July 9, 2008
By Wayne Gustaveson
Lake Elevation: 3633
Water Temp: 78-83

Striped bass continue to dominate the fishing scene. Non stop surface feeding action continues to delight anglers and boaters. Other BIG news includes the capture of a 36 pound striper which is the largest fish caught this year.

Robert McAden of Greenehaven AZ took his son Jason and small grandson Michael Ryan, fishing in Navajo Canyon at one of the points that has been consistently good for catching a boatload of 2-pound stripers. They cruised to the point, cut up and distributed anchovy chum and immediately started catching small stripers. Robert established a routine where he would hook the fish and let Michael reel it in. That worked well until the fifth fish which headed straight for the bottom. Michael was in danger of being pulled overboard by the strong fish on 14-pound test line, so Robert took control. The battle lasted 15 minutes before the big fish swirled into the net which both Robert and Jason wrestled into the boat.

While big stripers have been caught before this is the first caught on bait - in the middle of the day - when the water surface layer was over 75 degrees. It just goes to show that a big fish can be caught any time, anywhere on Lake Powell.

On the other hand, anyone can catch 36 pounds of stripers by repeatedly catching 2-pound fish off the surface. The entire lake is boiling each morning and evening in response to the large shad crop that has been produced this year. Shad are still small, and spread widely across the surface, making them very easy targets for stripers. Stripers surface, feed quickly (2 minutes), go down to regroup and then pop up again. The trick is to see the school, position the boat while fish are down and be in casting range when the school resurfaces. The first cast to fish coming up is the one that hooks up. Casting to fish leaving the surface is not productive. It sounds easy but proves to be a bit tricky as the school can just as easily change direction and resurface 100 yards away from the projected spot. Since they come up time after time that provides ample opportunity to finally get the boat in the right place.

Casting is the key. Stripers feed on the surface at fast idle speed. It takes a powerful electric motor to keep up. Usually the big motor is needed to stay in casting range. A heavy lure on a good rod can be cast 30-40 yards. It takes every bit of that distance to properly place the lure over and beyond the lead fish in the school. If properly placed, the lure will be accepted. If it falls short the entire school may sound and run away.

Clear surface lures provide the bulk needed for a long cast, but offer a small visible profile to surfacing stripers. Rattletraps of many varieties are perfect for casting over the feeding school and then dragging back through the main group for a quick hookup. Walleye Assassin plastic baits on heavy lead heads are working well up north. The trick for all of these baits is to SLOW DOWN. Shad are small with limited swimming ability. Stripers are not chasing fast moving fish. A steady retrieve at half the speed dictated by the adrenaline packed situation is required for success.

Boils will get bigger and better with age. Shad are growing each day. When shad are big enough to swim they are able to beat a striper in a race. Stripes must work harder and strike more aggressively to catch bigger, quicker shad. That makes it mush easier to locate boils, approach feeding schools, and catch fish. This will be a great summer for striper fishing.

Those not interested in race track fishing can find more sedate entertainment with bass and catfish. Bass are hiding in the copious brush shelters recently submerged. These fish are hard to catch in water that is still rising and covering more green brush. A fishing pattern that works in these conditions is to fish the shade of steep walls. Toss a plastic grub against the wall and let it fall to a ledge 15-25 feet deep. Smallmouth bass are being regularly caught on walls and drop offs on outside points leading into the main channels and bays. Coves and backs of canyons will provide better results when lake conditions change.