Closer Look at Canyon Reservoirs

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Lake Powell bass fishingWhen most people think of the western U.S., especially the desert southwest, they often visualize towering rock pinnacles, vast expanses of wind-blown sand and deep sinuous canyons.

As a matter of fact, many of us yet to travel to this part of this great nation, have only experienced the area and its relatively unique landscape via photos or videos.

Once the opportunity to visit this spectacular region becomes reality, the magnificence and grandeur of the scenery is more than breath-taking. The same reaction holds true for all of us non-native bass anglers when we first experience the nature of fishing canyon reservoirs.

A World of Rocks, Rocks and More Rocks!

Canyon reservoirs are characterized by deep, narrow, rock-rimmed valleys encased by steep rock walls and bluffs often reaching as high into the sky as they dive deep to the reservoir’s bottom.

Lake Powell aerial

Depending on the elevation of the water’s surface, many of the reservoir shorelines are merely the intersection of the water with the bluff rock walls. The nature of these shear rock walls can sometimes be a little more irregular providing a staircase of ledges at varying depths or piles of fallen rock debris that toppled from the canyon rim. Each of these situations provides different bass holding types of rock cover including rock piles, boulders on the ledges or overhangs where the bass hide underneath waiting in ambush.

In areas where less resistant rocks are found at the water’s edge, steeply sloping banks and points of weathered rock debris maybe present. Occasionally, these non-vertical banks also provide cover for the bass in the form of flooded brush or even a lonely cottonwood.

The channel in most canyon reservoirs winds its way back and forth across the reservoir bottom undulating from canyon wall to canyon wall. Though suspending fish may somehow be relating to the presence of the channel beneath, the depth to the channel itself are usually too deep for the bass to use directly.

Even in the upper reaches of the reservoir, the water depths are great enough so fishing the channel edges as might occur on other types of reservoirs is rarely an issue unless suspended fish are relating to it.

Another difference between this type of reservoir and the others is a virtual lack of inundated man-made structures such as bridges, roadways, old structures, etc. Even when they are present, they are typically so deep the only time they might be a factor in holding fish is when they suspend over them.

Forage in canyon reservoirs include:

  • native baitfish,
  • some panfish, threadfin or gizzard shad (where stocked),
  • other gamefish (trout!) and
  • crayfish.

Classic Canyon Reservoir Example – Lake Powell (Utah/Arizona)

Located on the border between southeast Utah and northeast Arizona, Lake Powell is definitely a classic when it comes to canyon reservoirs!

Lake Powell - Classic Canyon Reservoir!

This huge canyon reservoir is over 185 miles long with > 1950 miles of inundated shoreline formed after construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963.

Lake Powell bassThis canyon reservoir harbors fantastic populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as striped bass, walleye and crappie which are also common species of other canyon reservoirs in that region.

Though they take a little getting used too when first fishing canyon reservoirs for bass, they definitely offer some phenomenal bass fishing opportunities for those visiting the area!

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