December 12, 2002
By Wayne Gustaveson   Home Page:
Lake Elevation: 3622  Water Temperature: 53-55 F

Fishing remains tough in the lower lake. There was a report of stripers being caught in the back of Warm Creek trolling deep diving crank baits. I tried and could not duplicate the results. There seems to be less shad and stripers in Warm Creek each time I look. Suggest trying Navajo Canyon instead. Fish have either moved out of Warm Creek or they are laying right on the bottom and not being seen on the graph. Fishing pressure is very light and reports are difficult to obtain.

If coming to Powell the place to be is Hite. On December 11th, a striper boil occurred at the mudline and lasted for over an hour. The mudline marks the point where the river meets lake and is located at the Hite launch ramp. A long run in the cold wind is not needed. Just launch the boat and begin fishing. Troll the mud line for stripers while waiting for a boil or fish for walleye with a bottom bouncer and night crawler. Smallmouth have gone dormant and will difficult to catch until next spring.

I went back to the office and continued work on ageing striped bass captured in the November gill net survey. As fish grow, a circular ring is made on the scale as it gets bigger. In the winter almost no growth occurs so the growth rings get closer together. When the water warms in the spring, fish start to eat and growth rings widen. The wide spot on the scale equates to a one year growth ring. These rings can be counted to estimate the age of the fish.

For example, the photo shows a scale taken from a fish born this year. There are many concentric rings all equally spaced. When magnified, the scale measured 60 mm and corresponded to a fish that was 200 mm (8 inches). The measurement of the growth ring can determine the length of a fish during its first winter.

A scale from a one year old fish shows a wide space (annulus) followed by regular growth rings after normal growth continues in warm weather. During the second summer most fish exhibit the greatest growth and the distance between annuli is greatest. This picture shows a one year old fish that is 13 inches long.

Older fish have annuli that get progressively closer together. A four-year-old fish taken this year was 19 inches long. Scale aging is only accurate when growth occurs. If shad are not present and no growth happens the annuli may be right next to each other or in some cases no annulus is laid down.

These photos show the best "text book" scales. Often scales are very difficult to read and considerable experience is required to determine age. The Lake Powell striped bass population this year was comprised of fish 9 inches and less which were in their first year. Fish 10-15 inch were one year old. Fish larger than 15 inches ranged in age from 2-6 years. When forage is not good growth is slow. This year shad were present in good numbers and some two-year old stripers took advantage of that to attain a size as large as some 6 year old fish that have lived through many season of poor forage.