Sprng weather has been warm and wonderful. Surface water temperature this morning has risen to 55 degrees, which is six degrees warmer than last week. That is impressive and the various fish species are reacting in their own way. Here is a rundown by species and location.
Smallmouth Bass: Warming has allowed smallmouth to move shallower. They come up because warm water is only on the surface. It will take a while before the thin warmer water layer will expand enough for full participation by smallmouth. Right now they are more likely to react to lures in the 60-degree afternoon water than in the 55 degree morning. As the lake-wide temperature continues to increase, bass will be more responsive throughout the day. Right now take advantage of other more active species in the morning and then switch over to smallmouth later in the day.
Largemouth Bass: Largemouth respond well all day long but there are not as many largemouth as smallmouth making fish success steady but not super productive. You have to search for largemouth. They can be very shallow and visible in clear water. They can be near a bush, which are few and far between, or in big uneven rocky structure. A rocky cove is more likely to produce largemouth than a main channel rockslide.
Effective bass lures this week included soft plastics in brown, chartreuse, green pumpkin, watermelon, shad or white. Casting a grub to shore structure or drop-shotting under the boat both worked well. Bass tournament anglers caught some largemouth in the 6-pound range.
Walleye: are spawning but they will respond to bait and lures at dawn and dusk each day. Females are the most likely fish to catch. Walleye are a good target while waiting for smallmouth to wake up. Cast to the 10-15 foot strata in the backs of coves or canyons. Use conventional bass tackle but attach a small piece of night crawler to the hook then slow down the retrieve and maintain bottom contact. Use the same advice if trolling or casting a bottom bouncer with a worm harness and night crawler.
Crappie: These fish are getting more active and a few have been caught, but they are very limited in the lake. Reproduction has been hampered by lack of brushy cover during spawning season so numbers are down. A few crappie have been found in Navajo Canyon and Last Chance but if you’re looking for a serious crappie trip then go to the San Juan, Escalante or Good Hope Bay. One angler interviewed at the cleaning station yesterday said he caught crappie when he changed out his small crappie jigs to a 3-inch plastic worm. Crappie could apparently find the bigger worm in cloudy water or the fish they feed on were of larger size.
Stripers: We traveled from Wahweap to Dungeon Canyon looking for stripers yesterday. We tried trolling and casting in Dungeon, Dry Rock, Main Rock Creek, Dove, Padre Canyon and Gunsight. Results were similar at each location. Only one or two stripers were caught in the backs of each canyon. It is obvious that warming has changed striper dynamics and they are on the move. We left the backs of canyons and started looking in clear water. Surprisingly, we were successful in visually finding schools of stripers in Labyrinth, Face and Buoy 25. Fish were skittish and ran from us so spooning and casting did not work.
Finally we found success with a long range trolling technique. We went to the back of the canyon and cast out a small (3 inch) shallow running crankbait (Lucky Craft pointer 65, ghost color). With the bail open, we then trolled slowly out crossing over the visible school. When almost out of line (100+ yards) on the spinning reel, the bail was closed and a pause and retrieve jerk bait technique was employed. When the small lure passed over the school with the boat well out of range, the fish responded well and ate the small lures.
As expected, at the fish cleaning station with the normal 30 stripers, we found these fish to be fat and healthy with stomachs containing plankton. Healthy stripers are on the move and are able to subsist on plankton until the new shad crop is produced in May and June.
There are still striper schools in the backs of canyons where shad are available. These fish can be caught on spoons, casting and trolling. They will likely stay in the backs canyons and wait for shad to spawn. Other stripers that are not yet mature (14-18 inches) can survive on plankton and they will be found widely scattered throughout the lake.
Mature stripers that are not finding shad will move to the deep water in the main channel. These fish have shown up at Glen Canyon Dam this week. Catches of 30 fish in four hours of fishing have been reported.
This spring will be a delight for all anglers. From now to the end of May there will be fish available to suit your preferred fishing techniques and locations. Bait fishermen can find stripers in the channel. Trollers and casters can find many species of fish in the backs of canyons. Bass anglers will find their targets along the rocky shoreline. As an added bonus the lake will rise to levels not seen for many years.
It’s a great year to be at Lake Powell.