Don Allphin

Melissa Nokes of Lehi, holding the 3.51 pound largemouth bass she caught on the second day of the B.A.S.S. Tournament at Lake Powell last week.

If you have ever considered spending time at Lake Powell, 2020 should be the year you visit one of the most beautiful, scenic, and exciting reservoirs in the world.

I just returned for spending six days on the water in the northern area of the massive reservoir and wanted to give you a current and future report card (with help from Wayne Gustaveson of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources). Hopefully, I will be able to provide you a current boots-on-the-ground observation with a biologist’s view of overall health of the fishery and specifically, the health of its most popular species.

Lake Powell currently sits at 3601 feet above sea level. It is down nearly 100 feet from full pool but will likely gain another 30 or more feet as this year’s runoff hits the lake later this spring and into summer.

Since I was involved in a bass tournament toward the end of last week, I practiced in and around the area from Iceberg Canyon to Good Hope Bay including Hall’s Bay and the Bullfrog area.

The water temperature ranged between 49 and 55 degrees for the week so largemouth bass were active but the smallmouth bass were still MIA (missing in action) in most of the areas I fished. Anglers were catching smallies from Moqui Canyon on up through the northern-most parts of the reservoir. These fish were holding in “standard” areas – on rocky points and flats that were close to deep water.

The largemouth were exactly where largemouth bass “should” be this time of year. They were in 20 feet of water but seemed anxious to move up into the mouths of spawning coves to check out their “digs” for the next couple of months while they reproduce.

A lot of great largemouth bass were caught in the tournament including several six-plus-pounders and at least one fish weighing over seven pounds. On the last day of the tournament my five best fish weighed 14.11 pounds including two four-pound and one three-pound largemouth bass.

Although the weather wasn’t stable the entire week and we had to put up with two or three days of heavy rain, we were still able to hold a great tournament and most anglers caught fish.

Wayne Gustaveson of the UDWR has already begun issuing reports on fishing conditions at Lake Powell, and I was excited to read his assessment and predictions for the fishery in 2020. Here are a few excerpts from this first two reports.

“All Lake Powell fish species are fat. Young largemouth bass and crappie produced in 2019, survived in large numbers due to the vast amount of brush covered by rising lake water. The large shad population provided the needed food for great growth and survival.

Stripers and other fish species really enjoyed a shad smorgasbord and grew a bit longer but the biggest difference was the girth of stripers increased to the most robust size since they have been in the lake.

Smallmouth bass grew fast and strong. Their feeding habits changed with the abundant shad supply. Surprisingly, smallmouth left the shallow, rocky shoreline and chased shad in deeper water. The result was larger smallmouth bass with fat bellies.

Walleye enjoyed eating shad so they grew right along with the other fish. Walleye are still more abundant in the northern lake but the population increased in size and numbers over the length of Lake Powell. Walleye will spawn during March and may be harder to find. They will rejoin the fish-catching party during April and May.

I suggest releasing all largemouth since this species is struggling in the lake without enough brushy habitat. However, stripers, smallmouth and walleye are abundant.”

Without a doubt, 2020 could be the best fishing year ever on Lake Powell. But, the current report card (in my opinion) is only a B+ because the weather has been unstable enough to keep some of the species less active than others.

As the water warms and rises, 2020 is definitely the year to spend some quality time at wonderful Lake Powell.

Don Allphin can be reached at don@donallphin.com.