It is time to tune up your vocal chords in preparation for singing “Fish On!” because spring is here and so is fishing season! I spent the weekend out on the water at Lake Powell. The weather was fantastic: warm, calm, and sunny. The fishing also wasn’t half bad either!
I live about three hours from the Bullfrog Marina, which is located more towards the north end of Lake Powell. If you have not experienced Lake Powell first hand, you are missing out. Created in 1963 with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell is fed by the Colorado River. The lake blankets an area of 254 miles with 2,000 miles of shore line. Taking 17 years to fill, the creation of the dam caused the Colorado River to pool and fill hundreds of canyons branching off from the main river bed. Hiding in these canyons fingering off from the main channel are small mouth bass, large mouth bass, striped bass, crappie, pike, channel catfish, walleye, and carp.
Over two million people visit Lake Powell annually, and the area, which is managed by the National Park Service, offers camping, both rv and tent, hotels, houseboat and boat rentals, various marina locations, and even restaurants. I usually visit the Bullfrog Marina and “rough it” in the campsite, which includes bathrooms with running water, picnic tables, and areas to park your boat. Sometimes in the spring, when the visitation is low to the area, the hotels offer really great discounts. I usually elect to stay in the hotels at this time, and it is nice too. Kind of like a mini-vacation, but with the only focus being FISHING!
Fishing at Lake Powell can be very hit and miss. Sometimes we leave with more striped bass than we can even carry to the cleaning stations, and other times we spend long, quite days out on the water with absolutely no action. I tend to feel that the massive size of Lake Powell alone makes it an intimidating place to fish. Knowing where to even go can be difficult on a lake this big. To get a little fishing help, I always check out this website before I head out on the water: http://www.wayneswords.com/. The website provides an up-to-date fishing report for the lake and also gives tips and hints on where and what the fish are biting.
In the early spring, striper fishing at Lake Powell generally starts to pick up when the water hits around 60 degrees. This year, southeastern Utah has been unseasonably warm. Our winter was very mild and extremely short. The temperature at the Bullfrog Marina was almost 78 degrees this weekend, which is far above the average this time of year. So, fishing for us started a little early this year.
When the water is cooler, like during this time of year, the fish tend to hang out in the shallower, warmer waters which can be found in the side canyons of the lake. I feel like we always pick an area we want to fish, and end up being drawn into some random side canyon we pass that somehow entices us with odd rock formations, hidden caves, or some other natural oddity. The varied and random landscape of Lake Powell can only be described as breathtaking, and whether you are catching fish or not you will be having a marvelous time.
This particular weekend, we threw out a couple lures and trolled a small, twisting canyon for the morning. The fishing was actually pretty slow, but we snagged a nice walleye and a striped bass. Once the afternoon hit, we decided to try something a little different: spearfishing!
We pulled our boat to the dead end of a small canyon, parked on a sandy beach, and dressed in our wetsuits. Even though we were in an area where the sun hit for most of the day, the water was till only about 58 degrees, even in the shallows. A wetsuit was a MUST! I once read a guide for waterskiing that suggested when the water temperature is between 65-72 degrees a full legged wetsuit is recommended, but the arms can be short sleeved. Anything below 60 degrees takes you into the area of needing a full suit, and possibly even a dry suit. I opted for a full legged wetsuit with a long sleeved zip up over the top of my suit. Jumping into the water was not a refreshing experience like the kind you have on a summer’s day. The water definitely took my breath away at first and I had to adjust for a few minutes before I felt comfortable moving about. Once I adjusted to the temperature, it wasn’t too bad.
In the cooler times of the year, the water is very clear and provides great visibility for spearfishing. Once the lake starts to warm up, and the crowds start visiting, Lake Powell is pretty cloudy and the visibility is very limited, at least in the Bullfrog area of the lake. I have heard the scuba diving and snorkeling is better around Page, Arizona and closer to the dam, but I haven’t actually ventured out there myself.
We were able to spend almost two hours in the water before the sun went behind the cliffs, at which point it became much too cold for spearfishing. In that time, we speared a large mouth, small mouth, and an enormous gizzard shad. The shad was the surprise of the trip. Shad, gizzard and threadfin, are the preferred meal of both striped and large mouth bass. When fishing at Lake Powell during the summer months, you cruise the channels in search of large groups of stripers that are “boiling” while they feed on shad. When you find these boils, you will catch bass! Usually, the shad I have seen are small, around the size of anchovies. This shad was gigantic in comparison and we were puzzled as to what it even was at first. The long thread coming off the dorsal fin finally helped us to identify the fish.
We ended our trip with five fish. It was actually kind of fun to catch one of each different species because I have not, up to this point, eaten walleye. I’ll let you know how it goes! And Happy Fishing!
Boating can always make for an interesting time while dining. When out fishing, I always try to take things that don’t require a lot of preparation. We all know that fishing can guarantee us with stinky smelling hands! I hate that! So, in an attempt to keep the stinky fish smell to a minimum, I try to touch things as little as possible. So, for this adventure pairing, I opted for fritos and dip! Bean dip and cheese dip are both great with fritos! I also grabbed a pack of a Utah brewed beer: Wasatch Brewery. I am a big fan of flavored beers when boating, it just makes everything seem a little more special, right?