November 3, 2005
By Wayne Gustaveson
Lake Elevation: 3602
Water Temp: 63-67 F

Greetings from the San Juan. Our gill netting samples were of record proportion with a new standard for total number of fish caught (437).  We collected all of the lake’s fish species except northern pike and even some rare flannelmouth suckers. We found the fish populations to be healthy as well as numerous. Highlights included the resurgence of the crappie population and the confirmation that smallmouth are growing well despite the high numbers of fish found in the San Juan.  It was a very satisfying survey. 

Shad are abundant.  Bass and stripers have no problem finding a meal. The most successful pattern is to provide an easy to eat morsel in this myriad of foraging opportunities.  Fast retrieves do not work.  Fish are complacent and feel no need to chase. The standard smallmouth catching method is a slow swimming retrieve.  Cast a grub or sinking hard plastic crank bait.  Let it settle to the bottom.  Then retrieve slowly so the bait bumps bottom occasionally and slides over rocks. Target rock reefs or points and grass (aquatic weeds) flats.  Fish 10-15 foot depths for best results. The bait or lure is not as important as the speed and location.  Swimming a lipless crankbait near bottom is just as effective as swimming a grub.  Remember to fish slow and deep with a constantly moving bait.   

The second technique is to fish large shad schools that are often found at the mouth of a canyon.  Stripers tend to work the huge schools by just swimming through the acres of shad and opening their mouths to feed.  It is not necessary for them to drive shad to the surface and boil.  Stripers graphed around shad schools were caught with jigging spoons and crankbaits.  My sense was that stripers moved just out of casting range after we caught the first one or two. We had better luck trolling a medium or deep diving shad lure through the huge shad school and letting the stripers move around and find it. 

The third method was to fish the small pockets of shad located in the back of each canyon and cove. Here surface lures, spoons, grubs and  cranks all worked when a school of bass or stripers made one of many periodic journeys to eat shad snacks.  They come quick, eat fast and then leave.  If you are in the back when a school comes in the catching is lightning fast. 

The fourth method is to find thick tumbleweeds piled up in tamarisk trees and fish for crappie. The crappie fishing is perhaps better than springtime.  Search the brush for the thickest cover and then use small marabou or plastic grubs for fast action.  Suspending your bait over the brush with a bobber is a handy method of keeping the lure out of the brush and into the crappie.