Anglers excited for Lake Powell migration

Lake Powell fisheries biologist Wayne Gustaveson in January caught the big striper he’s dreamed about, landing this 15-pound fish by slow-trolling a deep-diving lure. The transition period of February and March marks the lake’s shift from winter to spring.

If some of the birding reports are correct, migration this year already is under way, with hummingbirds showing up in South Carolina and bluebirds in western Colorado.

Another sort of migration is about to start, as well. These mild days of late winter make anglers eager for a migration west to Lake Powell.

Although the high-desert weather continues to fluctuate between winter and spring, it is trending more and more to spring, which means warmer days and fish getting more active as water temperatures climb.

As of Monday the lake was at 3,602.84 feet elevation, 97 feet below full pool and the lowest it’s been since Sept. 8, 2007.

Lake Powell fisheries biologist Wayne Gustaveson reported recently that the water level is low enough to close the Castle Rock Cut on the lake’s south end as well as the primitive launch ramps.

The lake has dropped 20 feet since its 2012 high of 3,622 feet was reached on Sept. 21.

Surface water temperatures are holding around 45 degrees, but as the sun climbs higher and the water in the back of the canyons slowly warms, the bass and striper fishing will continue to improve.

As is usually the case at Lake Powell, choosing your spot carefully is key to success, Gustaveson said in a recent email.

“Those with institutional memory of Lake Powell before the brush will be well served,” he wrote. “Brush left the lake this winter when water level dropped below 3,604. There is no brush in the water now with the exception of the flood plain canyons that are home to perennial streams or long drainages fed by occasional spring runoff and flash foods.”

Most of the brush sprung up in those years when the lake cyclically receded and rose. The brush provided key fishing structure for bass, crappie and bluegill.

With the lake below the brush level, anglers need to change their patterns and concentrate on water color and clarity as fishing structure.

“Clear water is not as good as green water, and murky water warms before clear water, attracting fish to the warmer zone,” Gustaveson said.

He said anglers will find bass holding in the occasional tumbleweed piles blown into the lake or stacked on rock structure instead of brush.

Striped bass schools remain in the backs of floodplain canyons, roaming the murky water from 70 foot depths into 25 foot shallows.

With shad schools neither as big nor as plentiful as several months ago, hungry stripers are vulnerable to well-placed lures and spoons, Gustaveson said.

“Right now stripers are short on forage and are still caught by trolling and spooning as they guard the sanctuaries at the back of the canyons, hoping to find a shad school swimming from the shallows to the deep water,” he said.

He said stripers should start moving toward the main channel once the water temperatures warm into the mid-50s.

“Bait fishing will be excellent this spring,” he said. “It will be reminiscent of a decade ago when most stripers were caught at the dam and Moki Wall in the spring.”

Winter fishing at Lake Powell frequently produces big stripers, and in a 10-day span last month, anglers caught a 28.3-pound striper and a 15-pound striper.

The latter was caught by Gustaveson himself, and he reported it was his biggest striper after 30 years of trying.

The 34-inch fish hit a clear/white Deep Thunderstick and took 10 minutes to subdue.

Like most western reservoirs, Lake Powell continues to drop in the wait for spring runoff.

But there still is plenty of water — the reservoir is 471 feet deep at the dam, and it’s estimated there currently are more than 3.91 trillion gallons of water in Lake Powell.

All you have to do is find a fish in all that water.


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