Lake Powell strategy: Be prepared for anything

Kaleena Jones of San Tan Valley, Ariz., shows off the 3-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass she caught recently at Lake Powell.  Reports say largemouth are making a comeback this fall as they are moving out of trees and into weed beds near the backs of canyons.                 

Lake Elevation: 3,626 asl
Water Temperature 80-85 F

PAGE, Ariz. Aug. 14 – Fishing strategy this week is to be prepared for anything. Stripers are being caught night and day but it seems to be in a different spot with a different bait each time. The common thread is to look for small stripers splashing and then react to what stripers are doing.  Shad forage is limited in the lower lake but abundant near the Colorado River inflow and the upper San Juan.  Shad are small in size and not attractive to the bigger stripers.  Small stripers visibly attack shad while larger fish lurk nearby in deeper, cooler water.  Big stripers follow the surface feeders hoping for a chance encounter with larger shad. Find small two-to-three fish splashes to locate larger suspended stripers, bass and walleye.

Over the weekend 2-4 pound stripers were caught in Navajo Canyon on bait between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. where small fish had boiled the previous day.  Main channel depth was between 100-110 feet at this location.  (Monitoring gradually changing channel bottom depth in long canyons is a good way to mark a location that can be described to others.)  The following day stripers boiled in the same spot between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. and were readily caught on surface lures and spoons in the same location.

This splash and graph pattern is working lakewide. One time they boil and the next time they suspend at depth in big schools.  Fish are mid-way back in the canyons because the backs of canyons with colored water have excessive water temperatures.

My best strategy is to start trolling a deep diving lure where water color changes from clear to murky with bottom depth near 100 feet.  Look for splashes near shore in shade while graphing for suspended schools in the open channel.  I follow the shade line as stripers really like to hold in shade and look out into brighter water.  In each canyon there will be an area where more fish are marked.  Troll through the fish marks but if they do not respond hover over a school and try spoons. If that does not work then cut up anchovies, broadcast chum around the boat and fish cut bait in 30-60 feet of water.  Look for shade and broken rocks that may harbor crayfish when bait fishing.

Sounds difficult doesn’t it?  It’s a great time to learn about fish behavior because there are a lot of hungry fish just waiting for the right trigger.  It is really gratifying to be able to decipher all the nuances that identify vulnerable fish and catch a bunch of hungry stripers where everyone else has just driven by.

Night fishing is working very well near the marinas. Tie the boat up to the marina breakwater, put out a night light, and watch the shad gather. Chumming attracts the stripers lurking on the outer edge of the light and under the shad school.  Fish deeper than the suspended shad. 

On my weekend trip I reluctantly bought anchovies to catch some bigger fish at depth. Trolling while graphing revealed many fish marks on the corner of the channel. I trolled through the fish and was surprised to catch my biggest striper (5 pounds) of the year on a Norman deep diver. While unhooking and taking pictures the familiar sound of boiling stripers echoed off the canyon walls behind us in the shade.  We commenced to catch 20 more 1-3 pound stripers on top in the next half hour.  It was a great trip. I can try bait next time. 


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