Each fall we sample fish populations with gill nets. Our first survey for 2002 was in Warm Creek. Anglers have done very poorly recently in the back of Warm Creek despite the presence of many schools of shad. Netting results were quite surprising in that many striped bass, smallmouth bass and walleye were caught. The fish are definitely there. They are just not being caught.
It was very gratifying to see that lower lake striped bass and smallmouth were really putting on weight. The fish were fat! They were not longer but much heavier than when last seen. Foraging for shad in Warm Creek has been very good. The fish are happy. But fat, happy fish are tough to catch. Predators are eating shad and avoiding just about everything else.
So how do you angle for fat fish? Feeding periods are short but very important. Returning to the same good fishing spots on a recurring basis will let you know when they start to feed and put you in position to catch some nice fish for a short time.
A better approach is to use bait that mimics the natural prey - threadfin shad. A disadvantaged shad may be eaten even though the bass stomach is already full of shad. Those techniques that may work in this instance include jigging spoons, trolled shad lures and shallow crank baits. I prefer the active baits over anchovies for at least two more weeks when shad and stripers will move to more stable wintering areas. Use a noisy lure like a rattletrap to attract attention or a loud vibrating lure like a spinner bait. One theory is that the size of the vibrating blade should be shad size to transmit a fish vibration signal to the predator. Shad size is large (2-5 inches) so use the largest blades possible. Using shad colored hard and soft baits is a sound idea.
Spoons bouncing on bottom mimic a sick shad falling out of the healthy school. The slow shad is the one eaten when the quick swimming healthy fish are ignored. The click of the spoon hitting bottom with the accompanying wisp of silt may attract a glance from a resting game fish.
Another ploy is to fish deep habitat in open water. Look on the graph for a cut or submerged channel in the 20 to 40 foot zone. With shad occupying open water the predators lurk below. Bass still like structure even in open water and they may be holding on the lip of a drop off in the middle of the channel instead of on the rocky point or cove visible from the lake's surface.
This is a different report but we are faced with the uncommon problem of pursuing fish that are not as hungry as we are accustomed to fishing for. Good luck in the pursuit. The reward is a bigger, fatter fish. The smallmouth we captured in nets were well above the average 9-11 inch mold. Things are really looking up for all Lake Powell fish this winter and next spring.
I get excited when a management plan starts to work. Thanks for your help in harvesting fish this spring and summer.