Lake Powell report
Information compiled by Wayne Gustaveson, www.wayneswords.com
Lake elevation: 3,574 feet
Water temperatures: 54–62°F
Lake Powell's water level increased a fraction of an inch this week. It wasn’t much, but it is a step in the right direction. Combine that with warming temperatures and longer stretches of daylight, and the ingredients are in place for good fishing. Now the final ingredient is to plan your trip when weather is warm and calm. Try to avoid a cold front with wind, if possible. Warming water may even overpower the full-moon effect, which will happen this week. (If I had to choose between this week and next, I would go later because of the full moon.)
All of the sportfish species are starting to move up in the water column, looking for the warm surface layers. Smallmouth bass finally found a few days when the morning water temperature was above 57 degrees, which is their trigger for increased activity. Bass action is not strong yet, but more fish were caught this week than last, and many more will be caught during the last two weeks of April. Try using plastic grubs and tubes on jigheads, working them slowly along the bottom. Drop-shot rigs and shad-shaped worms are also effective. For those who like to fish faster, try a spinnerbait worked methodically along the shoreline with a fast retrieve. (That will test all the likely habitat.) Square-bill crankbaits are also a good choice for covering a shoreline in a hurry.
Walleye fishing will get better each week from now until the end of May. Fish muddy water in the afternoons with a plastic grub and tip it with a live nightcrawler. Walleye have a distinctive bite that duplicates the feel of a rubber band. Walleye grab the tail of a plastic grub and then pull on it slightly before letting go allowing the grub to shoot forward. When this happens, immediately drop the lure to the bottom instead of reeling in. The walleye will come over and take another look. It usually takes two or three pickups before a walleye is hooked. If the walleye tastes the live worm, it is much more likely to be caught.
Stripers are the most active fish right now. Schools are running from the main channel walls to the backs of the canyons. Main channel fish are located in very deep water that is closely associated with a shallow shelf. At the dam, the best fishing spots are found where a shelf extends out 20 to 30 feet from the cliff wall. At this lake level, there is a nice shelf under the chainlink fence that sticks out on the west side of the forebay (about 100 yards from the barricade).
In Navajo, Labyrinth and the Buoy 25 cove, striper schools hover at the breaking edge of the 30-foot shelf, where they can quickly descend to deep water when danger threatens. Anchovy chum will keep the school around long enough to catch quite a few or possibly draw them back up once they have moved to deep water. I find that schools repeatedly return to the same spots. If they quit, give them a rest and then come back later for a rerun.
The other option is to head to the back of the canyon and troll and cast in murky water where bottom depths vary from 15–45 feet. Troll lures with a white background marked with a chartreuse stripe. This color combination has been deadly so far this spring. Shad raps, X-raps and Norman Little Ns are flat-line trolling very well. As the day warms, stripers move shallower and can be caught right up against the shallow flats now seen in the backs of many canyons. Shad have moved on to the flats, and stripers wait for them to swim back into deeper water. Look for grebes to mark shad schools. Stripers can’t resist chartreuse and white jerk baits that swim out of shallow water into their feeding zone. Most of the stripers are eating plankton, but they're all willing to chomp on any forage fish that invade their personal space. Put a lure in front of their face, and they will definitely bite the fish first and look for more plankton later.
This report is heavy on the southern lake experience, but the fish in the middle and northern parts of the lake will respond in a similar manner. These techniques will work just as well in the San Juan, Escalante and Good Hope Bay.