MAY13, 2004

By Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Elevation: 3583

Water Temperature: 63-67 F

Runoff has started. The lake is beginning to rise which is good news for those waiting for launch ramps to get back into full operation. Expect all launch ramps to have enough flooded concrete for great access by Memorial Day or before.

Rising water spells the end to sight fishing for spawning bass. As water marches higher the shoreline moves away from stationary bass nests leaving them far from shore. While male bass still linger the nest is no longer readily visible and sight fishing is no more. You just have to fish for bass again. Females move to feeding stations near rock structure. The breaking edge of rocks will become better bass-catching habitat and shallow sand will decline in importance. This will be a gradual transition over the next two weeks.

I really like fishing this time of year as many species of fish are moving and searching for food in the same areas. It is often possible to catch bass, stripers, sunfish, crappie, walleye and catfish using the same lure on a single stretch of shoreline. Single or double-tail plastic grubs, and/or shad imitating crank baits are extremely effective for very aggressive game fish.

During this year of abundant shad perhaps the most important key is the shad spawn. All game fish are searching for shad, which spawn at first light in the backs of canyons and coves around floating debris and shoreline vegetation. Shad eggs are adhesive and stick to the first object touched after fertilization. The shad spawn dominates all other variables and is the best key for finding game fish. Target the ends of canyons that contain off-colored water and show rooted brush or wind-rowed tumbleweeds. Be there at first light and enjoy the spectacle for the first two hours of daylight. Be prepared for a decline in activity from 7-10 AM. Normally productive fishing hours find game fish finished chasing shad and quite dormant. It may be afternoon or evening before shad-eating fish become active again.

Striped bass are the ultimate shad-seekers. Expect to find stripers herding shad as the predawn morning sky lightens. Top water and shallow running shad baits are very effective early on adults. Stripers feed quickly and efficiently on spawning shad. Big stripers will be obvious as they roll, splash and chase from 5-7 AM (MST) and almost invisible after that time. They become active again at dusk especially on warm calm nights when striper spawning may occur. (See description in last weeks fish report below).

Young stripers have become active and will save the day. They can be caught all day long in the same shallow murky water where shad spawn. Find them by trolling and casting vibrating shad baits like rattletraps. Once located a school is quite stationary and multiple stripers can be caught from each school. While yearlings are only 12 inches long they are perhaps the most voracious predators of young shad. They eat thousands of shad larvae and may even boil on small shad during the next two weeks. Catch and keep as many young stripers as possible. That will allow newly hatched shad to grow larger and provide more forage for the many adult bass and stripers that comprise the majority of game fish this spring.