Spring Fishing for Stripers, Bass
and Walleye at Lake Powell
By Dave Webb
few sunny days make a world of difference at Lake Powell. With the onset
of spring the stripers, large and smallmouth bass and walleye in Powell
start thinking about spawning. But the water has to warm a bit before
the fish break out of their winter lethargy and start prowling. That often
happens around the first week of April. From that point forward success
gets better and better until hot weather arrives in June and the crowds
descend on the popular playground.
April and Mayalong with September and Octoberare prime months
at Lake Powell. Great fishing ... pleasant temperatures ... and fewer
people. Now that's an ideal combination.
Striper fishing is expected to be very good at the big lake during the
coming years and biologists are encouraging people to catch and eat a
bunch of them. The stripers are fat and healthy, thanks to a strong shad
population. But the stripers are still overpopulated and harvest is needed
to keep them from literally eating themselves out of house and home.
The stripers congregate in Wahweap in the spring because the water is
warmer there than on the upper end where snowmelt runoff is coming in.
They normally stage for spawning right at Glen Canyon Dam and at the intake
to the power plant. So, those are often easy places to find fish.
"We get a whole bunch of fish stacked up in those pre-spawning congregation
areas. Glen Canyon Dam is often the best spot in April," said Wayne Gustaveson,
DWR Lake Powell project leader.
Most of the stripers will be down 20 to 40 feet, with a few deeper. Anchovies
are the most popular bait, but white feathered jigs are also very good.
Just locate a school on your fish finder and drop your bait down into
them. Cut the anchovies into chunks large enough to cover your hooks and
drop them down to the fish.
If you don't have a graph, there are usually other boats out there and
they crowd around the schools.
The striper spawn usually begins about April 25, and peaks around May
10th. It is usually over by the first of June.
During the spawn fish sometimes leave the dam and go out onto the flats.
If you move with them you can have exciting action casting lures. Get
out right at duskfrom about 7 until 9 p.m. Anything that imitates
a shad works well. White jigs are also good at that time.
When the spawn is over the stripers move toward the midsections of the
lake. So areas like Bullfrog and Good Hope actually get better after the
spawn. Just follow the fish around.
Walleye fishing was great at Powell before the stripers were introduced.
As the striper population exploded walleye fishing dwindled, because the
two species compete for food. Now, with more forage in the lake, walleye
numbers could be on the upswing.
"To catch walleye you definitely have to use something that stays in
contact with the bottom," Wayne said. "Try a plastic worm, double-tailed
jig, grubsomething you can fish down on the bottom and jig it off
and let it go back down. Night crawlers and dead minnows also work, but
they aren't used very much. The key to catching walleye is to fish early
in the morning or evening or at night, or in cloudy water. Fish the first
hour of light in the morning, just before the sun hits the water."
Look for walleye in the slick rock canyons on the lower part of the lake,
down 15 to 25 feet. You can often find them right in the middle of the
canyon. "I throw my lures out into the back of the canyon and work right
down the middle, very slowly," Wayne said.
"Once the light's on the water they will go back into hiding. Then
you have to move to places like mud linesyou can often find the
wind blowing across a point, and washing mud into the water. The walleye
will move in there. A lot of times tour boats moving up and down the lake
throw a tremendous wake upon the shore and wash mud into the water. The
walleye will often move in there."
Submerged islands and shelves down 15 to 25 feet often attract walleye.
"You can just barely see the rocks down there and the water's kind
of yellow, and then it falls off to deep blue. So there is deep water
on the sides of it," Wayne said.
The walleye spawn in Powell peaks about the first week in April, and
they don't bite well at that time. "We don't usually find walleye
hitting much until after the spawn. So, by April 15 the action is usually
good. Actually, May is the best month for walleye," Wayne said.
There are still a few big walleye in the lakea 10 pounder was caught
a few years ago. "That's the biggest that's been caught hook and line
that I'm aware of," Wayne said. "I don't expect a state record out of
Walleye fishing stays pretty good through June. Then the shad hatch in
the backs of the canyons, so forage is more available and the walleye
are harder to catch. In the summer you do best fishing for them at night.
Largemouth and Smallmouth
During the spring largemouth and smallmouth bass will be in the backs
of the canyons, preparing to spawn. Many years there are tumbleweeds along
the lakes shoreline and they become primary structure for bass.
Tumbleweed mats attract good numbers of fish.
"Usually in the spring I tell people to fish in the backs of the canyons
where turbid water meets clear water. The water looks green there and
it's usually the most productive spot for largemouth and smallmouth,"
In slickrock canyons, if you find a pile of rocks you can also expect
to find fish around it.
Largemouth get going a bit sooner than smallmouthusually during
the first weeks of April. Smallmouth action picks up by the end of the
month. Both readily take jigs and grubs. Crawdad colors are often good,
along with salt and pepper. Shad imitating lures are also productive.
Catfish usually become active when the surface temperature gets above
70 degrees. That's usually in May or June at Powell.
"Actually, the hotter the better for the cats. And the closer you get
to the inflow areas the better the catfishing is. It can be just fantastic
in the Good Hope to Hite area, and upper San Juan. It's been really great
the last couple years in July and August. Chicken liver is probably the
"We usually pull up into a narrow cove that's protected from the wind.
If you have a narrow cove with a sandy bottom that is fairly deep, that's
usually the best spot. Catfish tend to come in shallow to feed, so you
can almost see the bottom in most area. The thing I look for is a narrow
canyon that has a gently sloping bottom and it tends to concentrate the
fish, like a funnel, and they can find the bait pretty easily," Wayne
Fish in water 15 to 25 feet for catfish.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005