May 23, 2017 - Memorial Day Report

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wayne gustaveson

Staff member
Lake Powell Fish Report – May 23, 2017

Lake Elevation: 3614

Water Temperature: 63-66 F

By: Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Powell is rising rapidly. If coming over the Memorial Day weekend make sure to readjust tie lines at least once a day for boats tied to shore. Don’t leave cars parked on low flat spots near the lake shore at Lone Rock or other camping areas where the lake could come up rapidly and cover the car while you are camping uplake. Once the equipment is safe then you are free to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of Lake Powell.

Fishing will be great as the water temperature is still in the magical 64 degree zone. However, it will take a bit of investigation to find where fish are located. Bass and other shoreline dwellers will not move on shore as quickly as the lake comes up. Newly covered brush in shallow water may not yet be occupied as it takes fish a while to move into the new habitat. Instead look for old habitat that is 10 feet or more deep to find fish congregations. One technique that works well in rising water is to find a recently submerged island, or long point. Cast to the shallow part of the structure and then work the bait down deeper to find the fish holding depth. Once the depth is discovered the next cast should go to the same spot without taking time to work from shallow to deep water. I predict that you will be more successful in catching larger fish by targeting 10-25 feet of water instead of casting in water that is less than 10 feet near shore.

Walleye may be the most likely fish to catch in these conditions, particularly in the northern lake. They prefer a flat bench near shore or a shallow ridge in open water. In either habitat, walleye will be near the edge of the drop off. Use a bottom bouncer with a worm harness trolled slowly along the ridge at 1 mph. Make sure the bouncer weight hits bottom often and can be felt so bottom contact is known. Trolling ‘banana lures’, like Wally Divers, is very effective in the warming water conditions. Troll across points where bottom contact is made and fish are caught as soon as the lure breaks free from bottom structure.

Here is a word of caution when using this shallow trolling technique where quagga mussels are found. Transitioning from shallow to deep water allows the trolling line to hit bottom slightly before the lure. Mussel shells are sharp and can cut the line before the lure hits the rocks. If a floating lure is used in this circumstance, it is possible to return to the spot where the lure grounded out and find it floating on the surface. I used one floating lure last week and recovered it twice after the line was mussel cut, before losing it for good on the third try.

Bass are still in rocky structure (bigger is better when looking for rocky structure). Drop a plastic grub on the shady side of a rock for consistent catching. Brown, green, and chartreuse grubs in single or double tail are working. Finding fish holding habitat is more important than choosing the right color grub. In locations where many small bass are found it is wise to keep 20 of the smallmouth to allow the remaining bass in that cove to get bigger.

Largemouth will now be in shallow water in the thickest bush they can find. Also coves that have thick floating debris may have a nice green bass hiding under the shade of the flotsam.

Striped bass are near spawning which means the big healthy fish are nocturnal and can be caught at night. The rest of the population is moving toward the backs of canyons looking for shad. However, shad are small in numbers and size. Stripers are still eating plankton and crayfish. They can be targeted by trolling shallow running lures along shore at a depth of 15-25 feet. Each time a striper is caught make sure to cast lures to the same spot to find followers.

Bait fishing for stripers is picking up dramatically in the Bullfrog area. Most of the canyons above and below Bullfrog Bay will have a school of stripers holding right at the intersection of the canyon and the main channel. Chum with anchovies to get the school started and then enjoy the action for the next hour.

In the southern lake bait fishing is still working but the daily catch has declined from incredible down to 15 to 20 per trip. The standard spots near the dam and Navajo Canyon are still producing but the tall walled canyons in Last Chance, Rock Creek, Wetherill are holding a lot of fish. If you can find one of those hungry schools the catch rate will soar.

Bluegill are near spawning and surprisingly large fish are being caught. Channel catfish are a two weeks away from spawning and will provide great catches in June.

Overall, the fishing should be great on the Holiday weekend. Water is clear from Wahweap to Bullfrog but muddy upstream from Cedar Canyon in the main channel and above Neskahi Canyon in the San Juan.
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