November 5, 1999
Lake Elevation: 3688 msl
Water Temperature: 62-65 F
By Wayne Gustaveson
Early November is time for annual fish population surveys using gill nets. We have completed the San Juan survey at Piute-Neskahi Bay and are presently working in Warm Creek.. We will do Good Hope Bay and the Rincon next week. We run 10 nets for two nights at each station and them move to the next site.
Reflecting on San Juan data presents some pleasant surprises. The best news is that striped bass are as fat and healthy as they can get. I suspected to see some malnourished fish, but that was not the case. Most fish weighed 2.5 pounds and had fat reserves that will carry them through the winter and into next spring in great shape. With adequate forage next spring average weight will quickly bloom to 4 pounds. These results indicate that shad forage in 1999 was more than adequate in the San Juan arm. Our previous shad sampling has shown record numbers of shad in the Mikes Canyon to Piute Farms reach.
Unfortunately, this news of extremely fat fish translates into slow fishing for stripers on the San Juan. When they are fat and still have shad available they are reluctant to eat lures and bait. They selectively eat shad and ignore most other offerings . My advice is to find a different destination if you are targeting striped bass. The only real chance for stripers is the infrequent surface boil in the Mikes to Piute Farms reach. The rest of the San Juan is slow for stripers.
That brings us to smallmouth and largemouth bass which is just the opposite report. They are hitting plastic grubs and crank baits very well on vertical habitat along the main channel of the San Juan. We fished the emerging peninsula in the main channel at the mouth of Wilson Creek and found great success on dark green Yamamoto grubs on a 1/4 ounce lead head. We caught 2 smallmouth for every largemouth bass. Two pounds was the largest fish caught of each species.
Our first day’s netting in Warm Creek showed more striped bass with less fat reserves than seen on the San Juan. Warm Creek stripers were averaging a pound less in weight but the larger numbers and meager forage conditions mean that anglers will do much better in Warm Creek than on the San Juan. Our survey only targets Warm Creek but the same conditions prevail in Navajo Canyon, Padre Bay, Last Chance, Rock Creek and West Canyon. I expect decent winter condition fishing for stripers to hold up through December in the lower lake. Anchovy fishing in the backs of the canyons where water depth is 40-80 feet will be the most productive method of capture.
Bass fishing is better on the San Juan but smallmouth are still biting on main channel structure in the lower lake. Fish slowly at 15-30 feet for best results.
Catfish are very active lakewide due to the warmer than normal water temperatures. Evening fishing with liver, shrimp, night crawlers or other soft baits is working well.
We will give a detailed report on Good Hope and Rincon in the next report.