Lake Powell Fish Report – April 22, 2020

Photo courtesy of Wayne Gustaveson/Special to the Chronicle. There will be more fish holding in normal spawning areas this year.

Lake Elevation: 3,600 | Water temperature: 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit

By Wayne Gustaveson
Wayne's Words

As I write this report, Lake Powell is closed to boat traffic in Utah and Arizona. Wahweap and Bullfrog launch ramps are closed. County residents can hike and fish from shore, if proper social distancing is honored. We all hope for the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic to be over.

Lake Powell water level is still going down slowly. Air temperature has climbed into the 70s and the runoff from the snowy mountains will soon begin. My guess is Lake Powell water level will bottom out near 3,599 and then begin to refill.

Today the surface water temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the early morning and rising into the 60s in the afternoon. This is the kick-off temperature for bass and crappie fishing success. Bass fishing has been challenging this month due to cold temperatures. Warming will trigger the spawning instinct in bass and crappie. Bass are unique in that they build spawning beds in about 3 feet of water. They begin in the shallows because water is warmer near the lake surface. Anglers can easily see those shallow beds. Find a bed and cast a plastic jig, worm or Ned rig to excite the male bass that builds the nests and protects it from predators. He will grab the lure, remove it from the nest, and then drop it at a safe distance from the nest. It is easy to catch the nest guard on the day of the spawn and for a few more days. Later he gets a bit fussier (after being hooked and released a few times). I suggest fishing for larger female bass that are in deeper water close to the nest site.

Walleye completed their spawn in March. They are now searching for food, which is limited until shad spawn. Use a bottom bouncer rig and a live night crawler on a slow retrieve to catch some of the tastiest fish in the lake. There is no limit on walleye since they are catchable only in April and in May. Later, when shad area more abundant, they feed at night.

Striper fishing is questionable? I have not been out since the lake closed. Normally stripers move to the main channel and follow the deep-water current toward the dam. The dam impedes their travel and they turn around and eventually end up at the normal spots: Dam, Chains, Buoy 3, Power plant intake, Buoy 9, Navajo Canyon, et cetera.

Stripers are fat and healthy this year. The majority of the population will spawn this spring. In other years, the unfertile fish head to the channel, but in 2020 there will be more fish holding in normal spawning areas.

Stripers spawn at night on the surface. That makes them invisible to most anglers. The common spawning area is deep water next to a high cliff wall. The secret is to look along the west side of a tall east cliff wall.

I have found spawning fish in the very early morning along the shade line before the sun hits the water. They are not looking for food but will hit a fly or small surface lure. Normally, I catch big stripers in the shade, trolling lures to find the school and casting surface lures and flies once the school is located.

This year, 2020, is incredibly unusual with closures, spawning stripers, big bass, and who knows what is yet to come.  Be ready to get here once the lake opens back up to enjoy the beauty and grandeur that we all love.