Threadfin shad having banner year at Lake Powell

Dallin Trotter of Cedar City, Utah, shows off one of the fat-bodied stripers he caught during a recent fishing trip to Navajo Canyon at Lake Powell. Biologist Wayne Gustaveson said striper boils are getting bigger and more numerous as the lake surface temperature cools.

When longtime Lake Powell fisheries biologist Wayne Gustaveson looks back on the the 2014 fishing year, he might be thankful for a silvery little fish that sustains the lake’s entire food pyramid.

Threadfin shad are having a banner year after several years of decline, Gustaveson said in the latest of his weekly Lake Powell fishing reports, and anglers around the lake are reaping the benefits.

“It has been a rough couple of years with the declining lake level, loss of habitat and downsizing of fish populations,” Gustaveson wrote in an email. “Now that is behind us and all fish species are rebuilding.”

Not that fishing has been easy everywhere, he said.

Navajo Canyon continues to be the best spot for striper boils in the southern lake while elsewhere the week’s best reports featured the San Juan Arm from Wilson Creek to Neskahi Bay.

At Warm Creek, Gustaveson and his crew found large schools of stripers working the surface as the sun hit the water but sometimes had to motor a mile between schools.

“When we made good casts we could catch two stripers out of each pod of stripers (and) after they went down (usually less than a minute) we would run again,” Gustaveson reported. “We ended up with 23 stripers in three hours, which is the best we have done this fall.

“It looks like it will continue to improve each day due to the strength of the threadfin shad population.”

Those threadfin depend on underwater brush for cover and breeding and in low water years the needed habitat isn’t available.

This year’s abundant runoff raised the water levels and in turn the threadfin shad returned.

“Threadfin shad had a banner year and provide the bulk of open water forage,” Gustaveson wrote. “Bass, stripers, walleye are all eating their fill and growing fat and sassy.”

Bass chase down shad out on the rocky main channel points rather than in the backs of coves, he said.

“When shad move out of the channel (and back into the coves) to avoid stripers, then bass fishing will change accordingly,” Gustaveson said.“Shad stay near the surface so work the flukes and shad imitators near the top early morning and then deeper during the bright light of day.”

More Lake Powell fishing information is available at


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