Spring is the perfect time to visit Lake Powell
The third story in our four-part series focuses on fishing from a boat at Lake Powell in the spring.
Read other parts in this series:
- Part 1 — A great place to fish with friends
- Part 2 — Waters that produce big fish
- Part 3 — Best waters for boat anglers
PAGE, ARIZ. — If you have a boat, and want to enjoy fantastic fishing at a water a fisheries biologist calls “the most beautiful place on earth,” visit Lake Powell before the Memorial Day weekend.
Striped bass are the top fish to target at Lake Powell this spring.
Photo by Wayne Gustaveson
Wayne Gustaveson has served as the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR’s) lead fisheries biologist at Lake Powell for more than 41 years.
“I visited Hawaii once,” he says. “I looked around and thought ‘this place is almost as beautiful as Lake Powell.'”
Its spectacular scenery — and fantastic fishing — are among reasons DWR biologists have picked Lake Powell as the top water to fish from a boat in Utah this spring.
Lake Powell straddles the Utah-Arizona border. Two additional waters — Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Starvation Reservoir — also topped the biologists’ list. Both reservoirs are in northeastern Utah.
Spring is the perfect season
Pleasant temperatures, fewer boats and aggressive fish make spring one of the best times of the year to fish at Lake Powell.
“The temperatures are usually in the 60s and 70s,” Gustaveson says, “so the temps are perfect. One tip in the spring: try to fish in the morning. The wind tends to pick up in the afternoons.”
You’ll need a boat to fish Lake Powell effectively. In the spring, you’ll see a lot less boat traffic. “Large wake boats and other watercraft can churn up the water and make it choppy in the summer,” Gustaveson says. “That’s not the case in the spring. Right now is the perfect time to fish from a boat at Lake Powell.”
If you visit Lake Powell this spring, bring your camping gear with you. “If you’re an angler,” he says, “I recommend camping out. You’ll have access to miles and miles of shoreline.”
Any trip to Lake Powell should begin with a trip to Gustaveson’s website, wayneswords.com. He posts a weekly fishing report at the site, as well as daily reports received from anglers.
“Lake Powell is a huge body of water,” he says, “but reading the report will help you narrow down the best spots to fish each week. You’ll have a general idea where to go on the lake, which species to target and which lures and baits to use.”
Several sportfish species live in Lake Powell’s waters. Gustaveson says striped bass, smallmouth bass and walleye are the top three to target in spring 2017. He provides tips to catch each:
Number 1 – Striped bass
Gustaveson says striped bass — also called stripers — are the number one fish to target at Lake Powell this spring. “When you find a school of stripers,” he says, “you can easily catch 10 fish. But catching as many as 50 fish — out of the same school — isn’t out of the question. And stripers put up an amazing fight.”
To find and catch stripers in the spring, stay in the main lake channel and use bait to entice the fish into biting. Anchovies cut into two or three pieces, cut sucker meat or even meat cut from a thin striped bass will all work. Simply place the bait on a size 4 hook, or on a -ounce jig head, cast it out and get ready for a fun fight.
Gustaveson says the stripers you catch will likely be about 18 to 24 inches long and weigh between two to four pounds each.
Number 2 – Smallmouth bass
Another hard-fighting fish — smallmouth bass — claim the number two spot on Gustaveson’s list.
Smallmouth bass love rocky areas. And that makes them relatively easy to find at Lake Powell; simply scan the sandy shorelines until you find areas with either rocks or brush near them. Rocky islands are also good spots to target.
One you find a rocky or brushy area, thread a Senko or another type of plastic worm on a size 2 hook, or thread a plastic grub on a 3/16-ounce jig head, and then cast your offering into or close to the rocks or brush. Let the lure fall to the bottom of the lake and then walk it slowly through the rocks or brush. Oh, and hang on, because smallmouth bass hit hard.
Gustaveson says most of the lake’s smallmouth bass are 12 to 15 inches long and weight between one to two pounds.
Gustaveson says smallmouth bass are spawning right now, and you can often see male ‘smallies’ guarding their nests. Once you spot a nest, drop your plastic worm or jig right on top of it.
“Sight fishing is a great way to catch smallmouth bass right now,” he says. “Just remember that the bass are protecting their nests. So, after you catch one, let him go so he can protect the nest and you can catch him again.”
Number 3 – Walleye
Walleye claimed the third spot on Gustaveson’s list. “Finding spots that hold walleye at the lake isn’t too tough,” he says. “And you can catch them using fairly simple techniques.”
Gustaveson says walleye are on the move after their spawn, looking for something to eat. “From now until the end of May is the best time to catch walleye at Lake Powell,” he says.
To find walleye, look for the same type of structure—rocky areas or brush—that attract smallmouth. “You’ll usually find walleye in areas where trees or brush are about five to 10 feet under the water’s surface,” he says. “The walleye are among the trees and brush, hungry and waiting to eat.”
To catch walleye, work a worm harness, a bottom bouncer or a -ounce jig head, with a plastic grub on its hook and tipped with a worm, slowly along the bottom. “You’ll usually catch walleye in water that’s 10 to 20 feet deep,” he says. “Most of the fish will be in water that’s about 15 feet deep.”
If you’d like to troll for walleye, troll a Wally Diver or another crankbait that bounces occasionally on the bottom while still holding close to it.
Because walleye are sensitive to light, early morning, and then later in the evening, are the best times to catch them. Muddy water is especially attractive to walleye. “Areas where mud is streaking off a point is walleye heaven and a great place to fish,” he says.
To addition to the fun you’ll have catching these delicious fish, you might win a prize. The DWR and several sponsors, including Sportsman’s Warehouse and Fish Tech Outfitters, are offering $50 gift certificates to anglers who catch a tagged walleye at the lake. Five hundred walleye have been tagged. Five hundred additional walleye will be tagged soon.
Numbers 4 and 5 – Largemouth bass and crappie
Largemouth bass and crappie are two additional fish that are worth noting. Neither species is abundant in the lake, but the largemouth bass and crappie you catch are among the biggest in Utah.
To catch largemouth bass, look for brush piles, and then make a long cast — either into the brush or along its edge. Use an unweighted Senko or another type of plastic worm, and let the lure fall slowly through the water column.
To catch crappie, motor into the backs of canyons, and search for brush, rocks and old cottonwood trees sticking out of the water. The San Juan arm of the lake, the Escalante arm and areas near Good Hope are some of the best crappie fishing areas on the lake.
The crappie spawn will continue until the first part of May, so now is the prime time to catch them.
To catch crappie, cast an 1/8-ounce crappie jig, with either a plastic grub or a small bucktail on its hook, into the thickest brush available. For best results, target the 12- to 15-foot depth in the back of the canyon.
To protect crappie that are in the lake, the daily crappie limit is 10.
- Lake Powell has quagga mussels in it, so please be aware that a DWR technician will stop you as you’re leaving the water. If the technician doesn’t find attached mussels on your boat, you’ll simply have to clean, drain and dry your boat, before you leave the parking area. Also, the water plugs need to stay out of your boat, until you launch again.
If the technician finds a mussel attached to your boat, you’ll have to pay a private concessionaire at Lake Powell to professionally decontaminate it. After it’s decontaminated, remember to travel with the boat’s water plugs out of the boat.
- Bullfrog on the Utah side of the lake, and Wahweap on the Arizona side, are the two best areas to launch on the lake. Please be aware that the concrete boat ramps are extremely long, so you’ll to walk a bit, to make it from the parking lot to your boat.
- Lake Powell is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. If you boat and fish at Lake Powell frequently, consider buying an America The Beautiful access pass. “Having the pass will save you money in the long run,” Gustaveson says.