Lake Powell report
Information compiled by Wayne Gustaveson, www.wayneswords.com
Attention: Quagga mussels have been detected at Lake Powell. Protect other Utah waters by cleaning and draining the water from your boat before leaving Lake Powell. Your boat must be dried for 18 days before you can launch in another water. If you plan to launch sooner than that, a professional decontamination is required. Learn more about these destructive mussels.
Lake elevation: 3,606 feet
Water temperatures: 68–72°F
Here's what you'll find during a typical day at Lake Powell. From dawn to 9 a.m., the bass and stripers wake up and go out for breakfast. Shad are the only option on the menu for stripers, but bass add crayfish to the list. Shad schools are no longer free to live in open water because of striper gluttony. Now, shad are moving toward the backs of canyons and coves to hide. Somewhere along the way, the stripers and/or bass find the school, and breakfast is served. Surface activity is still visible most mornings, but the splashes are not as frequent.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a daily truce is declared. The stripers and shad back off and manage to quietly coexist. Stripers hold near the bottom at 40–60 feet while threadfin shad form a suspended open-water school from 20–50 feet. Not much feeding or other activities occur unless a random shad happens to drop in on the striper school. Stripers cannot resist a shad swimming through their peaceful surroundings and must react by eating the intruding shad. That makes spooning and deep-water trolling the only effective mid-day fishing techniques.
From 4 p.m. until dark, the skirmish lines are redrawn. Sportfish go back into feeding mode, while shad run and hide. A few stripers and bass blow up on top, marking the spot where a submerged school is working. The same techniques (top-water and spooning) that worked in the morning are effective once more.
Surface boils are the most exciting form of fishing in fresh water. There are just enough boils happening now to make them worthwhile to pursue. Always keep a lookout for splashes during the morning and evening hours. Stripers blow water up over a foot in the air. Gizzard shad jump in open water too, but they make a smooth entry back into the lake. Make sure the splash is made by the species you're targeting. If you are close enough to cast while the fish are working the surface, top-water lures, rattletraps and Kastmaster spoons work very well.
The boil is great fun, but the real work is done with jigging spoons. There are few fish on the surface compared to the huge school waiting below. See the splash and then look at the graph. When the school is visible at depth, simply drop your spoons right on the hungry fish. This is how you can catch a lot of fish in a short amount of time. The school eagerly awaits the next shad-imitating spoon. (Most shad are now eaten at 20–60 feet.) The best technique now is spooning where bottom depth ranges between 20 and 60 feet.
Trolling is not very effective but does have a purpose. If you don't see any surface action, then trolling while watching the graph is a good way to find fish. Troll about halfway back in most canyons at a bottom depth of 40–100 feet with a marker in hand. When you see the striper school, toss the marker and return to that spot if the fish do not respond to trolled lures. Most stripers are found in water too deep to troll without downriggers or leaded line.
The best places to fish in the southern lake are Dominguez Rock (Face Canyon), Gregory Butte, Last Chance Coves, Rock Creek mouth and Dungeon Canyon. In the northern lake, try fishing Crystal Spring, Moki Canyon and Warm Springs.
Do not be surprised to see largemouth and smallmouth bass boiling on shad. Stripers and bass are often working the same shad schools. Find any surface action and look deep to find vulnerable fish that can be caught most efficiently on spoons.
Good luck! Despite its challenges, fishing is very rewarding because of all the high-quality fish you can catch.