August 2006

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Fish Have To Eat Even When It's Warm

By Wayne Gustaveson

It's summer at Lake Powell. The surface water temperature exceeds 80 degrees. That's great for swimming and playing in the clean, clear water, but few think about fishing in these warm conditions.

However, fish have to eat even when it's warm.

Striped bass are still very easy to catch by just finding the right location. Park on the right spot, and the supply of hungry fish seems endless.

The factors to consider include food and temperature. The warm surface layer in the 80s cools quickly to the low 70s at the thermocline, the boundary between warm and cold water in the stratified lake.

Adult stripers live below the thermocline in the cool water they need for survival. The thermocline is found from 25-30 feet, depending on lake location.

The wise angler puts his bait or lure at 25 feet to present it to fish looking up to the warm surface layer where food fish live. Sunfish and shad are warm-water tolerant and prefer the shallows where predators are scarce.

Shad numbers are not as strong as last summer, making it less profitable for bass and stripers to venture into the warm water to feed. They can and do feed shallow, but with the present conditions, those feeding opportunities are fewer.

Surface action has slowed accordingly. There are very few boils or slurps occurring. The San Juan may be the only exception.
With record numbers of bass and stripers still present in the lake, the best strategy is to fish anchovy bait at 25-40 feet. The only food present where adult fish live is crayfish.

Competition for the tasty crustaceans is intense so not all fish are fed daily. Stripers feed in schools and will be bunched near rocky structure at least 25 feet deep.

That presents a problem since most of that structure is not visible to the boater scanning the surface. A graph is important in finding structure that drops quickly from 30 to 50 feet.

Stripers and bass occupy these rocky trenches in open water. Put the bait right on the steep breaking edge for best results in finding feeding fish.

Some of the best striper bait fishing spots include the dam, Navajo Canyon, mouth of Warm Creek, Last Chance, and Rock Creek. Fish anchovies at the terminal end of prominent points at the intersection of the main channel and the adjoining canyon.
Mid-lake striper spots include main channel canyon walls at Halls, Moki, and Buoy 99 near Hansen Creek.

Perhaps the best fishing experience now is had at night under lights. Temperature, traffic, and weather are better after dark, and fishing is very good near marinas and in spots where stripers were caught during daylight.

At press time, Lake Powell's elevation was 3,608, and the water temperature was 81-85F.