Fall has officially arrived kicking off the "second season" of fishing at Lake Powell. Spring fishing is great but Fall fishing is just as good and the weather is better. The unusually warm, dry summer caused the lake's surface to stay warmer longer than normal. Water temperatures are just now declining into the really good fishing range. The pesky full moon, just past, has delayed the Fall feeding frenzy especially in the lower lake. The prediction for the next 3 weeks is that fishing will get better each day and peak on the dark moon during the second week of October. It will stay good until full moon during the fourth week. The only thing that will alter the schedule is big, strong cold fronts with lots of wind. Try to avoid fishing those days. The lake is so deep that it takes lots of cold air and wind to cool the lake in the Fall. Fishing will regain the glory about 2-3 days after the cold front passes. Plan your Fall trip accordingly.
The easiest target is smallmouth bass. They are numerous lake wide and will fall for the same pattern no matter what part of the lake is fished. Search for jagged, broken rock that falls away at a sharp angle. Straight cliffs are not as good as a broken rock slope. Long, rocky points jutting into the main channel are the easiest places to find the right habitat. Once there, use a soft plastic grub, tube or jigging spoon. Fish from the shallows down to 40 feet. Small fish will be shallow and the bigger ones down deep. Bass are on the rocks because crayfish, their primary food, frequent rocks that they can hide in and around.
The rule is broken when shad enter the picture. Bass will chase shad in the fall if they can find them. Coves with shad are the very best place to fish. Find shad by looking for small fish flipping and squirting on the surface. When feeding shad dart to the surface and zip back down often causing a little water spurt in the process. Some shad schools contain hundreds of fish and all those spurts are hard to miss in a calm cove. Fish below the shad to catch every fish species in the lake. When stripers happen on a school of shad the pace accelerates. Shad are extremely fast but opt to cluster in a school instead of fleeing. Stripers herd the school to an ambush point and then rush through. Shad then scatter in all directions which excites every fish in the cove. Stripers are most obvious with the giant swirls and big slurping gulps. But bass and walleye are right there with them. Look for shad to find the best fall fishing.
Shad are most common in the upper San Juan from Cha Canyon to Zahn Bay. Hite and Bullfrog tie for the next best spot. The lower lake is not even in the game yet. A good fishing plan is to search out shad. Fish for smallmouth bass along the shoreline while seeking shad. When shad are located fish under them for mixed variety of predator species. Then when the boil starts make quick work of the stripers by throwing surface lures while they are chasing on top. As soon as the boiling subsides drop spoons to the bottom to get stripers as they make there way out of the cove. Then throw a few more random casts with surface lures to the shoreline for big smallmouth and a bonus largemouth or two. These next few weeks will be a lot of fun!