundown by species and location.
Smallmouth Bass: Warming has allowed smallmouth to move shallower. They come up because warm water is only on the surface. It will take a while before the thin warmer water layer will expand enough for full participation by smallmouth. Right now they are more likely to react to lures in the 60 degree afternoon water than in the 55 degree morning. As the lake wide temperature continues to increase, bass will be more responsive throughout the day. Right now take advantage of other more active species in the morning and then switch over to smallmouth later in the day.
Largemouth Bass: Largemouth respond well all day long but there are not as many largemouth as smallmouth making fish success steady but not super productive. You have to search for largemouth. They can be very shallow and visible in clear water. They can be near a bush, which are few and far between, or in big uneven rocky structure. A rocky cove is more likely to produce largemouth than a large main channel rockslide.
Effective bass lures this week included soft plastics in brown, chartreuse, green pumpkin, watermelon, shad or white. Casting a grub to shore structure or drop-shotting under the boat both worked well. Bass tournament anglers this week caught some nice largemouth in the 6-pound range.
Walleye: are spawning but they will respond to bait and lures at dawn and dusk each day. Females are the most likely fish to catch. Walleye are a good target while waiting for smallmouth to wake up. Cast to the 10-15 foot strata in the backs of coves or canyons. Use conventional bass tackle but attach a small piece of night crawler to the hook then slow down the retrieve and maintain bottom contact. Use the same advice if trolling or casting a bottom bouncer with a worm harness and night crawler.
Crappie: These fish are getting more active and a few have been caught but they are very limited in the lake. Reproduction has been hampered by lack of brushy cover during spawning season so numbers are down. A few crappie have been found in Navajo Canyon and Last Chance but if looking for a serious crappie trip then go to the San Juan, Escalante or Good Hope Bay. One angler interviewed at the cleaning station yesterday said he caught crappie when he changed out his small crappie jigs to a 3-inch plastic worm. Crappie could apparently find the bigger worm in cloudy water or the fish they feed on were of larger size.
Stripers: We traveled from Wahweap to Dungeon Canyon looking for stripers yesterday. We tried trolling and casting in Dungeon, Dry Rock, Main Rock Creek, Dove, Padre Canyon and Gunsight. Results were similar at each location. Only 1 or two stripers were caught in the backs of each canyon. It is obvious that warming has changed striper dynamics and they are on the move. We left the backs of canyons and started looking in clear water. Surprisingly, we were successful in visually finding schools of stripers in Labyrinth, Face, and Buoy 25. Fish were skittish and ran from us so spooning and casting did not work.
Finally we found success with a long range trolling technique. We went to the back of the canyon and cast out a small (3 inch) shallow running crankbait (Lucky Craft pointer 65, ghost color). With the bail open we then trolled slowly out crossing over the visible school. When almost out of line (100+ yards) on the spinning reel the bail was closed and a pause and retrieve jerk bait technique was employed. When the small lure passed over the school with the boat well out of range the fish responded well and ate the small lures.
As expected, at the fish cleaning station with the normal 30 stripers, we found these fish to be fat and healthy with stomachs containing plankton. Healthy stripers are on the move and are able to subsist on plankton until the new shad crop is produced in May and June.
There are still striper schools in the backs of canyons where shad are available. These fish can be caught on spoons, casting and trolling. They will likely stay in the backs canyons and wait for shad to spawn. Other stripers that are not yet mature (14-18 inches) can survive on plankton and they will be found widely scattered throughout the lake.
Mature stripers that are not finding shad will move to the deep water in the main channel. These fish have shown up at Glen Canyon Dam this week. Catches of 30 fish in 4 hours of fishing have been reported.
This spring will be a delight for all anglers. From now to the end of May there will be fish available to suit your preferred fishing techniques and locations. Bait fishermen can find stripers in the channel. Trollers and casters can find many species of fish in the backs of canyons. Bass anglers will find their targets along the rocky shoreline. As an added bonus the lake will rise to levels not seen for many years. It’s a great year to be at Lake Powell.
It is always a good idea to store harvested stripers on ice to keep them in the best shape for great eating quality.
March 8, 2017 - Largemouth Bass Take Off!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 11:11
Lake Powell Fish Report – March 8, 2017
Lake Elevation: 3594
Water Temperature: 49-54 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson http://www.wayneswords.com
Walleye and Largemouth Fishing Begins
Springtime for Lake Powell fish effectively arrives today. Air temperature at Lake Powell will climb into the 60s today and soar to the 70s later in the week. Water temperature will rise from the high 40s to the mid 50s by the weekend. Warm water fish will take immediate notice of the warming water.
Smallmouth bass don’t really get in gear until the early morning water temperature is 57 degrees or above. Largemouth bass are the first to respond. With warming this week, largemouth will get more active, look for an easy meal of crayfish, sunfish or shad, and be much more interested in bass jigs. Expect the afternoon water temperature to climb to the 60’s by the weekend. I am an early morning fishermen and often reap the rewards of getting out early, but that does not really matter when pursuing largemouth or smallmouth bass this week. Afternoon fishing in warming water will be better than morning fishing in cool water.
Largemouth enjoy cover. At the current low lake levels, flooded brush is hard to find. If you see a submerged tumbleweed pile, a bush with thick branches, or some other cover that may hold a bass, cast to the cover. It is wise to use a weedless lure and a slow presentation when fishing for largemouth. When cover is completely lacking find the warmest water and cast there. If there is no brush then find large rocky structure with a bit of shade where bass wait to ambush a shad or sunfish.
This is the time to catch big, heavy bass before the spawn when large females are full of eggs. Expect to find more bass in the backs of canyons where water is green or murky. Clear water is not as “bassy”.
Due to low water and lack of brush, largemouth bass are not as numerous as smallmouth bass. I recommend that all largemouth bass that are caught be released so they can successfully spawn and increase bass numbers lake wide. Surprisingly, if you want to harvest a bass then the females are the ones to keep. Males guard the nest and tend the kids. Next month, when sight-fishing for bass, males are the bass seen guarding the nests. These little guys are the ones that must be released. If you want to keep a bass then make sure it is a smallmouth bass. They are available in large numbers and great for a fish dinner. You can keep up to 20 smallmouth bass each day.
Walleye are more excited about warming water than largemouth bass because warming triggers walleye spawning. Reports are starting to come in from the northern lake that walleye have been captured on spoons in 60-80 feet of water. These prespawn walleye aggregations will turn their focus from feeding to spawning which occurs at night on submerged rockslides. That means walleye will be harder to catch now but they will be post-spawn hungry and ready to provide an epic fishing experience in April and May in the northern lake. Put that on your calendar.
Striped bass are still quite catchable. The question now is when will stripers show up at the dam or other locations in the main channel and provide great fishing for all that use bait. No reports of bait fishing success have been received yet. Fishing success is still solid for those using the troll/cast/spoon techniques that have worked all winter long. Stripers are still finding shad in the backs of canyons and can be caught by trolling shad imitating crankbaits that run from 8-25 feet in the murky water in the backs of canyons. My fishing success has dropped off during the last few trips. The weekly trip tally has dropped from 75, to 55, to only 30 stripers caught yesterday. I know, no one is going to feel sorry for me bringing in 30 stripers, but it just means that conditions are changing and I have to look in other locations as stripers are on the move.
Good striper reports are coming in from murky water in the backs of Navajo Canyon, Lone Rock Canyon, Warm Creek, Padre Canyon, Last Chance, and Rock Creek. Trolling and casting works best. Spoons are still working periodically with the silver Kastmaster lures working better than the standard jigging spoons.
It is exciting to see spring fishing take off again. It makes we want to go fishing at Lake Powell!
March 2, 2017 - First regular Fish report
Lake Powell Fish Report – March 2, 2017
Lake Elevation: 3594
Water Temperature: 48-50 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson http://www.wayneswords.com
Water temperature this morning was a cold 48 degrees, but March is coming in like a peaceful little pussy cat. Weather is warming with little wind predicted for the coming week. That means fishing success will improve with each passing day until the next storm front. Expect rising water temperatures to reach 57 degrees in the afternoon by the end of next week. That temperature really wakes up Lake Powell fish. Here is what to expect for each species.
Largemouth Bass: Bass hover over, reside in, and do not like to leave cover. They like to share their bush with sunfish. Rent is extremely expensive for the individual sunfish eaten each day but the others peacefully coexist until meal time the next day. To catch largemouth, fish in, over, and around that bush. It’s too cold for topwater so the lure must be placed in or really close to the bush, so a weedless presentation is often best. Brush is limited now at this low lake level so look for bass in large rocky structure as well. Use a slow presentation so a cold bass has time to view the bait before deciding to take a bite.
Crappie: Like largemouth, crappie really want to live in a bush. When brush is absent crappie tend to seek a certain water depth, hover over a ledge or dropoff, or find colored water where they can eat small fish by ambushing them in low visibility water. At the current water level, crappie will be hard to locate. Look in the backs of canyons where water depth is 12-25 feet with green to muddy water color. I use an eighth ounce crappie jig, either hair jig or plastic, to search for crappie in the backs of canyons.
Smallmouth Bass: These bass use rock structure for cover so it is easier to locate them with plastic grubs fished on rocky shelves, in boulder fields, or at the edge of drop-offs and other shallow water areas from 30 feet deep to the shallow shoreline. The key to springtime bass fishing is to find the warmest water available. Often a tall rock, facing the mid day sun, will heat a cove slightly warmer than the surrounding water. Fishing in that cove will be better than a cove in the shade or without a warming rock. Use the thermometer for best fishing results.
Walleye: It is spawning season for these toothy critters. The boys are totally focused on finding the girls so they are not caught as well during March. They really turn on in April and May. Large females are still actively eating shad and can be located in green to muddy water in the backs of canyons. If shad are present and swimming in open water, big female walleye can be caught trolling and casting. We caught a 3-pound female last week in open water while trolling for stripers with shad imitating baits. If trolling for walleye, it is always best to fish at a water depth where the lure occasionally hits bottom. The most effective trolling lure may be a bottom bouncer that can hit bottom at various depths. Walleye are bottom oriented so the overall most effective technique may be to hook a piece of worm to a bass jig and slowly inch that along the bottom structure. Troll to find the walleye aggregation then cast to catch more fish.
Striped Bass: Stripers swim in schools, so finding the school really increases catch rate. I troll to find a school, then cast or spoon while hovering over the school. One striper eating a lure will encourage the rest of the school mates to join in. After catching one striper, quickly get the lure back in the water to entice following fish. Watch the graph to see if the school follows and appears under the boat. The springtime question is: Will stripers be in the backs of canyons chasing lures or in deep water of the main channel eating bait? Right now I have found more stripers in the backs of canyons because that is where I have been looking. My prediction is that there will be an equal number of stripers that come to the main channel looking for bait. That prediction won’t be fully answered until April. I promise to keep looking until that is fully defined. Stay tuned.
February 23, 2017 - You Won't Believe This?
Lake Powell Fish Report – February 23, 2017
Lake Elevation: 3594
Water Temperature: 49-54 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson http://www.wayneswords.com
February has been an excellent month for great fishing results in the southern lake. We have found great spooning results in early February with a fish count of 75 stripers. Then later in the month we caught 38 stripers while trolling and casting. Spoons did not work on that trip. When we headed uplake to see how conditions had changed this week we were prepared to give the stripers any presentation they wanted. The fish did not disappoint us, in fact, we were amazed at what happened.
Following reports from the previous day we went to the back of the canyon and started spooning when a few shad or striper traces were seen on the graph. Our spoon were ignored by the stripers seen on the graph. We went looking for cooperative fish by trolling while watching the graph. In short order 12-14 inch (plankton eating) stripers were caught randomly on Lucky Craft XD78 pointers in ghost and chartreuse shad colors. There was no real pattern or many fish seen on the bottom but the small (best eating size) fish were caught regularly. After 1.5 hours we had 10 fish in the cooler and we moved on.
Another boat was found in the distance so we pulled up close to get a fish report. They were hovering over a striper school trying to spoon them up so we joined in. In short order the school responded and we hooked 2-3 pound stripers regularly. Action was quick and intense while the school was active. Occasionally we saw a single threadfin shad come to the surface and swim quickly away to avoid predation. The striper school was actively attacking a shad ball and we were lucky enough to be there for the action. After 15 minutes the deep schools moved on and catching on spoons quit but not before we placed another 15 large stripers in the cooler.
The other boat left to search for the striper school but those shad swimming along the surface made me pick up the spinning rod and toss Pointers to shallow chasing stripers. There were a few stripers near the surface and an occasional catch was made with a long cast and a stop and go retrieve. We even did the “figure 8 musky retrieve” with the lure near the boat and caught a few trailing stripers within 5 feet of the boat. That was awesome to see them attack the lure within plain sight.
While all this was going I heard random splashes in the distance and thought gizzard shad must be jumping in the water that had warmed to 56 degrees in the back of the canyon. Another big splash sounded behind me and my focus switched from stripers swimming under the boat to the shoreline. I looked up in time to see a pod of shad jump out of the water followed by a 3-pound striper within 2 feet of the shoreline. I could not believe my eyes. I had just witnessed a striper ‘boil’ in February. Unbelievable! Later, I added up the events and realized that the school of shad the stripers were chasing below the boat, went shallow with the striper school close behind. We moved 20 yards closer to shore and cast the same lures to the bank. Stripers hit the lures on every cast and hooked up half the time. We were in the perfect spot with the right lures and caught lots of fish. I could not stand it any longer and put on a top water lure. I really wanted to catch a topwater fish in February. After 20 casts I knew it was not going to happen so I changed back and caught more stragglers on shallow running crankbaits. The action slowed and we were “reely” tired from reeling in so many fish in a short time. The weather forecast was for wind to blow in the afternoon and we were completely satisfied with an amazing fishing day, so we headed in. We filleted 55 stripers at the cleaning station.
Data for this report was collected on the last sunny, warm day before a cold winter storm arrived. It was the lull before the storm. Wait for the wind to stop blowing and temperature to rise again before trying to duplicate the events reported here.
Fishing at Lake Powell is incredible.
February 16, 2017 - Conditions Change each week
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2017 12:01
We returned to our fishing spot one week later to find conditions completely different than the week before. This is not unusual and the reason that fishing reports are put out on a weekly basis. Conditions change, fish react and anglers must do the same.
No Marks on Graph
Last week stripers were deep and spoons were the best option to catch fish on the bottom at 60 feet. This time there were no fish found in deep water so went looking toward the back of the canyon to see where the schools had moved.
We trolled while graphing in case there were shallow plankton eating fish high in the water column where they may not be seen on the graph. The first striper was caught before any marks were seen on the graph. As that fish was played the marks on the graph increased. Another striper was caught while casting behind the troll caught fish. The only technique that did not work was dropping the spoon to the bottom when deep fish were seen under the boat.
After this first fish encounter our plan changed to trolling and casting. We found lots of shad schools along a 200 yard stretch of shoreline in 20-35 feet of water. Each pass resulted in another striper and sometimes a second fish was caught while casting the same Lucky Craft pointer XD 78 in ghost color. Good fishing continued from 9-11 AM. We hit a few more spots on the way back without catching more fish.
Shad school seen with one striper.
We filleted 25 stripers at the fish cleaning station and talked with other anglers that had been fishing. Stripers were caught in Warm Creek, Navajo, Last Chance and Rock Creek. I caught my first smallmouth bass of the year while casting for stripers.
Lots of shad with a few striper fish marks = resulted in good trolling
One walleye was caught on a spoon in Last Chance. This is the time of year to catch big walleye as they are in prespawn mode. Large females are feeding on crayfish and shad. The spawn occurs as water temperature climbs above 53-55 degrees which is usually during the month of March. Male walleye are totally focused on spawning and do not feed much in these conditions. The best time to catch walleye is from April 15 - June 15th and the best location is from Bullfrog upstream. Don’t forget the tagged walleye contest which is still happening and will be in full swing during the peak fishing season this year. Register on line on the main Wayneswords page before fishing for walleye.
February 9, 2017 - Early Spring Striper Techniques
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 February 2017 09:51
I made my first trip on Lake Powell since before my vacation and after the weather moderated. It seems all the little fish were lined up in a row making this a grand start for the 2017 striper fishing year. There have been good/interesting reports about striper fishing in the southern lake including Warm Creek, Navajo, Last Chance and Rock Creek. If you go, here are the techniques that work when stripers are in the mood.
We motored to the back of the canyon and started graphing where water depth was 70 feet. Stripers are easier to find now in the backs of canyons because the depth changes quickly and various strata can be examined in short order. It helps that I have had much experience in all canyons in the southern lake so I know where the fish were found last time. That usually saves me time in finding fish but sometimes my past experience prevents me from finding fish in new locations.
This time a few fish marks were seen on the graph near the spot where many were caught on the last trip in January. Spoons were deployed and two fish were hooked but the big school did not show up. We graphed shallower and then deeper before finding a nice sized school in 68 feet of water. It sometimes takes a while to find fish but this time of year it seems that all the traces seen on the graph in open water are stripers or shad.
Hint: Just keep graphing in the back of the canyon until fish traces appear and then deploy spoons right into the middle of the school.
This time the striper school exploded into activity and many fish were caught over the next 2 hours. We located the school about 9 AM and they followed the boat and our spoons until 10:45 AM on a calm day. These deep fish are usually within 10 feet of the bottom. They will rise following a hooked fish on the way to the surface. We saw one hooked fish that was followed by another striper all the way to surface. The friendly companion was close enough to touch the hooked fish and concentrated on the spoon in the other fish’s mouth. We flipped a spoon right by the follower and he took the spoon but did not hook up. I really wish I had the GoPro in hand instead of the fishing rod while that event was transpiring.
It was a nice warm day and water temperature rose to 52 degrees. When the deep school lost interest we still had a small top layer of cooler space available so we went to the back of the canyon looking for shallow fish. We trolled Lucky Craft XD 78 pointers while graphing and soon hooked a small striper on the ghost color lure. The depth was 25 feet but this fish was hooked as the lure went over a shallow (12 ft) ridge. Stripers really like drop-offs as hiding points. We cast lures back to the ridge and hooked 3 other fish in the same spot. When we had about 3 unproductive casts we trolled again, hooked up, and cast again to get 3-5 more fish on each trolling stop. The cooler space was soon gone and when one fish was put in, two jumped out. That is the definition of a full cooler so at noon we headed back to the marina.
On the way out we passed another mile long canyon and I headed in just to see if the same action was going in most of the deep water canyon arms. We got to the back (80 Feet) and started trolling. That did not last long as a striper quickly hit the trolled lure. Then others hit the lures cast to followers. Then a school moved right under the boat (40 feet) and gobbled spoons. We had no room to keep any more fish so we left them wondering where the spoons went?
Back at the cleaning station we counted 75 stripers of which all but 5 were healthy and provided great fillets. What a great day in clear calm weather.
I spent more time here on technique instead of location because I know that this pattern is repeatable lakewide. Find your own secret canyon, repeat these techniques and return as possible as you can. It’s going to be a great year for spring striper fishing in the backs of canyons with shad. Find a good weather day and come find your own honey hole.
P.S. I had a run of great luck while jigging the spoon off the bottom. The fish were thick and close to the bottom. I let the spoon rest on bottom for a quick pause and then jerked it up one foot. Twice in a row I snagged a striper in the tail and hauled it in the boat. I have done this before, but this is the first time I did it on 2 consecutive casts.
December 14, 2016 - Last Chance Report
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 08:21
Relatively warm, mild temperatures allowed us to brave the open water boat ride to the back of Last Chance. We were trying to duplicate Rob McCain’s fish reports from last week indicating a large school of stripers in 50 foot deep water between the last two canyons before the water ends. Full moon had me nervous that the boat ride may be the best part of the trip but we went anyway.
We started at the last canyon mouth on the left hand side and trolled toward the back of Last Chance while graphing for stripers schools. We found no schools on the graph and caught no fish trolling. We retraced our steps to the mouth of the left hand canyon and trolled across the bay headed directly toward the last canyon on the right hand side. We should have done that first because we trolled up a small striper within a hundred yards. I watched the graph as the small fish was reeled in and saw a few marks appear on the bottom. I dropped a spoon, jigged it twice and hooked a 3 pound striper. While that fish was reeled in the graph lit up like a neon sign with LED lights. Stripers came from far and near to see what that commotion was that made their lateral line tingle with excitement as the vibration of a feeding fish was felt by all.
Chartreuse Shad XD 100 Pointer
1.5 ounce spoon
Calm seas allowed us to hover over the school for the next hour. We filled the large cooler half full of fish on the first drift. The school was visible on the graph the whole time. With that many fish below us I expected to catch over 100 fish but they were a bit shy. Back at the fish cleaning station we found very few shad in the stomachs so their reluctance was a result of a lack of shad schools or at least separation from shad at the present time. It was hard to complain as we put over 30 fish in the cooler in the first hour. I just have hgih expectations and great memories of previous spooning events where fish in this situation would hit every time the spoon came in view. This school had to be coaxed by holding the spoon still, or letting it rest on the bottom, quickly speed reeling, and then drop to the bottom again. We worked our spoons quickly and caught a large number of fish in a short time.
Next I wanted to know if there were stripers in the back of the right hand fork which is one our favorite spring time striper spots. We trolled the shoreline without success until we reached the 25 foot depth in the back of the canyon. We were trolling Lucky Craft XD pointers and Bevy Shad in Chartreuse shad colors. I switched to the Ghost color and immediately started to hook stripers. I find that when shad are plentiful the chartreuse shad color is best but when shad are scarce the ghost color
works best. We spooned when the school came under the boat and caught stripers trolling spooning and casting in the back where water depth was 18-25 feet.
We had a great day with warm mild weather and a large body count. We filleted 55 fish back at the fish cleaning station. A few of the stripers caught in shallower water were thin, while all of the deep fish caught on spoons were fat and healthy. That is a common pattern now as slower adults tend to roam into shallower water looking for food while the next size smaller fish are fat and healthy. They can survive on plankton in open water while waiting for shad to spawn next spring.
November 18, 2016 - Annual Gill Netting Report
2016 Gill Net Sampling Report
Every November the UDWR sends me out to sample Lake Powell fish with gill nets. Our purpose is to understand how fish numbers have changed over time. If we do this survey every year, using the same nets, same locations and same time of year, we are confident that dramatic changes in fish numbers can be determined. While handling and recording our catch we can see if physical condition of the various fish species has changed. We sacrifice fish to determine what they have been eating, and if there are parasites or other anomalies that have developed over time. Sometimes over a thousand fish are handled in highly productive areas, but usually 300 to 500 fish of all sizes are captured during the two day netting event at four different locations.
Over the years we have learned that some species are not good candidates for gill net sampling. Largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, and green sunfish are prone to hold up in aquatic vegetation. These species do not often move at night when the nets are hard to see and most of the fish are caught. Therefore, these species are caught in low numbers lakewide. We cannot say that there are low numbers of bass or crappie based on gill net sampling results. All of the sampling techniques used at Lake Powell must be combined to make that statement accurate. Fortunately, bass numbers look strong going into 2017.
Some species tend to move constantly. Striped bass and gizzard shad are sampled most often in gill nets because they cruise the shoreline at night. Number of fish netted is indicative of relative abundance at each netting area. Smallmouth bass are active along the shoreline but are not cruisers. Numbers of smallmouth caught at each netting site are often very similar because they are caught based on feeding and moving behavior which is the same at each netting site. Channel catfish, yellow bullheads, and native fish still residing in Lake Powell are caught in low numbers because of their moving behavior.
When netting results are discussed, fish numbers caught per gill net sampling site is more likely to accurately portray relative abundance of striped bass and gizzard shad. We found that Good Hope Bay once again had high numbers of both species. The Good Hope Bay station represents the productive inflowing water that is high in nutrients and plankton which allows more shad to grow and attracts predatory fish. Striped bass and gizzard shad are consistently found in greatest abundance at Good Hope Bay. That was true again in 2016.
The San Juan station in Neskahi Bay is another productive area which has high numbers of shad and stripers. These numbers are not as high as found at Good Hope Bay but are indicative of high population strength for many species. Smallmouth bass are also well represented.
The Rincon has very clear water during November making the nets less productive as many fish can see and evade the nets. From our netting results it seems that the Rincon would be a very poor fishing area. That was the case while we were sampling in November but that changes dramatically in the spring when smallmouth are found in abundance.
The last netting station is in Wahweap Bay. The area near the dam is surprising because there are many more fish species found in abundance than expected. Nets are set from Wahweap main launch ramp to the back of Lone Rock Bay. Water color and productivity increases in the shallower water near Lone Rock. Surprisingly, Wahweap was in second place lakewide in striped bass numbers. Unfortunately, most of the stripers caught were in poor condition or of small size. Striped bass fishing results this fall have not been worthy of a second place prize for lakewide fishing. Sometimes sampling does not directly relate to sport fishing results.
The surprising statistic is walleye numbers. The three stations downstream from Good Hope returned results of essentially the same numbers of walleye caught. That seems similar to smallmouth being caught in the same numbers due to behavior of the fish around nets. Walleye are not an easy fish to catch in gill nets, but the numbers in Good Hope are six times greater than found at any other location. This anomaly is proven to be true by other sampling results and specifically by angler catch. The northern lake has a much larger population of walleye than the rest of the lake combined.
Another factor shown by our netting is that there are two different striped bass populations. Those long, thin stripers that are easy to catch on bait are found lake wide. Many are located in areas where shad numbers are high. The thin stripers are obviously not feeding on the shad resource even when in close proximity. My guess is that these malnourished stripers no longer have the speed to feed on shad. Most of the adults in poor condition will not survive the winter. It seems more humane to me to euthanize these thin fish when caught, instead of allowing them to starve over a long period of time. Adult stripers in good condition outnumber thin fish caught in nets.
Smaller stripers are in good shape and ready to take over as the dominant predator next spring as soon as shad spawn and food is abundant. Smallmouth bass are abundant and the population will increase in size and length in the spring when shad spawn in April and May.
Crappie and largemouth bass are being treated to abundant cover right now as aquatic weed beds have grown up in the back of many canyons and coves. While brushy cover is now abundant these two populations depend on brushy cover in the springtime so that newly hatched young bass and crappie are able to avoid predation by hiding in thick woody cover as terrestrial vegetation is covered by rising lake water. If the lake comes up fast before the spawn is over, bass and crappie numbers will increase in future years. If the runoff is slow and small then these two species will continue to be low in number in the near future.
In summary, Lake Powell fish are in good shape. They will be much happier in the spring if threadfin shad are able to spawn in huge numbers. That only seems to happen every third year. Threadfin shad had an off year in 2016 and are not scheduled to spawn well until 2018. It would be great if the threadfin spawn happened sooner than expected. Fortunately, gizzard shad adults are now here in big numbers and they do spawn every spring. There will be a shad spawn and all of our game fish will thrive during April and May due to presence of adult gizzard shad. Striped bass numbers will be reduced over winter. The reason stripers are so plentiful is that reproductive success is near 90%. There are plenty of healthy adult stripers to spawn. The success of this species is dependent on the shad food supply being strong enough to support the millions of mouths ready to feed.
Smallmouth bass numbers are well represented by smaller fish. The key to the smallmouth population growing in size and length is dependent on the shad spawn. If smallmouth bass have enough shad to eat in the springtime, all ages of bass will grow in length.
Walleye are strong in number in the northern lake. Mark the dates from April 15th to June 15th on your fishing calendar for a walleye trip. Sign up for the tagged walleye contest before you go so you can win a prize when one of the many walleye caught turns out to be a tagged fish.
Lake Powell fish are in good health and strong numbers. My prediction is that fishing in 2017 will mimic that found in 2016. Bass will spawn in April with the best fishing found before the lake begins to rise. There will be good bait fishing for stripers in the spring before the shad spawn. After the spawn, striper slurps will start followed by boils if shad numbers are high enough. It looks like 2017 will be another great year for high fishing success at Lake Powell. I can’t wait!