Colorado River Northwest

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April 22nd, 2009

LAKE POWELL — Water Temp: 57-64 F. The long awaited bass spawn is here. The final spawning trigger is in place. Day length provides enough hours of light. The leak level is increasing. Finally, water temperature is spiking and will be in the 60s by the weekend. Early morning temperature on the day of the report was 57 degrees which is the minimum needed.

Here is some bass spawning biology.
A quick temperature rise from 57 to 64 is the trigger that makes it all happen. Males have longingly looked at potential nest sites all month but needed the temperature trigger before proceeding. This week bass are moving onto shallow flats. They prefer to start the nest at a water depth of 18-36 inches. The rising lake will make that nest progressively deeper but the nest starts out fairly shallow.

Largemouth will nest at the base of a bush. Smallmouth will nest on plain rock. Crappie will nest in thick brush. All nests are made of small rocks that the male has cleaned by sweeping away sediment with its tail. Big males get first choice of the prime spots. Small males make due with what is left. When the nest is fanned and shaped, males leave the nest looking for a willing female. Females wait in deeper water just over the edge of the spawning flat or terrace. Spawning hormones are triggered by a quick temperature spike. Male advances that have previously been ignored are now accepted as the female returns to the nest site to spawn. The final courtship gesture is a quick jab in the side as the male strikes the female with its snout to start the eggs flowing so they can be fertilized. Spawning takes an hour or two. Sometimes more than one female is courted simultaneously. There is never more than one male.

Fertilized eggs are adhesive and stick to the rocks. With eggs on the nest, male bass set up camp and guard the nest ferociously. The day after spawning he chases everything, fish, bug, lure or shadow. It doesn’t matter what it is. He chases it every time, no matter how close or how big.

On the second day he closes the circle a bit and chases only perceived threats that come within 10 feet. On the third day he chases only those things that actually threaten the nest. On the fourth day he watches and reacts only to real threats to the safety of the young.

Eggs hatch in 3-7 days depending on temperature. They swim about 3-5 days after hatching. Males guard swimming fry for a day or two. When tired of that he leaves them and returns to the nest site to start it all over again. That second nesting usually corresponds to warming after a slight cool down.

At Lake Powell the event is just starting. Most males will be spawning by Wednesday and be super aggressive on Thursday and Friday with moderate aggression continuing through the weekend.

This week will be particularly memorable because water in the main lake is crystal clear and the nests are shallow. All nests will be visible unit the lake starts to raise rapidly, the wind blows or water gets murky.

Fishing this week will be superb. Good fishing will continue from now until the end of May. Striper and walleye fishing will be better in May. This week bass and crappie are in the forefront.

LEES FERRY – Fishing Report Courtesy Terry Gunn at Lees Ferry Anglers:

Recent Fishing Conditions: Spring arrived with a roar at Lees Ferry. In my 26 years here I have never seen so much wind and nasty weather. Most springs we can expect one really windy day each week. This season we have had as many windy days as calm days. Despite the weather we have seen some good fishing. The spawning has mostly concluded; it was a deep water spawn with very few fish using traditional shallow water spawning areas…the exception was 4 mile bar. Beginning in February and through March we caught few large fish because they were all actively spawning in deeper water than we can effectively fly fish. The past few weeks the larger fish (18-in +) have started to reappear in the riffles and are actively feeding on midges.

This last week we actually had 2 nice days of weather in a row and the midges popped…there were so many swarms that they looked like smoke on the water. Mid April is usually the turning point for weather patterns in this part of the state, it turns moderate and is dominated by high pressure. When this happens, the fishing is going to get really good and the midge fishing is going to be on fire for the remainder of the low water release period, at least through May and likely through June.

Over Memorial Weekend (May 22-27) there will be constant water releases of 8,000-cfs so that the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center can conduct flights to photograph the river for monitoring purposes. It is very likely that this flow will result in PHENOMIAL FISHING, both upriver and in the Walk-In section. Normally this is not a busy weekend at the Ferry so you should put this trip on your schedule.

The current water flows are perfect wading and drifting flows for fishing Lees Ferry. These same flows will continue until the high summer flows begin in July. The average size of the fish is the largest of this decade; most of the fish that I put in my net are 16 to 17-in with many that are larger. 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. Current snow pack in the Rockies’ is in excess of 100% of normal.

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. Last 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 increased nutrient load in the lake and river is evident this spring by the 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 been fishing from the boat as well as wading the riffles.  Fishing techniques have been mixed between using a “heavy nymph rig” which is a 9 to 12-ft leader, strike indicator, split shot, and dual fly rig, a “double tiny” rig with a long leader and 2 bead-head midges on 7X, or a dry and dropper rig. I have been using 6 and 7X 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 2 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.

LAKE MEAD –Lake Mead water levels are dropping at about one foot per week.  The current level is  1,104 feet above msl.  I have not heard anything new on the fishing, but it should be picking up soon if it has not already.

Launching conditions at South Cove may begin to deteriorate as the water level continues to drop.  The concrete ramp the National Park Service completed last year 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 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 is around 641 feet above msl is the current elevation.  Fishing for stripers seems to be pretty good in the southern portion of the lake. One angler reported catching a limit of 20-inch stripers in 5 hours.  The new fish cleaning station at Katherine’s Landing  is operational.   Bass are located on fish habitat in 15-20 ft.  As the water warms look for the fish to become more active.

Biologists from both Arizona Game and Fish Department and Nevada Division of Wildlife with the help of volunteers, National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation personnel have continued to install fish habitat in Carp Cove, Box Cove and now Shoshone.  Fish habitat consists of PVC structures, wood pallet structures, Tamarisk bundles, and some Christmas trees. 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 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.

Important notice: With the 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 has been coming up,  crappie are biting on minnows.  Not much action on bass and catfish.

You can access the marsh by boat at the 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.

Report courtesy Georgia at Capt. Doyle’s River Excursions/Guide Service, Topock: Catfish in the Topock Marsh out in full force! North Dyke, South Dyke as well as Five Mile Landing are all bubbling over with plenty of strikes. It doesn’t matter what bait is thrown, they are hitting on everything! The story is that some anglers are taking home as much as 65-pounds worth of fish and all on a morning bite. One whisker-fish tipped the scale at 10-pounds.

Late afternoon is the time to try your luck on the largemouth. They are taking spinner baits and Flipin Jigs and have been averaging 2-pounds. Water temperature in the Topock Gorge is up to 57º and the striper and catfish bite is starting to pick up.

Channel catfish between 2- and 7-pounds are being caught on almost a daily basis. Striper limits are not yet the norm but with the average 2- and 3-pounds, the fish have been quality. Shore fishermen working the pipeline are pulling in line-side up to 4-pounds.

The wind and cold fronts have made the catching challenging, but not impossible. With the approach of warmer weather also comes the boating crowd, so anglers will have stay alert and fish early. No news on largemouth or smallmouth bass in the river.

Important notice: With the 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 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 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/.

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