Lake Powell Fish Report for Nov. 2
Lake Elevation: 3,529.93 ; Water temperature: 64 degrees Fahrenheit
I had the opportunity to spend two weeks on Lake Powell in October with family. It was a great lake tour with lots of hiking and fishing experiences. We spent a lot of time hiking and enjoying the canyons and scenery that were new to me at these unprecedented low water levels that I have not seen in my 45 years of working on Lake Powell. Here are a few examples.
We drove uplake from Wahweap and camped the first night in Oak Canyon. We went fishing in the back of the canyon in the evening. We trolled while graphing for fish schools and caught a couple of stripers. Then we saw a school of fish feeding on the surface. The feeding activity was not as active as most striper boils, and the fish rolling on the surface in low light at sunset were dark colored. I caught a smallmouth bass on a surface lure. I returned to camp with growing interest in these surface-feeding fish.
Our next camp was in the Escalante. We explored many of the canyons from the mouth of the canyon to Davis Gulch and Fifty Mile. We could go no farther than Willow Creek by boat at these low water levels. We successfully trolled for 1-3 pound stripers holding at the 25-30 foot level in the large bay near our camp. Larger stripers were below the thermocline, which was 30 feet deep, while smaller stripers swam in warmer water near the surface. We caught a few walleye and smallmouth as well. My best trolling lure was a shallow running Lucky Craft pointer. The Lucky Craft Pointer XD also worked very well, along with most other trolling lures that we tried.
I was very surprised to see so many green aquatic plants growing in the shallow areas in all of the canyons we visited. The “lakeweed” plants were visible at every campsite visited on our two-week trip. These plants were common in shallow water, and in clear water they were visible growing on the 10-foot-deep bottom structure. Smallmouth bass were really enjoying the weeds. We often saw channel catfish searching for food in the weeds near our boat anchorage. It was almost too easy to catch catfish behind the boat each morning and evening. We hiked and camped in the Escalante Arm for four nights.
On the next evening, we found another mysterious small fish pod rolling on the surface. As we looked closer, we saw a large school of tiny shad dimpling the water. These shad were swimming over the top of a large aquatic plant field. The shad quit and went down into the plants. Later, on the way out of the canyon, we returned to the spot where the shad were feeding on the surface. This time, that school of dark-backed fish were rolling and feeding on top. We cast and were successful in catching smallmouth bass on topwater lures. It seems that shad and smallmouth bass are living in the large weed patches. Occasionally, bass find small shad, and the surface-feeding “bass boil” occurs. The boils are not as intense as a striper boil because the shad are small and quick to hide in the giant weed patch. This event is more prevalent now as the water level is lower, and the weed patches are more numerous. The new low water lake has a different group of fish feeding on the surface in the backs of coves and in shallow water, where heavy thick weed patches are common.
Our next destination was the San Juan. We camped at the mouth of the canyon the first night and went uplake hoping to fish in the Great Bend, but it was too shallow, so we stayed in the bay at the mouth of the Great Bend. We trolled for stripers in 25-30 feet in colored water in the bay preceding the Great Bend. Trolling was steady for stripers before we were interrupted by a striper boil. It was quick but we caught six nice stripers before the boil subsided. We then continued trolling and found stripers holding from 10-40 feet. It was so fun to run up and down the San Juan, which I have done so many times while working on the lake. It was really fun to see Pinnacle Rock again just before Cha Canyon. When I began working at the lake in 1975, that rock feature was hidden in a regular rock wall. Then the wall collapsed, and the Pinnacle was the only rock still standing. The rest of the rocks were scattered along the lake shore in a giant boulder field. My memories of the old and new Lake Powell are endless!
We went back up the San Juan and visited Cha Canyon. There is a fantastic, historic rock art panel that can be found by hiking up the dry creek bed accessed from where Cha Canyon meets the low lake. The hike is now longer than it was when the lake was full. Look for the petroglyph at the base of the mountain after the dry wash ends and splits on either side of the mountain. The rock drawing faces the mountain instead of the path coming up Cha Canyon. Look on the flat after leaving the dry creek bed and before moving on up the next trail.
The next day we hiked in Reflection Canyon during the day and then fished in the evening. We trolled up five more stripers, four smallmouth bass, a largemouth bass and a walleye. Then we began working our way back down lake. We stopped in Anasazi, Cathedral and Mountain Sheep. From there we worked back down the lake to meet our schedule and get home at the right time. It was a great trip and adventure. Lake Powell is beautiful and mesmerizing – even at the new low lake level. I still love my lake and have enjoyed my long relationship with this lake, the fishery and my time living in Page, Arizona.