Young angler makes unusual catch on Lake Mead

Flagstaff resident Russ Jacoby and Jacob Jacoby, display their 17-inch walleye, a rare catch in the waters of Lake Mead.

Photo by Don Martin.

Flagstaff resident Russ Jacoby and Jacob Jacoby, display their 17-inch walleye, a rare catch in the waters of Lake Mead.

Over the last 33 years I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time fishing on Lake Mead. Most of the fishing I’ve done with friends and/or clients is between South Cove and Temple Bar.

By far the most fish we catch are striped bass, but we also target largemouth and smallmouth bass.

In the summer, I operate a commercial fishing guide service out of South Cove. We fish exclusively at night using a variety of strategically placed lights on the boat and use a lot of chum.

Our targets are striped bass and channel catfish. This summer has been a phenomenal year; and our friends and clients have caught over 3,000 stripers and 250 channel cats.

There is no shortage of stripers in the lake; AZGFD estimates the striper population and 2-7 million fish at any one time.

But in this unusually productive summer, a couple of our anglers have caught fish you just don’t normally see at this end of Lake Mead.

One of our young anglers recently caught a 12 -inch rainbow trout. That is a pretty rare event. In the last 20 years we’ve had just three of these cold water fish caught while fishing for stripers and cats.

And the latest catch is unreal.

It was a trip with Flagstaff residents Russ Jacoby, his wife Laura, Laura’s youngest son Jacob, and her oldest son, Josh Turley, who lives in Peoria.

Stripers and channel cats were being put in the ice chests on a fairly regular basis.

It was about 3 a.m. when Jacob brought in a fish and said to Russ, “Dad, I don’t think this is a striper!”

Being curious, I got up and looked at the fish and couldn’t believe my eyes. There in the bottom of the boat was a 17 inch walleye.

I know there are walleye in Lake Mead.

Over 20 years ago while fishing with the Kingman Bass Club one of the tournament anglers brought in a pair of 17 inch walleyes. I took a photo of them. He said he had caught them in Spring Cove in Virgin Canyon and had used a purple power worm to catch those toothy predatory fish.

Earlier this year, I read a story in the “Las Vegas Review Journal” where my friend and Outdoors Writer Doug Nielsen wrote about an angler catching a walleye in Lake Mead in Virgin Canyon. He caught that fish on a jig while fishing for largemouth bass.

Jacob caught this fish on a one inch piece of anchovy fished in about 25 feet of water. We were fishing in Virgin Canyon.

Since this is seemingly a very rare occurrence, I called Region 3 Aquatic Wildlife Specialist Greg Cummins about the catch.

Cummins told me that, while it is not unheard of to find walleyes in Lake Mead, they are indeed few and far between.

“I think they were stocked a long time ago, but they never really took off for some reason,” Cummins said.

Cummins said that every October the Department sets out 100 gill nets to sample the size and number of fish in specific areas of the lake. They also have 50 electro fishing areas that they sample fish from.

In 2014 they found two walleyes in their gill nets, but in 2015 there were none. In 2016 they caught one.

It is believed that these walleyes either come down the Grand Canyon from Lake Powell or as a result of that ill-fated stocking effort.

Either way, for an angler to catch one is very unusual. Same for rainbow trout.

The gill nets do catch an occasional rainbow trout, and they are believed to be a result of trout stocking efforts by Nevada Department of Wildlife in areas close to Hoover Dam in Lake Mead.

In the past other catches by our anglers have been made on a variety of fish including gizzard shad up to 3 pounds, bullhead (yellow) catfish up to a quarter pound, common carp up to 12 pounds and even a crappie ( 1 pound) and largemouth and smallmouth bass.

It just goes to show that you just never know what you’re going to catch in the waters of Lake Mead.