Shad populations at Lake Powell nearing decade peak

Two Lake Powell stripers and the Bomber Flat A crankbait that caught them. Patterned after the millions of small shad found in lake Powell, crankbaits such as this feature a tight wiggle, a subtle presentation and a near-neutral design to target suspended fish.

The fishing enigma we know as Lake Powell is offering another puzzle for anglers to solve.

The fishing food chain at Lake Powell relies on shad, which in the past few years have been (compared to other years) in relatively short supply.

Low water, lack of spawning areas — the reasons for the shad shortfall were several.

Although this meant the top-line predators, particularly stripe bass, suffered a bit in size and weight, it made fishing a bit easier because anglers found less competition for their lures from the shad.

Stripers had to eat something, and when the shad weren’t available, nearly every shiny hook got a bite.

This year, however, as the reservoir’s water edged up with the heavy runoff, the shad spawn was great and now there are vast schools of shad, according to Lake Powell fisheries biologist Wayne Gustaveson.

“Our studies show that the shad population is nearing a peak not seen in this decade,” wrote Gustaveson in his latest Lake Powell fishing report.

“Lakewide shad numbers from our first shad trawl in July are well above average from Wahweap to Good Hope, with Bullfrog showing the most shad of all stations.”

This is good for the stripers and other predator fish, and for anglers who like their fish with a little heft to them, but it makes catching those hefty fish a bit more difficult.

“The large shad population probably has much to do with the challenging fishing results found over much of the lake,” Gustaveson said.

Particularly in the southern end of the lake, which generally is everything below Bullfrog Marina.

“Fishing in the southern lake is still a mystery,” Gustaveson wrote. “A solid pattern has not been identified.

The most consistent striper spot is Navajo Canyon but stripers are moving up and down the canyon and changing feeding times.”

When you locate the stripers, be ready to change lures a couple of times.

“For some unknown reason, on certain days one lure will work better than another,” Gustaveson said. “On this trip the Bomber Flat A in shad color worked the best.”

And it wasn’t just stripers, but on smallmouth bass, as well.

“Trolling and graphing for stripers turned into a smallmouth catching experience,” he wrote.

“The habitat bass chose was near a gentle sloping brushy shoreline where bottom depth was 15-20 feet.”

“This sums up the fishing pattern: Fish are where you find them,” Gustaveson said.

More Lake Powell fishing information at


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