Column | Dark of the moon provides some record-setting angling on Lake Mead
I am often asked by potential fishing clients what the best time of the year is to fish for striped bass and catfish on Lake Mead.
The answer is easy; I tell them, “The dark of the moon in June and July.”
I’ve been conducting a fishing guide service on Lake Mead for over a decade and during that time I’ve been able to formulate some opinions about that fishery.
One my theories is that the best fishing at this Colorado River impoundment is in the summer and during the dark phase of the moon, or new moon as it is often called.
I’ll be right up front and say this theory is not based on any “hard science,” it’s based solely on my over 40-plus years of fishing at Lake Mead, and more recently, my notes on the times and dates that have provided my clients and me the best angling at night.
As a licensed fishing guide on Lake Mead, I am required to submit an annual report to not only the Arizona Game and Fish Department, but to Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
While I believe the data these agencies want deal with the anglers’ information, I include other data into the computer program I use to make these reports.
One section of the program deals with moon phases and times we go out and come back, and where we fish.
And it is here that I determined historically, at least, the best times to catch fish at night on Lake Mead.
It is all related to the food chain. It starts with single-cell organisms called phytoplankton and zooplankton.
These little “wigglers” are found throughout the lake system and are the food base for minnows and both species of shad (threadfin and gizzard) that inhabit the lake.
During sunny days, these organisms swim about the lake, but when the sun goes down, they sink to the bottom of the lake bed.
When I go out at night I utilize some high powered submersible LED fishing lights from HydroGlow that I drop off both sides of the boat.
I have experimented with all colors of these lights, but found the green light seems to work the best for use at night on Lake Mead. What is happening is that I am setting up a food chain.
The lights draw in plankton, minnows and shad are attracted to this food source, and then the night hunting predatory fish, such as striped bass and catfish, move in to feed.
Understand that striped bass are the most plentiful game fish in Lake Mead. Matter of fact, they produce so rapidly and are so proficient in reproduction that both Arizona and Nevada have liberal limits on these game fish. I’ve been told by more than one biologist to keep and eat every striped bass we catch. And so we do.
On Lake Mead, there is no limit on stripers under 20-inches long, and there is a daily limit of 20 stripers over 20-inches long. In my many years of fishing this lake, I can honestly say I have never personally caught 20 stripers on or over 20 inches in length during one trip.
I think because of the late spring and increased runoff into Lake Mead, the normal time when we start catching a lot of stripers was later than usual this year.
New records were set in the last two weeks at South Cove.
When the dark of the moon cycle is in full effect, the fishing has been phenomenal, and my clients have taken home lots and lots of good-eating striper filets.
I had a trip last week when I fished with three highly accomplished anglers from Southern California.
These anglers were really tuned to catching fish, and during our trip we caught five different species of fish that inhabit Lake Mead. We caught striped bass, channel cats, a gizzard shad, one carp, and near the South Cove boat dock they even caught several largemouth bass.
Back in Meadview when we sorted and counted the fish, I was amazed at how many we caught. All total, we had 216 fish that took us hours to process. It was the most fish we caught on one trip this summer!
Then two nights later, again on the dark of the moon, I had four more anglers from Southern California.
We fished from around 10 p.m. till 5 a.m., and we put 151 fish in the boat.
While this in and of itself is not an unusual number, we did set another record. We set a record for the most channel cats caught on one trip. Between the five of us, we put 59 channel cats in the boat! By the way, the limit on channel cat in Lake Mead is 25 fish, per angler, per day.
Remember we were fishing the same place, essentially in the same time frame and under the same climatic conditions (light winds).
I had one other trip scheduled for Friday. July 5. Fishing with two anglers, a husband and wife from Eager, we put 107 fish; 101 stripers and six channel cats in the boat.
The moon is starting to get larger every night now. While you can still catch fish, I don’t think it will be a wide-open bite like it has been. If you want to catch a lot of these good-eating game fish, pay attention to the moon cycle. I firmly believe that the moon phase makes a difference.
To find out the best dates to fish, go to www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml
Enter July and you’ll see July 26-31 will probably be the best time to go fishing at Lake Mead.
I know I’ll be out there!