OCTOBER 21, 2004

By Wayne Gustaveson

Lake Elevation: 3570

Water Temperature: 67-69 F

A major storm front has Powell in its clutches and will dominate the fishing scene for the short term. This comes at a time of transition when shad and stripers are moving from open water to the backs of canyons and coves.

Most of the year shad have held over the deep water of the main channel from Wahweap to Good Hope. With full moon during the last week of September shad moved out of the channel and into the coves during the day. Number of striper boils was greatly reduced in open water as stripers seemed to lose contact with shad.

Recently, striper feeding activity was seen in coves in close proximity to the main channel. Both shad and stripers were moving and could not be counted on to reappear in the exact same location from day to day. Shad in high abundance in the back of long canyons far from the channel were unmolested by stripers.

Shad trawl sampling from Trachyte to Wahweap from October 12-16 found shad in peak abundance at the Colorado River inflow near Trachyte (2000/tow). Bullfrog, San Juan, Wahweap all had similar shad abundance at a high level (20-50/tow) for this late in the year. These shad were caught in open water so it is obvious that shad were moving out of cover into the channel after dark.

Now in mid October stripers have made initial movements into long canyons holding resident shad schools. The progression is logical. Small-sized shad in the main channel were easy targets. No need to chase adult shad when slow swimming young were easy prey. As young shad finally grew larger and left the channel to avoid the daily attacks, stripers lost contact and had to look on-shore instead of looking straight up for a meal. Lack of large open water shad schools caused stripers schools to fragment, as feeding in coves did not benefit a large striper school. Small numbers of shad trapped in coves became less desirable for stripers who want more prey. Now foraging probes into canyons far way from the channel are beginning and striper schools are reforming to work over the larger shad schools found in canyons.

Looks to me like the stripers are just reloading for a strong feeding spree in November after this storm front passes. Water temperature is still favorable for shad to stay shallow for a few more weeks. The battleground now becomes the long canyons where water depth is 40-60 feet. This is the winter holding area for both species. Neither has gone deep so a few boils will be seen in coves near main canyon channels.

This will be the time to look between Good Hope and Trachyte (highest shad density on the lake) for intense striper feeding activity. Recent reports of fast trolling shad type reaction baits were good for major striper catch rates. The long canyons (Navajo, Last Chance, Rock Creek, Escalante, San Juan, and Colorado River inflow) will now produce more stripers than seen last month.

Remember that stripers in high forage areas need a fast moving shad to induce a bite so cast or trolled crank baits may be the best. Conversely, stripers separated from shad and searching for a meal may take anchovies. Use the graph. Think about the conditions encountered. Then try to match your techniques to existing conditions for best results