A tale of two lakes at Lake Powell
Lake Elevation: 3,660 asl
Water Temperature 80-85 F
PAGE, Ariz. – Powell is a lake divided into two separate fisheries. From Rainbow Bridge Canyon to Hite stripers are boiling at many locations throughout the day. But from Rainbow Bridge downlake the surface is quiet and fishing is challenging.
Striper boils only happen when shad are plentiful. Our recent trawl sampling showed record numbers of shad from the San Juan to Hite. High runoff spread nutrients throughout the upper lake resulting in increased plankton production. When shad were spawned, abundant little plankters allowed shad to find easy meals close at hand and survive in high numbers. Shad grew quickly to a size attractive to all predators including stripers and bass. Stripers responded by herding up shad schools and trapping them against the surface where they can feed most effectively.
Recent boils have been concentrated in the main channel from Cedar Canyon to Warm Springs (Buoy 117), and Halls Creek. Most of the action has been in the main channel but don’t be surprised to find boils in the backs of canyons. Stripers are not hard to catch on surface lures and Kastmaster spoons if the lure lands near the front of the rapidly moving fish and is then worked back through the boil. But a lure that lands on the south side of a north bound boil will be ignored.
In the southern lake boils are nonexistent. The absence of surface feeding is a mystery. Shad numbers found in trawl samples were high just as seen in the north. The difference was shad size. Most shad were still small in the Wahweap sample. We are not sure if the size disparity means there is less plankton for southern shad to eat or if growth will catch up with the northern shad in the near future. My guess is that there are plenty of shad from Rainbow to Wahweap and the lower lake is only days away from erupting. The most likely explanation is that small shad can be eaten at depth by individual stripers. That means the striper school does not have to drive shad to the top. Stripers just eat shad in place and move on to the next customer. As shad size increases stripers will have to work together to feed effectively and boils will happen.
On a recent trip on a calm evening from West Canyon to Wahweap numerous shad schools were seen dimpling the surface. Open water shad were abundant and in a jovial mood without any predators harassing them. That peaceful mood will soon be shattered when stripers find the schools. But for now trolling and bait fishing is worth a try while waiting for fish to boil.
Bass fishing is good in the early morning and evening particularly around open water reefs where smallmouth like to hang out. Largemouth are in the flooded green bushes in the backs of canyons and coves. Unfortunately the lake is huge at this water level and choices are many. The right cove may have a school of largemouth making the trip a fantastic event while many other similar coves provide a meager catch.
The key now is lake stabilization. Fish will find a spot to their liking and set up a new home range similar to the one they had when the lake was 60 feet lower. They will remain at the new home and be found predictably from now into the fall. Fishing success will now improve each day and last well into September and October.