May 15, 2003

By Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Elevation: 3605

Water Temperature: 58-67 F

As I write this report Lake Powell is being lashed by another weather front with cool temperatures and more wind than needed. Cold weather has slowed the runoff and the lake is not rising. Launch ramps are still waiting for another water level increase before boat launch access improves. Expect launching to be challenging at Bullfrog and Hite. Warm weather and increased runoff will help with these challenges.

Persistent inclement weather has been hard on fishing success. Short periods of really fine fishing have been sandwiched between wind events. I suspect collusion between weather and the good things that are happening with the fish but conspiring against the fisherman. We have great forage and most fish are fat. Fat fish do not feed as often and then prefer shad over other food items. When bad weather happens fat fish get fussy. Prolonged bad weather has bass spawning in bursts on warm afternoons. The bass spawn is prolonged and in all stages from no nests to completed rearing. That means bass are not in any one place but scattered from shallow to deep. Expect to find really quick catching surrounded by longer periods of looking for bass.

Stripers are eating shad at their convenience, even boiling occasionally at Hite and the upper San Juan. They are scattered but consistently found in the backs of canyons where water is stained to muddy. Trolling is a good way to cover enough water to contact a willing striper. Some of the best places are Bullfrog Bay, White Canyon, the secondary mudline between the Horn and Ticaboo Canyon and Spencers Camp in the San Juan. There have been a few stripers caught on bait in Crystal Springs Canyon and in the main channel. But most anglers are catching stripers on reaction baits trolled or cast in murky water.

In reviewing fishing results over past years the similarities with 1996 are striking. Based on past events, expect steady but not super catching of bass and stripers during the remainder of May. Then as shad begin to spawn at first light each morning there will be an intense feeding period early and then again late each day. Don't miss the early morning (first light to 9 AM) fishing period for best results. Then as the new crop of shad grow bigger all fish will key on shad forage. Expect fishing to be much better in June than it is now. July will be better for early morning surface action and August will be perhaps, the best fishing of the year.

As Lake Powell fisheries temporarily switch from a crayfish forage base to one dominated by shad fishing conditions will differ. It would be wise to plan a summer fishing trip for striper boils and bass surface action that has not been seen since 1996-1997. Low water, and many other changes make this year very different and one that will be memorable for quality and size of fish caught. It is not just about numbers any more. The very large striper spawn suspect in June 2003 and 2004 will pump striper numbers up once more and challenge the shad forage base. Enjoy the big, fat fish this year and expect a return to catching more numbers and less quality in 2004.