Lake Powell: Fishing (and Viewing) Nirvana

It’s a well-known fact that Lake Powell (Read: Lake Powell Fishing Guide), the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States, is home to some of the largest fish in Utah. It can be a little intimidating fishing a 186-mile long, 500-foot deep reservoir for the first time. How are you going to hook the “big one?” Where, exactly, should you make the first cast? And, with 10 sport fish as residents, which one should you target? (Read: How and Where to Catch Fish on Lake Powell)

Spoiler alert.

A Lake Powell fishing round-up. Photo: Wayne Gustaveson
A Lake Powell fishing round-up. Photo: Wayne Gustaveson

People who are actually trying to catch big fish rarely break state and lake records. It usually happens to the kid fishing with the Barbie or SpongeBob rod or the newbie on the houseboat who decided to wet a line while the rest of the family went waterskiing.

Lake Powell attracts all kinds of anglers. It’s no secret that many of them are on a houseboat vacation, and using an old rod from the garage that they brought along for their kids. Some show up for the numerous bass tournaments held at the fishery. And there are others who plan epic week-long fishing adventures along the nearly 1,800-miles of Lake Powell’s shoreline in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

I was one of those who first experienced Lake Powell on a houseboat trip, but have returned countless times since to fish, fish and fish some more.

Why? Because Lake Powell is one of the most scenic areas around. Straddling Utah and Arizona, the lake has steep, red sandstone walls that contrast beautifully against its blue waters, sandy beaches all along the shoreline, and, it’s a fishing bonanza.

It was during that first houseboat trip that I caught my first ever striped bass. Our group had just docked at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and as I prepared to leave the boat with the others to the hike up to the massive land bridge, the captain asked if I wanted to catch a striper. He said, if so, this was a good place.

The state record striper was caught here in 1991 and weighed 48-pounds 11-ounces.

I ran to the bridge, snapped some shots and hurried back to the boat. After five 18-inch stripers the captain told me I needed to put some weight on my line so I could get my bait to the larger fish below. There were so many fish in that same school, that I ended up catching a dozen before the others even returned from the hike.

Later that night we anchored under an overhang during a rainstorm. I caught a 12-pound striped bass on a frozen anchovy and had to use a stainless steel bowl to “net” the beast without breaking the line.

The funny thing about this is that striped bass are not even native to the Colorado River, which provides the water for Lake Powell. In fact, they are not even freshwater fish. Wildlife officials planted them when the reservoir was filling and they not only survived, but ended up figuring out how to spawn in the flooded desert. They now provide anglers a big thrill as catching 30-plus pound fish is a common occurrence each year.

The state record striper was caught here (because where else would it come from?) in 1991 and weighed 48-pounds 11-ounces. It’s the second biggest fish caught and kept by an angler for weighing in Utah. There are bigger ones out there though; while they remain elusive to anglers’ hooks, fish over 50 pounds have been found floating dead on the water’s surface.

In addition to the striper there have been many other records set at Lake Powell as well, including the largemouth bass that came in at 10 pounds 2 ounces; the black crappie weighing 3 pounds 5 ounces, and the carp at a whopping 32 pounds.

If you prefer variety to size then you are in luck. In addition to the state record holding species, Lake Powell is also home to other sport fish like smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill, green sunfish, channel catfish, northern pike and tiger muskie.

Learn more about marinas, houseboats and rentals on our Fishing Lake Powell planning page

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Lake Powell

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