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Fishing Report

Water temperature:

52-60 F

March 26, 2014

April 15, 2014 - Lake begins to rise

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Lake Powell Fishing Report
April 15, 2014
Lake Elevation: 3574
Water Temperature 54-62 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson  

fattystbLake Powell 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 increasing day length 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 be encountered this week. (If I had to choose between this week and next I would go later due to full moon).

All of the sport fish species are starting to move up in the water column seeking to find 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 the last two weeks of April.  Plastic grubs and tubes on jigheads worked slowly along the bottom are effective now along with drop shot rigs and shad shaped worms.  For those that like to fish faster, try a spinnerbait worked methodically along the shoreline with a fast retrieve so all the likely habitat is tested.  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 tipped with a live night crawler.  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 20-30 feet from the cliff wall. At this lake level there is a nice shelf under the chain link 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 possible 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.  

lctrolluresThe other option is to head for the back of the canyon and troll and cast in murky water where bottom depth varies between 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 back of many canyons.  Shad have moved on to 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 all signed a pledge at birth that they would eat any forage fish that invaded 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 southern lake experience but midlake and north lake fish will respond in a similar manner.  These techniques will work just as well in the San Juan, Escalante and Good Hope Bay.

April 8, 2014 - Best fishing so far in 2014

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Lake Powell Fishing Report
April 8, 2014
Lake Elevation: 3574
Water Temperature 52-60 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson  

crcdtruckLake level remains fairly constant with a slight drop to 3574 MSL.  We hope spring runoff holds off for another 3 weeks as the Castle Rock Cut deepening project will continue until the last week of April.  The best news is that the Cut will be deepened down to 3575 MSL meaning that the lake only has to come up 5 feet or so from the present level to allow boats to take the shortcut. That will save much time, fuel and aggravation with rough water in the main channel detour.  My guess is the cut will be passable before Memorial Day.

Warm weather is here and fish are responding accordingly.  It is time to go fishing! Bass are moving up to feel that warm surface layer.  Fishing is not hot yet for bass but much improved over the last 3 weeks.  Remember that colored water warms faster than clear water and target the warmest water available to find willing bass.

Walleye fishing is improving for the same reasons.  Plastic bass lures (tubes and grubs) are beginning to draw interest but they work much better when tipped with a piece of live worm.  The best depth for finding walleye is 12-20 feet.  If trolling is your favorite technique then troll over long rocky points that jut out into the main channel.  Allow the lure to touch bottom a couple of times as it bounces across the point. Walleye really like lures to be close to the bottom. Slow trolling bottom bouncers with live worm or plastic worm imitations work on flat bottom structure under a wind-caused mudline in the afternoon breeze.

nickstbStripers are the most active fish right now.  Schools of adult stripers have followed gizzard shad schools into the backs of canyons and coves. Similar reports have come from 7mile canyon, Lake Canyon, Iceberg and a few San Juan canyons.  Stripers are hitting crankbaits cast into very shallow water. Some fish are even boiling on 5-inch shad and surface lures.  White lures with a chartreuse stripe seem to mimic the gizzard shad well.

In other canyons (Gunsight, Padre, Last Chance, Rock Creek, Escalante and San Juan) fat juvenile stripers are feeding on plankton. Stripers are scattered and can best be caught trolling a shad imitating crankbait that runs 12 to 20 feet deep. We had good luck with Norman Little N deep divers in white and Lavender Shad colors.   Trolling speed should be 3 mph for the best result. Mark locations where each fish is caught and return to that spot to catch more.

More stripers are hitting anchovy bait at the dam.  Catching is getting much better with 10 fish caught per hour from anglers checked this week.  Stripers caught on bait are not as healthy as those caught with reaction lure techniques.

Very deep canyons (150 feet or more) with a shallow bench along the edge are harboring a few large striper schools.  We found a huge school with fat juvenile stripers and recovering adults at Buoy 25 which was last years’ hottest striper spot in the lower lake.    We dropped spoons right on the school with quick results but fish moved back into the deep water after we caught 6 or more in 5 minutes. 

Spring fishing is at its best right now.  It will only improve as the water warms into the 60s.


March 31, 2014 - Stripers at the Dam

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Lake Powell Fishing Report
March 31, 2014
Lake Elevation: 3575
Water Temperature 51-55 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson  

loubrown2Here is a quick early report as I am going to be gone the rest of the week.

Stripers continue to be the most readily caught fish in the lake.  Some walleye, bass and crappie have been taken but not in large numbers.  Catching these other species will improve with warming but cold nights and windy afternoons are keeping the lake temperature down.  So until we have more warm calm days the most agreeable target species is striped bass.

To my surprise stripers have shown up at the dam and are hitting anchovy bait. Place an anchovy chunk on a colorful jig head (chartreuse or pink), cast it out near the barricade on the west wall and allow the bait to settle under the boat at 30-40 feet. Fishing is fast for a few minutes when the school moves through.  Fishing slows while waiting for the school to return. Chumming seems to bring the school back in range more quickly.  Fish size is the standard 15-18 inches that is seen most often this spring. A few larger stripers are taken as well but that is the exception.

I like to seek the other striper schools which reside in the backs of most of the canyons from Wahweap to Trachyte. Trolling with lures that run approximately 12 feet deep is steady where fish traces are seen on the graph.  Usually the best spots are in murky water near the backs of canyons.  Recently stripers have reportedly been caught in Wahweap, Warm Creek, Navajo, Gunsight, Padre, Kane Creek, Last Chance, Rock Creek, Escalante, Nasja on the San Juan, Iceberg, and Red Canyon. Fishing is not fast but steady in the cool water.

loubrown1smOccasionally a fish hooked trolling will have followers that can be caught casting or spooning.  On our last trip there were a few occasions where all 3 anglers in the boat hooked up with stripers at the same time.  Usually only one 18 inch fish is caught at a time.   Normal catch for a 4 hour trip is 20 stripers.

Remember that a nonresident Utah fishing license allows you to fish in both UT and AZ.

Fishing will improve dramatically when water temperature nears 60 degrees.

Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 14:59

March 26, 2014 - Subtle colors

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mar 21 20141

Bill McBurney with 18-pound striper caught fly fishing this week



Lake Powell Fishing Report
March 26, 2014
Lake Elevation: 3575
Water Temperature 52-60 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson  

The weather is warming but the changes are subtle.  On calm warm days surface temperature spikes from 50 up to 60 degrees or higher.  The cold winter water is still below so warm water floats only on the surface.  Then on windy days the warm surface layer is mixed into the cold water.  That warm layer is not completely lost as it starts warming the deep layer. Each calm period will hasten the warming.  Spring warming starts all kinds of fish activity. Here is what is happening this week.

Some striped bass schools have been holding at 60-75 feet but there is now a division between adults and young. Young stripers are eating plankton that is found most readily in the upper 25 feet.  Young fish have moved shallow leaving the older fish at 30-60 feet.  

Anglers can take advantage of this behavior by searching the backs of canyons where water is murky.  I know this is mentioned in every spring fishing report.  It is emphasized every time because it makes all the difference between catching and not catching fish.  Pay close attention to water color. Main channel water is clear and blue.  That water color is not conducive to catching fish in early spring.

Near the back of the canyon water color may change to green, murky, or muddy.  Start fishing at the color change.  Juvenile stripers will be randomly scattered in the upper layers as they pursue plankton schools.  The best technique is to troll or cast medium depth crankbaits that run at 12 feet. When we tried this technique this week we found willing 2-pound stripers in the back of all three canyons fished in Padre Bay. Success was not quick but it was consistent.   

wcstbBack at the fish cleaning station we found all stripers were mature males.  It is common to catch only male or females stripers depending on the circumstances. On this day the small warming event was enough to put a chip on the shoulder of the males, while females could care less as spawning thoughts do not occur for them until water temperature reaches 70.  Males were striking at lures that invaded their personal space while females were either absent or without aggression.  Springtime fishing is subtle.

Adult stripers are deeper and can be found in the backs of the canyons where depth changes abruptly from deep water to a 30 feet plateau or bench.   Best techniques are down rigger trolling, spooning or bait fishing.

Bass react to warming by moving up as well.  They seek warm water to recharge their batteries.  Smallmouth don’t even wake up until water temperature hits 57 degrees while largemouth get excited when temperature is 53 or better. Current temperatures mark the beginning of spring for both species. Calm afternoons are the best time to fish for bass particularly in shallow coves with a south facing rock wall that collects as much heat from the sun as possible and transmits that warmth into the water. Again look for bass in colored water.  Murky water warms more quickly than clear water.  Bass will move to warm spots along the shore. Use the thermometer to find “hot spots”. Then look for fast falling broken rock piles to key in on bass habitat. In the absence of brush, rock structure and water color will guide you to bass country.

Use the same strategy to find crappie.  They will be found in open water between the muddy and green zones in the backs of canyons. Start fishing in 12-15 feet of water by blind casting or very slow trolling.

Fishing is not yet fast but it is certainly worthwhile to be on the lake during a calm warm afternoon.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 08:01

March 15, 2014 - Slow to Start

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Lake Powell Fishing Report
March 15, 2014
Lake Elevation: 3575
Water Temperature 49-52 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson  

rcolbyfeb14Does anyone have any exciting fishing stories they want to share?  We need a little energy while we wait for fishing success to improve. We have had some nice sunny days in March but Lake Powell water temperature is still 50 degrees and that is just not warm enough to get fish going.  Largemouth bass get more active when water temperature exceeds 53, while smallmouth need 57 or better.  Stripers always eat so it is more about shad for them.  Shad will come shallower with warming too. So we wait.

There have been a couple of early season bass tournaments but bass were slow to respond.  There was a report of a 6-pound largemouth bass being caught but the lucky fisherman’s total weight for the tournament was only 9 pounds including the big one.  

The only bright spot was a few good catches of walleye in the mid lake area.  Walleye are poised for spawning as soon as the temperature warms a bit more.  While in that prespawn state walleye responded to trolled lures that crossed the ends of main channel points at 20 feet. Unfortunately, when walleye do spawn they tend to be caught less as they go off food in favor of spawning activity.

While waiting and watching the thermometer we should get our tackle ready for the early spring action that will start just as soon as the water warms.  Bass will be lured in with plastic baits like double tail grubs, tubes jigs and drop shot rigged shad shaped worms, fished slowly in the green water zone in the back of the canyon.  Slow rolled spinner baits and the always popular jig-and-pig (could be real pork rind or bulky plastic bait) are standard early spring offerings.

dungeeluresBest walleye trolling baits are Cotton Cordell Wally Divers, deep running Lucky Craft pointers, and similar lures that troll consistently at 12-foot depths. Serious walleye fishermen will have a bottom bouncer and live worm harness that can be trolled slowly or drifted along the bottom contour between 12 and 30 feet. Walleye are light sensitive. They are best caught in subdued light of early morning and late evening.  

Striped bass can be caught on a variety of baits and lures once you find them. Schools are often large right now making it wonderful fishing when over the school or completely befuddling when the school is just out of sight on your graph.  I have missed a school with my old fashioned electronics only to turn around and drive over a huge school that was only 10 yards away from the location of my first pass. Newer graphs with side finders make it easier to find fish schools that are not directly under the boat.  It is possible to “see” a school that is 50 yards away from the side of the boat with a side finder unit.

Stripers in the southern lake are mostly young pups that occupy open water and eat plankton. Trolling is the best bet to locate a school. Once found and marked return to the spot and troll, drop spoons or bait with lots of chumming for best success.  In the northern lake there are still many of the older adults that had enough food to make it through the winter.  These older fish will be found working the shallower water toward the back of the canyon or cove. They will hit slowly retrieved crankbaits or spinner baits in 12-30 feet of water.  The small plankton eaters will be caught trolling similar to those in the southern lake.

dungeewae2It is almost time.  I hope the fishing improves as soon as this report is sent. My best guess is that the first week of April will bring much improved fishing success.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 11:59
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