I just returned from a week-long trip to Lake Powell, and I must say it was one of the most interesting visits in several years.
Water levels continue to drop and are within 10 feet of the lowest level in more than a decade. Rivers that flow into the massive reservoir are at 48 percent of normal, and the snowpack above Lake Powell is also down significantly (78 percent of normal).
A couple of questions came to mind.
First, what does this mean for visitors in the next month or two?
Second, what should the rest of 2021 hold for water levels and of course, the fishing?
Those wanting to visit Lake Powell during what I am calling a significant and prolonged drought must understand that the Bullfrog boat ramp is closed because it is completely out of the water.
The only launch ramps still open (north of Wahweep) are the Halls Crossing ramp and the Executive boat ramp near the covered houseboat slips at Bullfrog.
The challenge with the Executive ramp is parking. As more and more people launch their boats, the farther they will be forced to park from the water. A shuttle service should be available, but it is conceivable that visitors may have to walk nearly a half mile to their vehicles.
Then there are the underwater hazards. Right now, rocks, shoals, gravel humps, and even the carcasses of ancient cottonwoods present problems for any boat with an outboard motor. Boaters are regularly damaging propeller shafts, propellers, and skegs, as well as taking the risk of breaking down miles from a marina.
Even with 20-plus years of experience boating on Lake Powell, I was glued to the Navionics map on my fish finder the entire time on the water.
On the brighter side, even in a drought, there should be enough runoff to raise the level of the reservoir enough to open the main boat ramp by the end of May, but there is quite literally no guarantee.
In fact, recent reports from water managers predict Lake Powell overall water levels will continue to drop in 2021.
The fishing is a different story. Right now, and for the rest of 2021, I believe most species should do well and their numbers will concentrate due to lower water levels, which translates into more catchable fish in less water.
Bass, walleyes, and stripers should do well if the shad spawns are successful for both gizzard and threadfin shad. Crappies might be harder to locate because so much of the brush and trees in which they hide are now on dry land.
The young-of-the-year largemouth bass will most likely fall prey to predators due to the lack of brush and structure in the water, areas in which they typically hide. However, for 2021, there should be plenty of fish available to be caught.
Water temperatures passed the 50-degree mark last week and in the afternoons reached 56 degrees. It will not take too many warm, sunny days to get the largemouth and even smallmouth bass on nests. Bass of both species are fat and healthy and should be catchable for the rest of the year.
Walleyes are now in the middle of their spawn period and will be great targets going forward. I did not catch a walleye last week, but some friends caught a dozen or so daily. After they spawn (in late March into April), walleyes will be hungry and eager to eat grubs tipped with night crawlers on rocky point and deeper flats.
My personal expectations for the next couple of months and for the rest of 2021 are for water levels to continue to be problematic for launching, parking and boating. Visitors will have to rely on “current” information and cannot use their memories to navigate.
The fishing should be spectacular for all species, whether casting grubs on rock piles, throwing topwater lures at low light in the backs of quiet coves, or chasing stripers as they attack schools of shad.
Yes, Lake Powell is haunted by drought, but it is still America’s Playground.