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Is this Lake Powell's year of the angler?

Fishing should be great at Lake Powell this year

LAKE POWELL — Striped bass will be hungry in Lake Powell this year. And largemouth bass and crappie fishing at the lake could be phenomenal.

Largemouth bass caught at Lake Powell, UT
Largemouth bass fishing should be excellent at Lake Powell this year. Ryan Schopp (L) and his father Gordon show the largemouth bass they caught at the lake last fall.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Schopp

Wayne Gustaveson, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' lead fisheries biologist at Lake Powell, says 2011 could be the "Year of the Angler" at the lake.

"Normally, hungry fish are easier to catch," he says.

Gustaveson provides the following tips to help you catch fish at one of Utah's best and most popular fishing waters:

Striped bass

Gustaveson says threadfin shad—the main food source for stripers in the lake—are low in number this year.

In the past, low numbers of threadfin shad meant fast action for anglers as hungry striped bass aggressively went after their baits and lures. But the appearance of gizzard shad—which have established themselves across the lake—has changed that scenario a bit.

"We have a lot of large gizzard shad in the lake right now," Gustaveson says. "They'll produce more young as the water warms in the spring."

Gustaveson says some areas of the lake will have good numbers of shad. In other spots, the shad will be scarce and the stripers hungry.

Areas that have good shad populations are keeping some striper schools near the backs of the canyons where the shad are. This is slowing the wholesale movement of stripers to the main channel.

In areas that have fewer shad, the stripers are hanging out along canyon walls. Bait fishing should be good for these hungry fish:

  • If you want to fish for stripers that are feeding on shad, troll in the backs of canyons.
  • Hungry schools that aren't feeding on shad are found in the area where each canyon intersects with the main channel. In these areas, using anchovy bait can be a very effective way to catch lots of stripers.

As spring progresses, stripers will leave the canyons and congregate in large schools in the main channel. These schools should respond readily to bait and chumming.

"Hot spots will become apparent as schools leave the backs of the canyons and move towards the main channel," he says.

  • In the past, main channel areas near the dam, the power plant intake and Navajo Canyon have provided great fishing for bait anglers in April and May.
  • In the Bullfrog area, Moki Wall, Halls Creek and Lake Canyon should be fishing hotspots this year.
  • In the upper lake, Gustaveson recommends Red Canyon and Good Hope Bay as good places to start your Lake Powell fishing adventure in 2011.

Gustaveson says adult stripers have a tough time when there isn't much food to eat. "Younger, faster, stronger juvenile stripers are better at seeking out the limited number of shad that are available," he says.

"Young stripers should grow quickly while old adults will be widely harvested in the spring," he says. "By the time spring is over, adult stripers will have faded out of the picture for this year."

Largemouth bass and crappie

If you enjoy fishing for largemouth bass or crappie, 2011 is the year to fish at Lake Powell. Gustaveson says the lake level has been fluctuating within a narrow zone that has good, brushy habitat. That habitat has increased largemouth bass and crappie populations to numbers not seen since the "good old days."

"It appears that the lake level in 2011 will again allow bass and crappie to share submerged brush habitat zones with the shad and the sunfish that the bass and crappie prey on," he says.

To find largemouth bass or crappie, look for brush-ringed shallows at the back and along the shallow edges of many of the canyons.

Gustaveson says good numbers of crappie are found in thick brush at remote locations near Hite, the upper San Juan River arm and the Escalante.

To catch crappie, pull your boat into the brushy thickets. Then fish crappie jigs straight up and down in the brush.

Gustaveson says largemouth bass will have one more banner year at the lake before the brush gets old and decays. "This may be the last great year for largemouth bass at Lake Powell," he says. "Make sure you visit the reservoir and take advantage of the opportunity."

Smallmouth bass and walleye

If you're after smallmouth bass or walleye, fish in rocky areas that don't have much brush. Gustaveson says you can find smallmouth along most of the rocky shoreline at the lake. "But the average size of a smallmouth bass will be smaller this year because most of the forage in the lake is hiding in the brush zone," he says. "That's an area smallmouth bass don't utilize."

Gustaveson says walleye are larger in size and more numerous in the lake upstream from Bullfrog to Hite. Walleye are easiest to catch in May, after they've completed their spawn and the warming water temperature increases their metabolism.

"When those things happen," he says, "walleye in the lake will be active all day long."

Channel catfish

Channel catfish are abundant and are readily caught all summer long.

Techniques for various areas

A variety of fish will be available this year along most of the lake's shoreline:

  • If you're fishing in brushy water, use weedless baits that can bounce off tree limbs without snagging.
  • On open, rocky structure that doesn't have brush, use bottom-bouncing plastic jigs and spoons for best results.
  • Gustaveson says trolling works when your lure runs just deep enough to tick submerged tree tops where walleye, bass and stripers are searching for food.
  • Gustaveson also reminds you that Lake Powell is a deep lake. "Deeper trolling techniques, like down riggers and leaded line, allow lures to be presented down deep where stripers hold and rest," he says.
  • In early summer, the shad grow large enough to get the adult game fish excited. "When that happens, top-water lures are best," he says.

Learn more

Gustaveson says 2011 will be remembered for the wide variety of fish caught at myriad places on Lake Powell, using a broad array of tackle and techniques.

For that reason, it's more important than ever to stay updated on what's happening at the lake. You can do that by reading the updated Lake Powell fishing reports at www.wayneswords.com.

"Weekly fishing reports and daily angler reports are posted here so newly arriving anglers can catch fish in the same spots successful anglers just left," Gustaveson says.

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