Lake Powell Fish Report – May 26, 2015 Lake Elevation: 3595 Water Temperature 63 – 70 F
Lake Powell is rising. The weather forecast is for rapid warming. Fish behavior is changing as a result of the changing conditions. Here is how to keep up with the new reality in the fish world at Lake Powell. Runoff is now busting downstream allowing the lake water level to increase each day. All that water makes the upper lake muddy, reduces visibility, and points anglers downstream when leaving Bullfrog/Halls. There is still good fishing upstream but it is the backs of canyons rather than the muddy main channel. Those launching at Wahweap/Antelope Point find clear water but must move the boat each morning to accommodate the rising water. Increasing temperatures will have a much larger impact on fishing success.
Bass fishing has been the stalwart all spring with smallmouth bass leading the way. Great smallmouth fishing will continue but with rising water and temperature the target species will be found in deeper water. Small bass will still be found on shore but mature bass will be found more consistently in water 20-30 feet deep. Walleye are in transition from feeding all day long, to feeding early morning and late evening and into the night. There is still an option to find fishing success in the daytime but it will likely be in muddy coves or windswept shorelines where visibility is less and walleye have an advantage over prey.
Catfish and bluegill will be found much more often in these conditions and will be easy to catch near camp. Striped bass are finally near spawning. Female stripers are only ripe for one hour each year. The hormones don’t flow until the spawning trigger arrives. In the lake that trigger is rapid warming and rising water. The sign to look for is a rapid increase in surface water temperature. The morning temperature today was 64F. If the lake surface increased to 74 degrees by this afternoon that would be enough to start the spawning process. But that won’t happen today. Expect a one-day 10 degree rise in temperature within the next 10 days. When that happens here are the clues to find a spawning school of stripers. Ripe male stripers are schooled in virtually every bay and are much more interested in spawning than eating. Locate them by trolling flies along the surface through the plankton schools where they are biding their time. They will eat a large zooplankter (white streamer fly) while foraging on the microscopic critters that are the foundation of the food web. Many stripers can be caught using the fly trolling technique. Once the school location is known return to that spot at sundown on a day when the temperature has risen dramatically. Stripers spawn on the surface at night. A spawning school will behave much like slurping fish with lots of rolling and splashing making them a bit easier to find in low light. The males in the school will weigh from 2.5 pound to the larger fish which will exceed 10 pounds. The females in the school will start at 4 pounds and top out over 30 pounds.
These stripers are incredibly aggressive. I suggest using a single hook which will make it easier to unhook these beasts quickly after dark. I have successfully used a half to one ounce bucktail jig to catch spawning fish on every cast in coves that are 15-30 feet deep. This is an unusual year where most of the stripers in the southern lake and 75% of the stripers in the mid to northern lake are in spawning condition. The best way to find a spawning school is to troll the bucktail jig across lake points at sunset.
There will also be some boil-like activity close to shore that is still visible as the sun sets and the night darkens. This is the best chance we have had in this century to find and interact with a spawning school of a striped bass. I testify that is really worth it and an unforgettable experience. It will happen within the next 10 days. Be extremely alert for any signs of surface activity at dusk and be prepared to catch a ton of fish if lucky enough to be in the right spot. P.S. Better bring a head lamp!