September 4, 2019 - Conditions improving

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wayne gustaveson

Staff member
Lake Powell Fish Report –
September 4, 2019
Lake Elevation: 3618
Water temperature: 78-83 F
By: Wayne Gustaveson or

Fishing at Lake Powell has been different this year. Striper boils in August were much less than expected. Smallmouth bass fishing has been spotty. Catfish are bigger and bolder than usual. Largemouth and walleye are taking the hot summer off. What is going on?

There was a long cool spring with massive runoff and a large rise in lake elevation, which covered the brush line for the first time in years. Then the hottest summer on record arrived. Conditions at Lake Powell were not normal so fish adapted to the prevailing condition and charted a new path. We are still trying to figure it out, but have some ideas.

Shad are the most important fish in Lake Powell. They provide forage for most of the sportfish. Threadfin shad are the prefect forage fish but they only produce strong populations every third year. 2019 is the year of the threadfin. They are dominating the food chain. The cool spring and rising lake levels, allowed the shad spawning season to last longer. Now, there are small shad schools all over the surface of Lake Powell. Stripers do not have to surround one isolated shad school and trap it against the surface. Now they just swim up to the surface and snack on a small shad pod.

The striper feeding schedule begins at dawn and lasts until about 9:30 AM (MST). They may come up again midday or evening but morning is the most dependable. Boils are not common. Now small groups of stripers attack a small pod of shad. The surface disturbance looks like 3 to 6 stripers feeding for about 30 seconds. If close enough to cast precisely to a feeding fish, it will hit the lure. If not, the fish will go down only to come back up a few more times.

Adult stripers cannot stay in 80-degree water for more than a few minutes. They dive down deeper to cool off. Now the most effective technique is to troll a 12-15 foot deep-diving, shad-imitating lure (Lucky Craft XD Pointer in chartreuse shad color or similar lure). Troll near the surface action, then cast topwater lures when the striper school resurfaces.

Using these techniques, we caught 16 stripers. The excellent physical condition of these fish was reminiscent of the 1980s when small numbers of stripers were feeding on an unlimited shad population. Fishing success now does not compare to previous August results. The good news is that the best is yet to come. Stripers are growing to a much larger size. Food is constantly available lake wide. Boils will increase and prevail through September and October. Stripers will be anxious to eat spoons all winter long. Fishing success will get much better in the coming days.

Smallmouth bass are hiding out as well. It is more likely to catch big smallmouth competing with stripers in open water on surface lures early and late. More bass will be on the rocky bottom at 15-25 feet. Fish in the shade to increase the bass catch rate. Black Ned rigs worked well this week.

I am thrilled and amazed that, despite having quagga mussels in the lake, there has been a resurgence in shad numbers and now in striped bass condition. Smallmouth bass are increasing in size. Hopefully, largemouth bass and crappie will spawn in brushy habitat next spring and produce a more abundant population. Conditions at Lake Powell are the best they have been for years!

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