Colorado River Northwest

Share or Bookmark:
| More
November 26th, 2008

LAKE POWELL — By Wayne Gustaveson, Utah Division of Wildlife: LAKE POWELL – Courtesy Wayne Gustaveson, Utah Division of Wildlife (Wayne’s Words): It has been a great fishing season but this is my last regular report for the year. Next week we head up lake for annul gill net sampling, so I won’t be able to provide a new reports from my other office – which is Lake Powell. There will be incidental updates through the winter as news worthy events occur.

The yearly summary is very bright. Shad made a tremendous comeback in 2008. They fed the rising generation of game fish left over after the old generation passed out of the picture in shad-poor 2007. Young stripers grew rapidly, doubling in weight from 1.5 to 3 pounds from spring to fall. Some trophy stripers remain and continue to pack on pounds but the bulk of the population weighs in at 3-4 pounds and is primed to produce a bumper crop of stripers in 2009.

Striped bass hatched in 2009 will survive on plankton early in the year and may eat some shad in summer and fall if shad are abundant. The main predatory impact of the new striped bass overpopulation will not be felt until 2010. Striped bass fishing in 2009 will be great for large numbers of 4-pound fish. If shad are scarce, bait fishing will be excellent. If shad are abundant in 2009, then stripers will grow to 6-pounds before the predation induced forage crash occurs in 2010.

Bass, particularly largemouth, were treated to a forest of habitat as the lake rose 45 feet in 2008. Brush that had grown around the lake edge was flooded providing dense cover for largemouth, crappie and bluegill. Copious shad were added to the fish forest resulting in lush habitat and feeding conditions seldom seen in this lake.

Smallmouth hung out on the rocks at the edge of the habitat forest feeding on shad at a leisurely rate and loving it. These conditions were optimum for all sport fish. Bluegill, crappie, walleye, and catfish all excelled. The perfect mix of food and cover was to the liking of all participants, perhaps with one exception.

The only one left out in this ideal aquatic situation was the angler. When fish are well fed and housed they have no reason to respond to baits and lures with more than a token attempt. Stripers lost interest in anchovy bait in early summer. With live shad or dead bait on the menu there was little reason to choose bait. Cover made it hard (not impossible) to coax bass out of the sheltered lair to feed when they could consume sunfish and shad without leaving home.

It is refreshing to have a complacent fish year like this occasionally to allow the sport fish a chance grow larger at their leisure. The standard at Powell is large numbers of small fish with low to no forage which makes hungry fish easy to catch. Results in 2008 were completely different with fat fish being difficult to catch. Those pleasant conditions (for fish) remain in place today and it may remain that way through winter.

Patience is the key. This season is all but over. Normal conditions will return. Fishing success will improve in 2009. The end result will be excellent fishing for bigger better fish. I love it.

Main lake stripers have gone quiet. My best guess for the lack of feeding is a general attitude of satisfied luxury. They have all the food they want or need. They feed only when they want and are quickly sated. They seem to have little regard for the anglers who would really like to get close and personal with these fat fish.

Here is what’s happening. Stripers are feeding quickly during their prime feeding times. At first light and last light there is a brief flurry of feeding. Some of it is on top when five fish splash in unison. These fish are as susceptible to angling as are any stripers when they decide to eat. They grab anything close to their mouth when in feeding mode. The event lasts for about 20 minutes and then its over.

This quick boil is almost impossible to find by running around the lake looking for boils because it is of short duration and happens early when light is not adequate to illuminate a few splashes. Those that have been successful are camped near the action and waiting when the sky lightens in the morning. Once a feeding location is known, an angler could be waiting at the right spot to get 5 quick fish. Find them one day and return to the spot the next for consistent action.

During daylight, fishing is tough with only a random boil that could happen anytime, any place and then not repeat. Spooning is good if a school is found but they move quickly out of the zone. Cooler temperatures will improve spooning results as shad move deep. Do not expect that to happen until November.

Trolling is working near the inflows where shad abundance is high. At Hite and upper San Juan use a deep diver to get down 20 feet and near the lazily moving stripers.

For this week the best bet is to fish for bass around shad schools located in the backs of many brushy coves. Surface lures tossed near brush (with shad) are being whacked with regularity morning and evening. During the day plastic tubes and drop shot shad baits are working on the deep water side of brushy shad coves. Fish 25 feet for best action on keeper sized fish.

When fish are fat and fussy the strategy is to make them mad. Shad colored baits blend win well with thousands of shad. Sometime the wild colors of a fire tiger crankbait trigger a reaction when shad colors will not. Go bright and see if the fishing fortunes improve.

LEES FERRY –  Fishing Report courtesy Lees Ferry Anglers.

Today’s Fly Fishing: I will not add to this report as it is very accurate as of late. Here is the latest information I have received. Fishing has been fantastic every angler I speak with has a positive report.

The riffles are loaded up with trout and they are in very good shape and more than ready to put up a good fight. Even the smaller fish look great and have some girth to them. The weather is another story I will sum it up in just one word beautiful with the high Temp. reaching around 68 degrees every one fishing here has a smile on their faces, fishing is great and the weather is wonderful to boot.

The flies of choice have not changed it is still the ever so popular San Juan worm the zebra midge, the laser midge and brassies are working too. I have been here and fishing since 1993 and this is the best fishing (in November) that I have ever seen. There are an unbelievable amount of fry in the water and they are growing at a remarkable rate. You just have to see it to believe it. If I were more of a novelist I would go on and on but, I am not so I will spare you. If you have a chance to get out and go fishing this is the place to be, Lees Ferry. If you have any questions about guide availability or latest fishing conditions please feel free to call us at 1-800-962-9755 Thank You, and we hope to hear from you soon. T

Fishing Synopsis and Forecast by Terry Gunn 11/12/08
Recent Fishing Conditions: At a time when just about everything you read is bearing bad news, it gives me great pleasure to bring you some good news: The fishing at Lees Ferry is not just good, it’s great!

The fish are in the best shape and size that I have seen in several years and everything points to this being a trend that I expect to continue. Fishing is just going to get better and better as 2009 arrives….  Isn’t it great to hear some good news for a change!

Not only is the fishing upriver great but rumor has it that the Walk-in area is fishing extremely well. One other thing; there has been no one here…come up (you can probably book a guide for tomorrow) and see the best fishing in years and you will likely have the river to yourself. Read on for the full story.

The experimental steady flows that occurred in September and October (12,000 constant) were as I predicted, beneficial to the river. In years past, the flows in September and October have been the lowest flows of the year and have reset the “green line” to the 5,000-cfs level from the 12,000-cfs level of the summer flows. This has effectively reduced the food supply in the river by a significant amount.

Then the higher flows of November and December arrive; but because of the declining sun angle and the shade of the cliffs, photosynthesis and aquatic production in the river declines and the areas of the river that were desiccated by the low flows do not regenerate until the following spring. This did not happen this year because of the steady flows in September and October the green line stayed high.

The current fluctuating flows (7,500-cfs to 13,000-cfs) are continuing to keep the green line higher than in years past. There have been prolific midge and black-fly hatches every day and it appears as though the scud population has a higher density than any time since 2004.

The trout spawn last winter was off the charts; never has there been such a productive spawn in the river. The high flows of summer and the steady flows this fall provided the perfect rearing habitat for the fry and fingerlings. I’m seeing them all over the river and they are growing fast!

In addition to last winter’s great spawn, the survival rate from the spawn of 2006-07 was substantial and the river has a very good population of smaller fish that are growing fast.

The fish that we have been catching are probably averaging 16 to 17 inches and most are thick, fat, and heavy. We are also catching lots of larger fish, 18 to 20-inches. I have recently had clients hook into fish that were probably much larger, but as you well know, the big ones almost always get away.

Is this a peak before another down turn in the fishery? No, this is the beginning of a trend that is set to continue for at least a couple of years, and if nature cooperates and gives us moisture in the Rocky Mountains, and Lake Powell continues to rise, this trend of healthy trout populations and good fishing will continue for the next several years.

The turning point and the beginning for the recovery of the Lees Ferry fishery occurred in 2005 when Lake Powell had the first above normal snow-pack and runoff year since 1997. This year we had almost exactly the same conditions. The above normal winter snow pack and runoff into Lake Powell in 2007-08, stirred up a tremendous amount of nutrient laden sediment that had accumulated at the lake mouths of the Colorado River, San Juan River, and the Green River. Lake Powell elevation increased 43-ft. and the rivers flowing into the lake mixed the sediment and nutrients into the lake water.

It usually takes several months before we see this mixing affect the nutrient load in the water that enters the river from Glen Canyon dam. I believe that we are just now starting to see that as evidenced by the recent warmer than normal water temperatures. The river temperature this time of year is normally 48-degrees but the recent temperature has been 54-degrees, which is the IDEAL water temperature for trout. The increased nutrient load in the lake and river will be evident this coming spring by the enormous and dramatic increase in aquatic vegetation and aquatic organisms throughout the river.

For those of you that remember what the fishing was like in 1999 and 2000…you should be as excited as I am about the current conditions and what the increased nutrient load should do for the fishing at Lees Ferry.

Lots of stuff happening at the Ferry and it is all good!

Recent Fishing: With the water flows once again fluctuating and lower flows; we have stopped fishing from the boat and have been wading the riffles. The best fishing technique has been using a “heavy nymph rig” which is a 9 to 12-ft leader, strike indicator, split shot, and dual fly rig. I have been using 6X fluorocarbon tippet and feel that the lighter tippet results in a much higher success rate than say 5X. Anglers might argue that they break fish off on such light tippet but my argument is that in order to break a fish off, you first have to first get a fish to eat your fly and you are going to get more eaters with lighter tippet than heaver tippet.

When wading the riffles you need long dead drifts. There are two types of drifts; perfect dead drifts and all other drifts. Perfect dead drifts catch fish at Lees Ferry; all other drifts don’t catch fish here. You get a dead drift by mending the line, then throwing slack line on the water. If your line is straight from your rod tip to your indicator or you move your indicator during the drift, then your drift is not perfect and will not catch fish. The key to success is to stay over fish, get the flies down to the bottom, and get a long, perfect dead drift.

Flows should increase in December and I predict another year of a normal and strong spawn. I have already seen a few fish spawning; I have not seen this is several years.

For details on Lake Powell conditions and snow-pack, go here: http://lakepowell.water-data.com/
For a real time graphic view of water releases and ramp rates go here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv?09380000

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently detected whirling disease in a small percentage of Lees Ferry trout that were collected for a random sampling. A recent sampling turned up no sign of the disease, which may mean that it was a “one time” exposure, where the disease was not established or that the disease is present but at a very low prevalence.  Anglers should still use caution in cleaning their equipment both before and after they have fished here or in other waters. For more information visit: http://www.whirling-disease.org

Where:Jackass Canyon (Marble Canyon)
When:11/08/08
Caught:Rainbow trout
Technique:Spinners and Rooster Tails.
Comments:Jackass Canyon meets up with Marble canyon down river from Lee’s Ferry. we hiked in anticipating the big Colorado River trout everybody talks about. our party of 5 caught about 25 fish on brown and gold rooster tails and other spinners. 5 over 12″ between 8-12″ and everything else was smallI took a fly rod and got skunked. I used nymphs, meps, wooly buggers, wooly worms, and hoppers. there was two other fly fishermen down there. i never saw them pull in a fish.
Name:Ben Lyman


LAKE MEAD – LAKE MEAD – Lake Mead water levels have been stable around 1,107 feet above msl.  Fishing remains on the slow side from Temple Bar up through Greggs Basin.  An occasional striper is being caught down below 40-feet on anchovies.

Launching conditions at South Cove have remained nearly the same for the last three months.  The new concrete ramp the National Park Service just completed is two lanes with cones marking the edges. Use caution not to go off the sides of the metal extensions at either side. National Park Service is working to keep the ramp open.

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 lake level has come up slightly to 634 feet above msl.   Lots of bass and bluegill located on fish habitat in 10-15 feet.  As the aquatic vegetation has died off, the fish have consolidated around submerged trees and brush.

Where:Lake Mohave
When:11/18/08
Caught:12 Stripers and 4 catfish
Technique:Fished outside of Katherine Landing on the Nevada side. Used lights, with cut anchovies.
Name:Steven Hess
Biologists from both Arizona Game and Fish Department and Nevada Division of Wildlife have continued to install fish habitat in both Carp Cove and Box Cove.  The largemouth, bluegill and catfish are really utilizing the new structures.  Additional habitat will be added at several locations over the next two years.  These structures are fish magnets.

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 www.azgfd.gov  or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

WILLOW BEACH – Trout are stocked every Friday.  Fishing has been pretty good for trout.    Most of the success has been coming from or around the new pier. Try using green Power Worms, or salmon eggs.  Anglers report the fishing being best before 7:30 a.m.    The striper fishing has been fair.

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 www.azgfd.gov  or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

TOPOCK MARSH – Water level is going down for the winter, so be careful while launching.  The fishing for catfish has been good, bass fair, and crappie is slow.  Golden shores and Game and Fish held a kids fishing clinic at five mile landing on Saturday  Oct.  11.  This is the second year this event has been held.  The kids had fun.  Some catfish and bass were caught.

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.

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 www.azgfd.gov  or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

COLORADO RIVER BELOW DAVIS DAM –The striper bite has been slow.    Trout were last stocked on Nov. 18 and 19.  Trout are stocked once a month at both Davis camp and the Riverside.  Look for the trout fishing to be good immediately following the stocking.

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 www.azgfd.gov  or visit http://100thmeridian.org/.

Leave a Reply