DECEMBER 16, 2004

By Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Elevation: 3565

Water Temperature: 52-54 F

Shad have sounded and are consistently found at depths of 100 feet in submerged creek channels. Stripers are near shad. It does take considerable searching to find an active school but the rewards are there.

Yesterday we left Wahweap main ramp and motored to the mouth of Ice Cream Canyon which is near the gravel peninsula and the rental houseboat marina. Many massive schools of shad were graphed at the 100 feet contour on a direct line between the marina and the mouth of Ice Cream. It has been my experience that fish deeper than 90 feet are very difficult to catch as they are presumably resting. A few attempts to catch these deep fish proved futile.

Leaving the deep shad schools the search pattern expanded to the next canyon to the southeast of Ice Cream. This canyon has no name but does have old cottonwood trees in the back. Graphing the south point at the canyon entrance produced a few large fish traces. We dropped 2 ounce wally lure jigging spoons along the edge of a fast breaking ridge which fell from 25 to 60 feet in a few boat lengths. The technique was to drop to the bottom and jig the spoon smartly from the bottom, up 10 feet and then let it fall back.

The first fish was hard to come by. The most difficult part of winter striper fishing is getting the school started. We were lucky this time. After a couple of hits, Ron Colby stuck his spoon in the midsection of a six-pound striper. The foul hooked fish rising to the surface was enough to start the rest of the school. My spoon was at 60 feet when Ron hooked his fish. I began speed reeling, stopping and dropping the spoon on a fast retrieve. As the spoon came across the ledge another 6 pounded nailed it. For the next hour we coaxed 7 more big fish off the bottom on that one point. We finished with 9 fish weighing 50 pounds before the school moved on.

The search pattern should be to find shad schools in deep water, then fish on the closest upward breaking contour where depth is 60 feet or less. The main channel intersections of creek channels both north and south of Ice Cream Canyon will produce feeding striper schools.

It is not necessary to make long runs to go fishing anywhere on Lake Powell. The easiest starting point is to locate a raft of western grebes. These shad-eating birds will be near shad schools, which are holding in the deep open channel. Grebes feed mostly at night so they are a vicinity marker and not a precise indication of stripers. Next graph locations on the edge of the channel. Stripers will come up to feed. Prime spots are 40-70 foot points and terraces near shad.

Graph-hunting is sometimes tedious. Best results are obtained by keeping the spooning rod in hand while searching. The instant a school is seen the spoon should be released. Hopeful it gets to the bottom before the fish move on. Putting the spoon in the school is the key to success. Often the spoon will be hit on the way down or on the second or third hop. If not the school was missed and the hunt continues.

Other techniques may work. Chumming the location of a school observed on the graph has potential. If the school is seen near the bottom use a jig head or a very short Carolina-rig to keep your anchovy bait near the resting school. Stripers will not move far when cold and resting.

Best striper success will be obtained night fishing near the marina under the glow of a submerged fishing light. Cut anchovies or shad on a jighead or circle hook will turn the trick. The bite is very light so pay close attention to the rod tip. No sleeping!

Smallmouth bass are active on deep rocky structure near the point where the submerged creek channel or cut joins the main canyon or bay. Dropshot rigged senkos are working extremely well fished from 25 to 50 feet. If you like to catch lots of fish then try for bass. If total weight is more important then striper fishing is for you.

Don't be surprised to catch a couple of walleye on spoons and senkos. They are still quite active as the 50-degree water is perfect for their makeup.