If there’s one thing I know I would not like to be, it would be a shad in Lake Powell. This fact was evidenced last Friday in Last Chance Bay. My friend John Conrad and I were fishing in a little cut in the back of a cove we have fished many times over the years. A striper school had a bunch of shad pinned against the shoreline and was thrashing into them quite vigorously. But when the stripers left there was no rest for the shad as some hungry smallmouths were waiting for the survivors. And in addition to the hordes of hungry stripers and smallmouths, shad also have run a gauntlet of largemouths, walleyes, crappies and even catfish. In short, there is no rest for a shad in Lake Powell.
It was very clear to John and me Friday that the smallmouths in Last Chance Bay were gorging on shad as most of the ones we cleaned had multiple shad in their stomachs. This might explain why fishing was a little tough Friday morning as it was obvious these fish were well-fed. Nevertheless John and I managed to catch 37 smallmouths until the wind came up forcing us to leave around 1:15 p.m. The weather also played a role in our fishing on both Wednesday and Thursday. Because there was rain in the forecast on Wednesday we stayed fairly close to home, fishing a large rocky bay on the north side of the channel above the mouth of Warm Creek, the ledges at the mouth of Warm Creek proper and the double islands just beyond the Castle Rock Cut. The fishing was actually pretty good as we were able to land 57 smallmouths and a few sunfish. The only problem with the day was the fish size. Most were “cookie-cutter” 11 to13-inchers which are wonderful for eating, but we would have like to have had a few bigger ones as well.
Thursday morning we fished the ledges near the junction of Wahweap Bay and the main channel catching 24 more smallmouths before the wind and rain hit forcing us to run for State Line Ramp. As it turned out we could have ducked into Wahweap Marina and waited it out, but the forecast was for rain and wind from about 10:00 a.m. on and we didn’t want to take the chance of having to load the boat in driving wind and rain - a miserable experience for sure.
Despite having to cut short our fishing two of the three days, we still managed to catch 118 smallmouths plus a few sunfish. Our largest bass were about 15 inches. As mentioned previously, we had a bunch of fish between 11 and 13 inches which are a lot of fun on light tackle and made for some great fresh fish dinners. We were somewhat disappointed that we didn’t catch any walleyes. Given the overcast weather we thought we would catch at least a couple, but the walleyes eluded us this trip. We fished plenty of good looking walleye spots but to no avail.
We found the bass much more aggressive on Wednesday and Thursday which makes sense because we were fishing between two storm fronts. Friday was a bluebird day, and the fishing was slow early picking up around 10 a.m. Most of the bass we caught were in shallow water, five to 15 feet. On Wednesday we did take a few between 20 and 30 feet, but most were up shallow - at least the ones that would hit. Nearly every fish we caught came from points and shelves that came directly off the shore. Offshore reefs were not productive. We caught all our fish dragging drop shot rigs, however I believe jigs, plastic worms and even crankbaits would be effective. Anglers can pretty well name their poison on smallmouths right now.
I did hook one pretty decent striper on a topwater lure Friday, but I lost it at the boat. I had one other topwater strike, but the stripers left that area and did not return. We did not see any other striper surface activity.
While Friday’s fish were definitely eating shad, crayfish were the forage of choice for the fish taken Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, they were crammed so full I don’t think I’d want to be a crayfish in Lake Powell, either! One thing is clear. There are a lot of smallmouth up in shallow water on Lake Powell right now. I believe this pattern will hold up for several weeks as long as cold Pacific storms stay away. If you like to catch smallmouth bass, right now is a good time to fish Lake Powell. John and I will be up again next week.