By Wayne Gustaveson
Special to the Lake Powell Chronicle
Our walleye tagging trip was challenged by cool windy weather. The water in lower Good Hope Bay was murky but fishable. The visibility was about three feet, which is fine for walleye but may inhibit bass and stripers from finding our baits. Bass catch was slow, with stripers uncommon as we used bottom-bouncing techniques to target walleye that are abundant in the northern lake. Water temperature ranged from 57-62 during the day, which proved to be a bit cool for these walleye.
The best walleye trips last year were at the water temperature range from 65-80 degrees. However, we had a large group of anglers and managed to tag almost 200 walleye from Seven Mile Canyon to Red Canyon. Now that our tagging trip is done, the water temperature is going to climb into the 60s, which will turn on the walleye lakewide. May is the magic month and the best time to catch a tagged fish from Wahweap to Good Hope Bay. Here are some helpful hints.
Walleye were found most often on flat benches that averaged 20-25 feet deep. Sometimes there was a bench or flat extending from a steep cliff wall. Trolling close to the wall and over the bench will put the night crawler right along the ledge where fish are holding. Other productive habitats included an open water ridge where the shallow peak was near 20-25 feet. Surrounding water was much deeper, often falling to 70-100 feet. Walleye liked to park on top of the ridge and wait for food. Trolling a bottom bouncer along the ridge top was very effective. The most common technique was to just fish near shore where the underwater ledges were near 20 feet. The lakewide message is to know the depth and fish on flat surfaces near the 20 foot mark.
The best technique during our trip was to make bottom contact with a bottom bouncer rig that weighed 1-3 ounces. Heavy rigs worked on the cliff wall bench where the weight would make a distinct thump as it contacted bottom. Each time the weight came off the bottom it would make another distinct jolt with bottom contact. This worked when fishing almost straight down (jigging) on a shallow small bench where the rig would not be as effective on the deep water side of the bench.
Lighter bottom bouncer rigs could be slow trolled over large shallow flats where the night crawler was displayed over a large flat area until contact was made with a hungry walleye. Whole night crawlers impaled on a 2 or 3 hook harness seemed to be the most successful presentation in colder water. That may change as the water warms and walleye get more aggressive.
Other techniques that will work better in the coming warm days include trolling a walleye lure (banana shaped crankbaits) over rocky main channel points that are 12-20 feet deep. Target the 12-foot depth so the lure hits bottom on the top of the point and then swims into open water where a waiting walleye often bites. When a walleye is caught, retrace your steps and then troll over the ridge again or cast worm harnesses or a bass grub adorned with a piece of worm to catch more fish. Walleye tend to live in groups. Catching one fish by any method is a sign to return to the capture site and work that area extensively to catch more fish in their gathering spot.
You must register for the contest at http://j.mp/lp-contest before qualifying for a prize by capturing a tagged fish. When a tagged fish is caught send a picture of the tagged fish, the tag number and a fish report to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will then award you with a prize for catching a tagged fish. We appreciate your efforts in helping us learn more about walleye population numbers, travel patterns and habits in Lake Powell.
Bass, stripers, bluegill and crappie have not changed their habits much from the April fish Reports due to the cold windy weather recently experienced. Stripers are still being caught on bait in the main channel. Locations remain the same in the southern lake and Moki wall close to the mouth of Moki Canyon is added to the hotspot list at midlake.
Healthy stripers will start looking for a spawning sites and switch over to their nocturnal spawning habits. Expect stripers to be super aggressive before dawn and lethargic during the day. This is the time for fly anglers to fish sinking lines and clouser minnows to catch large female stripers in deep water.
Bass have pulled off their nest sites in the cooler water but they will now return to spawn again as the water warms this week. Crappie will follow their lead. I did see annual weeds going under rising lake water on the last trip which means bass and crappie hatched in the next two weeks will have some cover to help them survive.
It is time to go fishing. Each species is reacting positively to the warming water and will be vulnerable to angling techniques in the days ahead.