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PAGE, Ariz. — Predictions for Lake Powell is that the lake will rise roughly 45 feet before the spring runoffs end. Which will, among other things, put all the public boat ramps on the lake back in full operation and fill the “Castle Rock Cut.’’
The current level of Lake Powell is 3,574 feet above sea level. When full the level is 3,700 feet. Because of an above normal snowpack in Colorado this winter, which feeds the lake, the level is expected to reach 3,620 this summer. Which is, forecasters admitted, much better than was expected earlier in the winter.
The current level is not the lowest on record. Back in 2005 the lake’s level dropped to 3,555 feet. In 2011, the lake rose to within 40 feet of “full pool’’ and likely would have hit the full mark had not water releases not been increased into the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam.
Low lake levels caused some problems from boaters last fall. Because of low lake levels boaters last fall encountered some launching problems off public ramps at Bullfrog and Halls Crossing. The deepest public ramp at the time was at Wahweap. Boaters were asked to assess the necessary launch depth for their boats, with recommendations that larger boats travel to Wahweap.
This summer that won’t be necessary. A rise of 45 feet is more than enough water to launch any size boat.
Gail Buckley, Guest Experience Supervisor at Bullfrog, also reported that crews are working to extend and improve the launch ramp. Currently, houseboats and smaller craft are being launched from the auxiliary ramp at Bullfrog.
For those boating out of Wahweap, the Castle Rock Cut will be open soon. Crews deepened the cut by roughly 20 feet over the winter. The Castle Rock Cut is a shortcut that leads from Wahweap Bay to Warm Creek Springs that will cut two and a half hours off a houseboat's commute if a houseboat is traveling uplake to Warm Creek Springs, Padre Bay or any other part of the lake that likes uplake of Wahweap.
Right now the Castle Rock Cut is still impassable, but it needs to rise only another five feet from its current depts to allow boats to pass through it.
Last year there was some difficulty renting smaller powerboats on the lake. This year, said Robert Knowlton, Director of Boat Rentals at Bullfrog, the fleet of 19-foot runabouts has been increased.
“That is a very popular boat," Knowlton said. "It’s a boat you can take out for day and tour or enjoy water sports, and it's very economical. Last year there were times when all of our smaller boats were rented. This year that shouldn’t be a problem."
Looking at the (fish) habitat we had two bad years which resulted in poor survival. We now have a crop of young stripers and you should be able to catch all the young stripers you want. But because of the loss of some habitat the largemouth and crappie population is not so good.
–Wayne Gustaveson, lake biologist
This year ARAMARK, the main concessionaire at the lake, will introduce a new luxury houseboat to its rental pool. The Axium is a 65-foot boat described as a lake yacht that comes with a captain and either two jet skis or a powerboat. The weekly rental rate is $11,500.
The boat sleeps eight, features panoramic windows, flat-screen TV with surround sound, four private staterooms and stainless steel appliances.
The most popular rental houseboat on the lake is the 59-foot Discovery, which has capacity for 16 and comes with bedding and TV. The weekly rate during peak time is $7,900.
Knowlton pointed out that during peak summer times - June 19 to Sept. 6 - there is a 25 percent discount on some boatsm and after Sept. 6 it goes up to a 40 percent discount on some boats.
On-lake fuel prices this summer will be in the area of $5 a gallon.
According to Wayne Gustaveson, lake biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, this year’s report is a mixed bag of fishing opportunities.
Best fishing will be for smallmouth bass and stripers, with the walleye being the bonus fish. Fishing for largemouth and crappie will be tough, at best.
“Looking at the [fish] habitat we had two bad years which resulted in poor survival," says Gustaveson. "We now have a crop of young stripers and you should be able to catch all the young stripers you want. But because of the loss of some habitat the largemouth and crappie population is not so good. That’s why we put smallmouth in the lake. Largemouth and crappie like brush, but smallmouth like rock and we have plenty of rock at Lake Powell.’’
So, expect the big three - smallmouth, striped bass and walleye - to be plentiful this spring and summer.
As far as the invasive quagga mussel, adult mussels have been found in Lake Powell. Officials knew that once the mussels established a foothold in Lake Mead, 300 miles downstream fron Lake Powell, it would be only a matter of time before they made their way into Lake Powell.
A report in February said “thousands’’ of the tiny bivalves were located in Lake Powell. The mussels cause damage, are a nuisance to lake visitors and are a serious danger to fishing. Each mussel can produce millions of offspring and biologists have been unable to find a way to control the mussels, which fall in the same family as clams, oysters and scallops.
The first quagga mussel was found in Lake Powell in 2007. They were not discovered again until this year.
Boaters will still be required to undergo an inspection and decontamination before launching.
The invasion of the mussel, which came to Utah by way of the Great Lakes and very likely Lake Mead, is expected to cost Utah upwards of $15 million annually.
For an up-to-date fishing report visit www.wayneswords.com. Gustaveson gives a weekly update on where, when and what to use for the various species.
For information on rental opportunities visit www.lakepowell.com.