It's Time To Start Angling Lake Powell
March 15, 2014
Weather is warming and trees are budding in the high desert. It s time to start thinking about fishing and what to expect from Lake Powell in 2014.
The lake has dipped to the lowest point since 2005 leaving brushy cover high and dry on the shoreline. Fortunately, there has been modest precipitation in the Colorado River drainage. When runoff starts, the lake should rise from the currently level of 3575 MSL back to 3600 MSL or perhaps a bit more.
Also fortunately, the Castle Rock Cut is being deepened and will be accessible to uplake travel by June 1. Rising water will rejuvenate many of the launch ramps that are currently closed including Antelope Point Public and Bullfrog Main ramp.
Rising Water: A Good Thing
Rising water will be good for fish. The old brush line came out of the water and left brush high and dry when the lake dropped below 3604 MSL. Lake level exceeding that point will provide cover for bass, crappie and shad that is needed for good survival of the new-year class.
Unfortunately, bass and crappie spawning occurs in late April and May when the lake will be below the brush line. Therefore, survival of young fish that use brush for cover will be minimal. Smallmouth bass, walleye and striped bass will have good production but their population density will depend on how many shad are produced.
After two seasons of low water levels, total fish numbers are down. Largemouth and crappie have taken the biggest deduction. Adults remain but there have been very few young fish recruited to the various fish populations that anglers seek.
The bright spot for shallow shoreline fishing will be smallmouth bass. They rely on rocky structure for protection and crayfish for nutrition. In current brushless, low lake conditions smallmouth bass have the advantage and will be the fish to pursue from March to June.
Subtle Smallmouth Strategy
Smallmouth bass fishing strategy is subtle. With no obvious woody habitat to target, look for rocky structure with a slope that drops quickly to deep water or broken rock pile along a slick rock shore. Perhaps the most important key is to find murky water created by wind or wave action. Most canyons have muddy water in the back during spring inflow.
Look for the color transitions from clear, to green, to colored, then to muddy. Smallmouth bass will be found most often between the green and murky water sections in each canyon. Then look at the rock structure in the green/murky zone and fish on the shady side of the rock. Yes, I said it was going to be subtle.
Walleye Have Different Schedule
Walleye occupy the same habitat as smallmouth but they feed on a different schedule. Walleye will be on the shady side of rocks in the muddy/ green zone but they feed best just before first light and after sunset. They must have signed a joint use agreement with bass that prevents both from using the same structure at the same time.
Stripers: Look Ahead
Striped bass were literally jumping in the boat last year looking for the last anchovy in the bait bucket. A huge population of adult stripers was trapped in deep water looking for anything to eat. Shad were on the surface and stripers were in deep water. Those were good memories but put that in the scrapbook and look ahead.
Now that huge population of adults has gone on to bluer pastures and been replaced by their young offspring. Young, vibrant stripers in 2014 will be able to feed on the surface and chase shad. Boils may happen in summer but in the spring look in the backs of main canyons in the colored water. Troll shallow, mid range and deep runners to find fish.
When a striper is hooked trolling, drop spoons or cast lures as the fish is played in case the following school comes under the boat. If an inactive school is graphed while trolling mark the spot with a floating marker and return with jigging spoons to see if the school will cooperate.
Best Trolling Lures
The best trolling lures the past few years were Lucky Craft Pointers, Glass Shad Raps, and Storm Deep Thundersticks. It is good to have an assortment of lures but the real key point when trolling is to locate the fish-holding zone.
Stripers may hold at a spot on a shoreline where a point extends into the lake, or over a submerged hump at 30 feet in 60 feet of water or in a hundred other places. The important point here is to mark the location of each hookup and immediately return to the exact spot. Many times stripers can be caught at exactly the same spot while all the water in the immediate vicinity of the "sweet spot" seems fishless.
During The Season
Throughout the season, my fish reports will highlight these fishing subtleties and identify hotspots as reported by anglers covering the length of the lake. If you are lucky enough to find a super fishing spot or a subtle key to catching fish, please report it to me and I will broadcast it in the next fishing report. Then anglers can use your spot and pay up with their reports as they leave the lake.
Lake Powell is so big it takes a fishing village to understand it. We invite you all to join the village and share your insights on Wayneswords.com
At press time, lake elevation was 3575 and water temperature, 50-53F.