Colorado River Northwest

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January 31st, 2008
Colorado River Northwest

LAKE POWELL — By Wayne Gustaveson. Lake Elevation: 3,599. Water Temp: 59-61. Fish respond to cold temperatures by exhibiting springtime behavior. Best fishing happens when water is warmest – usually in the afternoon. Feeding periods are farther apart meaning there are times when fish just will not bite. These dormant periods are followed by brief feeding sprees that make it very worthwhile to be fishing on a cool day.

Striped bass: Still very abundant although average length is smaller than in the spring, fish health is greatly improved as the older generation is now mostly gone giving way to the new rising generation. Shad are moving deeper and stripers follow. Expect to find striper schools in canyons with shad where bottom depth is 40-60 feet deep. They can be deeper when resting and shallower when feeding but graphing in this range allows a good starting point when searching for the first school of the day.

Striper schools have been most recently found in Wahweap Bay near Lone Rock, Dry Rock Creek, San Juan past the Great Bend, and Trachyte and White Canyon near Hite. Night fishing is good near the marinas.

When shallow, stripers can be caught trolling shallow running “trap” baits or Shad Raps with a bit of chartreuse and shad color. When deep, swim baits like Walleye Assassin and Yamamoto swim baits are very effective when retrieved slowly along the bottom. It is very important to use the graph to locate fish during the winter. They don’t move much, so a large school can be very close but not caught unless the boat is positioned directly over them. Anchovies are always effective.

BASS: It has been a great year for big black bass. The trophies are still out there and can be caught by fortunate anglers in the right place at the right time. But most average-sized bass are hanging in one of two locations:

Largemouth bass really like cover. Sunfish are hold up along the bottom in weed beds. Some of these weed beds are shallow with an edge exposed as the lake drops. Others are down as much as 20 feet. Largemouth bass will be right in the weeds (including tumbleweed piles) all winter long. They stay surprisingly shallow and follow the forage. Weed busting lures like spinnerbaits or vertically fished jig-and-pig baits are the winter standards. Some lake areas along the main channel are very clear. Look for murky water for best success.

Smallmouth bass are rock oriented and will be deeper along breaking edges of long points or terraces. Both bass species are in cool water well below their preferred temperature range in the winter, so feeding may not happen every day. But they do feed and can be caught. Smallmouth bass eat crayfish that hide under rocks. Use a bait that resembles their prey and stays close to the bottom. Nothing is better in the winter than the standard plastic grub that has been so effective for the past 20 years. Just experiment with grub colors, swimming action and speed of retrieve to refine the most appealing pattern on any given day.

OTHERS:
Walleye feed well in winter. They congregate around brushy cover where bait fish hide. Murky water is more comfortable for them and they are a very effective night time predator. Spoons, swim baits and plastics are effective cold weather walleye baits. Walleye can often be seen in shallow water around brush. Put a drop shot bait right in front of their nose to wake them up.

Crappie suspend in open water or hold up in schools near brush in winter. They don’t feed often but they can be started once a school is located. Fishing at night under lights may be the most effective cold weather crappie technique.
Sunfish hide out during the winter trying to avoid bigger fish. Do not expect to catch many bluegills.

LEES FERRY – Fishing report courtesy Lees Ferry Guides and Anglers. Snow and wet weather made fishing a little challenging this week, but the trout are in the spawn and conditions should improve with the weather.

Fish have been holding in rather close, shallow wading and short casts makes for a pretty easy day. Like I have told you in the last few reports, some areas are fishing better than others right now. That will change in time, fishing should pick up in the slow areas as we progress thru the year.

Fish are taking egg patterns, and the San Juan worm. Some folks are using a dry fly as an indicator with a midge dropper and having some fun that way too.

Walk-in: The trout are in close, so be careful not to spook them as you approach the water. Egg patterns are working in this area as well, along with the San Juan worm and midge patterns. This area has had very little pressure and my guess is it will continue to fish well for quite a while. Hope you can make It up to enjoy some great fishing soon. Tight Lines…………… T

Spin Fishing: Egg patterns are still producing down deep when drifting. Make sure that you have the proper weight on so that the flies are bouncing the bottom and not dragging bottom. Consider a scud dropped below the glo bug about a foot and a half. KastMasters and Rapalas are also productive while back trolling.

Spin fishing tips: This week end was reported as good for those that were working the channel. Big pink glo bugs were a sure fire way to catch fish. Some anglers fished the rubber worm bouncing off the bottom and did well.

Fishing Synopsis and Forecast by Terry Gunn 12/07/07: What a difference a month can make…the new flows that went to effect on Dec. 1 have certainly changed things! First and foremost: The trout are spawning! I would not call it a river-wide spawn but we are seeing several groups of fish spawning in a few traditional areas of the river.

This is the first time in at least a couple of years that we have seen fish spawning in December, which is historically a “normal” time for the trout to spawn at Lees Ferry. I’m not sure if it will continue or build in strength any time soon, but we’ll keep you up-to-date with our daily reports. The sad thing is that there is nobody here to see the fish spawning. Most days there have been NO boats on the river…there is less traffic this December than I have seen in my 25 year career here at the Ferry.

The water flows from Glen Canyon Dam increased on 12/1 as they do every year. The current flow is 9,000 cfs to 16,000 cfs, with the water rising early in the morning and then beginning a slow drop around 11 AM. The flow in January is expected to be the same as December. The higher flows mean that there is more food being transported and moved around so the fish are getting well fed. In the process, they are in a feeding mood and thus more likely to eat a fly.

For a real time graphic view of water releases and ramp rates go here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv?09380000
Overall the trout are in great shape and the average size is larger than we have seen in several years. I predict that the size and condition of the fish will continue to improve this winter and we should continue to see great fishing for the remainder of 2007 and into 2008. I expect the spring season at Lees Ferry to be even better than last year, which was the best that we have seen in years.

I have had some people that are fishing on their own (unguided) and tell me that they are having a difficult time catching fish. The fishing has changed from the peak of 2000 and many people are not adapting to the new conditions. The current fish population is lower than it was in 2000 and there are not fish “everywhere” in the river like there was several years back (this is probably the reason that we are seeing better conditioned and larger fish today).

Just because you might have been successful in one spot on the river in the past does not mean that particular spot is always good. There are many times of the year that the water flows, or conditions are not right to hold fish at “famous” spots such as 4 mile or Dam Island. It is often challenging, even for a good guide, to stay on top of where the fish are and what they are eating; but we do have the advantage of spending a lot of time on the water.

There are a tremendous number of fingerling trout in the river as a result of the terrific spawn that we saw in the spring of 2007 which bodes well for the future…the downside is that these fish will not be of catchable size until the fall of 2008.


The Arizona Game and Fish Department has detected whirling disease in a small percentage of Lees Ferry trout that were collected for a random sampling. For those of you who are not familiar with whirling disease; this disease only affects fingerling trout and limits their survival. Adult trout can harbor the disease but in all respects appear healthy and normal.

The arrival of whirling disease at Lees Ferry isn’t good news nor is it necessarily terrible news. Whirling disease has infected many of the Western states’ fabled trout streams with greater and lesser affects depending on the watershed. The Madison comes to mind as one river that was severely impacted while the San Juan suffered no noticeable impact from whirling disease. Lees Ferry has more in common with the San Juan than the Madison…both Lees Ferry and the San Juan are tail-water rivers with clear, cold water which is a consistent temperature year-around.

Consistent cold water temperatures are believed by most experts on the disease to keep the spread and severity of the disease in check. I’ll be sure to keep you informed as more data becomes available. In the mean time when you do come to Lees Ferry be sure to clean your wading gear thoroughly before you leave to prevent the spread of whirling disease. For more information visit: http://www.whirling-disease.org
LAKE MEAD – No new reports. The striper fishing at Lake Mead has been a little challenging. Catfish are still biting at night. The ramp is open at South Cove, but it is a gravel ramp. Be careful when launching here. The lake elevation has come up a little at around 1,116 feet above msl. State and federal biologists sampled fish populations in Lake Mead during October and for the first time, found gizzard shad in Lake Mead. This is not a surprise since they have been found in Powell since 2000.

Important notice: With the recent discovery of invasive quagga mussels in Mead, Mohave and Havasu, proper cleaning of all watercraft is critical to help prevent the spread of these invaders. Please drain and dry your livewell and bilge on land. Drain all the water you can from your engine. Also, inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull. These may be young mussels that can be hard to see.

For more information, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s web pages at azgfd.gov or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

LAKE MOHAVE – The striper bite has been a little challenging. The stripers were seeing in the fall were fat and full of shad, with schools of shad being chased by striped bass. If the shad are making a comeback, we may see more mid-size stripers in the basin. If you can find schools of shad, throw a small crankbait. I’ve also received reports of largemouth being caught in 25 to 35 feet of water on drop-shots.

Biologists from both Arizona Game and Fish Department and Nevada Division of Wildlife installed fish habitat in Carp cove on Dec. 12-13. A total of 84 wood pallets and 16 4X4-foot PVC structures were put into Lake Mohave in an attempt to increase angler success. Additional habitat will be added at several locations over the next two years.

There is a wheelchair accessible fishing pier just south of the main launch ramp at Katherine’s Landing. If you fish Mohave and are having luck, please e-mail me at mchmiel@azgfd.gov so I can share your successes with others.

Important notice: With the recent discovery of invasive quagga mussels in Mead, Mohave and Havasu, proper cleaning of all watercraft is critical to help prevent the spread of these invaders. Please drain and dry your livewell and bilge on land. Drain all the water you can from your engine. Also, inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull. These may be young mussels that can be hard to see.

For more information, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s web pages at azgfd.gov or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

WILLOW BEACH – Trout are stocked every Friday. The fishing for trout has been good from shore immediately following the stocking. The water level is down for the winter. As the water temperature falls in the basin, some of the stripers will return to the open water, but many of the big stripers remain in the vicinity of Willow Beach year round. The water level has begun to come back up.

Important notice: With the recent discovery of invasive quagga mussels in Mead, Mohave and Havasu, proper cleaning of all watercraft is critical to help prevent the spread of these invaders. Please drain and dry your livewell and bilge on land. Drain all the water you can from your engine. Also, inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull. These may be young mussels that can be hard to see. If you fish Willow beach and are having luck, please e-mail me at mchmiel@azgfd.gov so I can share your successes with others.
For more information, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s web pages at azgfd.gov or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

TOPOCK MARSH –Water level is down, so be careful launching. The bass are in the channel. While the bite has been slow, there is no shortage of fish in the channel on the north side.

Game and Fish biologists surveyed the Marsh starting on the week of Jan. 15. The largemouth bass population was observed to be very healthy, as well as channel catfish. Crappie were also present, but in smaller numbers.

On Oct 13, 45 kids participated in a fishing clinic at Five Mile landing that produced carp, bass, channel catfish, and one green sunfish. One little girl caught a 10-pound carp her first time fishing.

You can access the marsh by boat at North Dike, Catfish Paradise, and Five-Mile Landing. All three also provide plenty of area for shoreline fishing too. For more information on the marsh, contact the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge at (760) 326-3853 or go to http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/havasu/index.html.

Important notice: With the recent discovery of invasive quagga mussels in Mead, Mohave and Havasu, proper cleaning of all watercraft is critical to help prevent the spread of these invaders. Please drain and dry your livewell and bilge on land. Drain all the water you can from your engine. Also, inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull. These may be young mussels that can be hard to see.

For more information, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s web pages at azgfd.gov or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

COLORADO RIVER BELOW DAVIS DAM – Trout stocking resumed in October. Fishing has been good below Davis Dam, but look for it to be even better immediately following the trout stockings. Fish and Wildlife Service stocks once a month in this area.
The fish are stocked in two locations; Davis Camp and near The Riverside.

Striper fishing has been slow, but fish are still being caught. Water levels on the river fluctuate, so be careful. You can check the Bureau of Reclamation Web site for flow predictions http://www.usbr.gov/lc/riverops.html before you go. If you fish the river below Davis Dam and are having luck, please e-mail me at mchmiel@azgfd.gov so I can share your successes with others.

Important notice: With the recent discovery of invasive quagga mussels in Mead, Mohave and Havasu, proper cleaning of all watercraft is critical to help prevent the spread of these invaders. Please drain and dry your livewell and bilge on land. Drain all the water you can from your engine. Also, inspect your vessel and trailer, removing any visible mussels, but also feel for any rough or gritty spots on the hull. These may be young mussels that can be hard to see.

For more information, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s web pages at azgfd.gov or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

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