Lake Powell report

Information compiled by Wayne Gustaveson,

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.

Waterbody Report
Lake Powell

Lake elevation: 3,595 feet

Water temperatures: 63–70°F

Bill Keller caught an eight-pound striper in Navajo Canyon while fishing with Kevin Campbell. Bill was using bait to catch the big one, but you may be able to catch lots of big fish as they spawn at night in the coming week. Look for surface activity along the shoreline at dusk to find spawning stripers.
Photo courtesy of Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Powell is rising, and the weather forecast is for rapid warming. These changing conditions are affecting fish behavior. Here's how to keep up with the latest changes in the fish world at Lake Powell.

Runoff is now busting downstream, allowing the lake water level to increase each day. All that water makes the upper lake muddy, reduces visibility and points anglers downstream when they leave Bullfrog/Halls. There is still good fishing upstream, but it is in the backs of canyons rather than in the muddy main channel. Those who launch at Wahweap/Antelope Point are finding clear water, but they must move their boats each morning to accommodate the rising water.

Increasing temperatures will soon have a much larger impact on fishing success. Bass fishing has been the stalwart all spring, with smallmouth bass leading the way. Great smallmouth fishing will continue, but with rising water and temperatures, the target species will be found in deeper water. Anglers will still find small bass near shore, but the mature bass will be in water that's 20–30 feet deep.

Walleye are in transition. They're switching over from feeding all day long to feeding in the early morning and late evening hours and into the night. You can still find some fishing success in the daytime, but it will likely be in muddy coves or along windswept shorelines. Those are areas with reduced visibility, where walleye have an advantage over prey species.

You are more likely to find catfish and bluegill in these warmer, higher-water conditions, and they should be easy to catch near camp.

Striped bass are finally about to spawn. Female stripers are only ripe for one hour each year. The hormones don’t flow until the spawning trigger arrives. In the lake, that trigger is rapid warming and rising water. The sign to look for is a rapid increase in surface water temperature. The morning temperature today was 64°F. If the lake surface increased to 74°F by this afternoon, that would be enough to start the spawning process. But that won’t happen today. Expect a one-day 10-degree rise in temperature within the next 10 days. When that happens, here are the clues to find a spawning school of stripers.

Ripe male stripers are schooled in virtually every bay and are much more interested in spawning than eating. Locate them by trolling flies along the surface through the plankton schools where they are biding their time. They will eat a large white streamer fly while foraging on the microscopic critters that are the foundation of the food web. Many stripers can be caught using the fly trolling technique. Once you know the school location, return to that spot at sundown on a day when the temperature has risen dramatically.

Stripers spawn on the surface at night. A spawning school will behave much like slurping fish, with lots of rolling and splashing that makes them a bit easier to find in low light. The males in the school will weigh anywhere from 2.5 pounds to more than 10 pounds. The females in the school will start at 4 pounds and top out over 30 pounds. These stripers are incredibly aggressive. I suggest using a single hook, which will make it easier to unhook these beasts quickly after dark. I have successfully used a half- to one-ounce bucktail jig to catch spawning fish on every cast in coves that are 15–30 feet deep.

This is an unusual year where most of the stripers in the southern lake and 75 percent of the stripers in the mid to northern lake are in spawning condition. The best way to find a spawning school is to troll the bucktail jig across lake points at sunset. There will also be some boil-like activity close to shore that is still visible as the sun sets and the night darkens. This is the best chance we have had in this century to find and interact with a spawning school of striped bass. I testify that is really worth it and an unforgettable experience. It will happen within the next 10 days.

Be extremely alert for any signs of surface activity at dusk and be prepared to catch a ton of fish if you're lucky enough to be in the right spot.

P.S. Better bring a head lamp!

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