Stripers in Transition:
The lake is still filling rapidly, but the bigger news now is that stripers are feeding on the surface. The ultimate goal of many freshwater anglers is to fish a striper boil. We are not quite there yet, but the big event is only a few weeks away. Right now we have the next best surface feeding event which I have named “slurps or slurping.”
Shad are being hatched lakewide. We are not able to tell the difference between threadfin and gizzard shad larvae until the tiny fish grow a bit. Right now baby shad are only 5-10 mm long. Healthy stripers have been subsisting by eating plankton. Now they are very happy to let shad eat plankton while stripers turn to eating shad. Striper consumption level is often between 50-100 microscopic shad per day. It would be better for stripers to wait until shad were at least an inch long so they could get more nutrition from less fish, but they have no patience. It is our job as anglers to watch for slurps, then attack the marauding stripers and catch as many as possible while letting the surviving shad run away. Your reward will be catching some of the smaller healthy stripers, which are great table fare.
I must remind you that the slurping striper school is feeding shoulder-to-shoulder while moving through a shad school. When some stripers run out of shad they leave the feeding line and search for the next shad group. Those “lookers” are the fish to cast toward. A small surface lure, shallow running crank bait or small Kastmaster spoon are favorite striper lures. If the lure lands in the middle of the feeding line, the whole group splashes away and none are caught. If that happens, don’t be discouraged just wait for them to surface again a short distance away and make a better cast.
Slurps have been seen for two weeks between the San Juan and the Escalante. Last week, Bullfrog erupted with many small slurps. Wahweap is still waiting for top-water action.
Slurps have been recently seen in Warm Creek near double islands, Labyrinth Canyon mouth, West Canyon and mouth of Rock Creek. Expect each day to provide more surface action as shad get bigger and more numerous and more stripers discover them on the surface.
Bait fishing is not over. Warming water tends to move larger stripers into deeper water. Shad are on the surface so adult stripers are still searching for bait. Expect to find them in the same locations that have been reported for the past month.
Smallmouth bass are the next most likely fish to catch. Look for deep structure, like a long point that does not change much as the water comes up five feet. Bass can just move up the brushy point to their preferred feeding depth. Walleye are still being caught like crazy from Bullfrog to Good Hope. Most of the tagged walleye are caught from Bullfrog to Good Hope (20) but two have come from Padre Bay on the south end of the lake. We are starting to see quite a bit of movement from Good Hope Bay fish as they move downstream. One reason for the walleye contest was to determine migration patterns by comparing tagging location to the capture point. There will be another bunch of tagged fish caught during June. With water warming and rising, expect to see walleye move from rocky flats into the submerged trees.
Their favorite feeding technique is to park in a submerged tree top and wait for food to swim by. Trolling a shallow running lure right over the tree tops is the best way to catch walleye. That technique will be working within the next two weeks if not sooner.
Catfish are nearing spawning now that the water temperature is in the 70s. They are very active and easy to catch as prespawn fish. Just put a worm on the bottom in the back of a cove or bay. Fish 10-20 feet deep and let the meandering catfish find your bait for fast action.
The detailed information above was written yesterday. Today I went fishing to test out my theories.
Here is what I found: Young stripers were slurping on the Warm Creek side of the Castle Rock Cut. They were flighty and not interested in my rattletrap so I went on. Saw another slurp at the mouth of Labyrinth. No takers, so I switched to a small silver spoon.
I then trolled a deep Thunderstick along the east wall in Padre Bay. Caught one healthy 3-pound striper, but no more. My next spot was just upstream from Buoy 25. I trolled for stripers without success so tried for bass with a 5-inch senko, cut in half and placed on a leadhead jig, which smallmouth bass just loved. There are rock reefs near shore that drop off to 15-20 feet. At each drop off, the senko was consumed shortly after hitting bottom by eager 1.5-pound smallmouth bass. That was quick fishing, but I had more lake to cover so I moved on.
Around the corner in the mouth of Dove Canyon another fishing boat was using bait and catching some really nice stripers near shore in 45 feet of water. I dropped my small spoon and caught one of their fish. Then I started working back to Wahweap.
In the middle of the West Canyon bay, I saw another slurping striper school at midday. This time, I caught a small striper on my small 1-inch spoon cast just beyond the slurping school. In the Gregory Butte Bay (west side), I crossed another reef and tried the senko with similar success. Near the reef in 30 feet of water, I graphed a school of fish, which I assumed would be small stripers. The small spoon was deployed and I caught two fish – both of them BLUEGILL. These adult sunfish were working in open water eating plankton. I saw another small fish school on the bottom and dropped my spoon down to catch a sunfish and caught a WALLEYE.
It was time to head in so I ignored all the great looking habitat and just came home. Fishing success at Lake Powell is amazing!