Species At This Location:
Bass LargeMouth
Bass Striped
Bullhead Black
Catfish Channel
Crappie Black

Lake Mead Fishing Fun

Location: : Lake Mead can only be described as really, really big.  Located in Southern Nevada as part of the Colorado River System, it lies along the Arizona-Nevada Border with the Dam located just outside Henderson Nevada.  Twenty four miles away to the West is Las Vegas, Nevada.  This is a great entertainment area as well as recreational fishing location.

You can travel North on Hwy 93 from I-40 out of Kingman, Az(N35.18990 W114.05869 or, on I-515 out of Las Vegas to where it intersects with Hwy 93 and head North. Hoover Dam which forms the lake is at WGS84 N36.01584, W114.73773.  All of Lake Mead lies North of this point.  The Boulder Beach Boat Launch where this trip starts is at WGS84 GPS N36.02743 W114.78310

Fishing Lake Mead

By Paul B Downing

 Skimming across mirror smooth water in the grey predawn light, we searched for signs of birds in the coves dotting the shoreline. Spotting a group of herons in one cove, we slowed to investigate. As we watched, the water exploded. Just what we were looking for; fish feeding on shad in shallow water. 

We eased closer and I cast a swim bait into the cove. As my lure landed, fish boiled 50 feet to the right. Reeling in quickly, I cast to the boil. One crank. Fish on! A powerful surge bent my rod double. Slashes followed by runs and bulldog resistance gradually subsided as I got the upper hand. Slowly, a nice 2 pound striped bass came to the boat. The day was off to a great start. 

Located about 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam holds back the Colorado River to form Lake Mead. It is the largest reservoir by water volume in the US. At 112 miles long with over 500 miles of shoreline, the lake can be a challenge to fish. There are over 10 million stripers and 5 million bass in the lake but they roam widely in search of the shad so the trick is to find them. That's where the birds come in.


According to Captain Kevin Durham of Fishfinders Guide Service, the birds are the best guides on the lake. Fish-eating birds like herons and gulls search for shad and they have to be successful or they will starve. That's real motivation. Where there are birds, there are fish.  Lake Mead's size tells you the opportunities are endless and this story is but one of them.


Seasonal Patterns 

Kevin says that there is a definite seasonal pattern to the fishing that repeats year after year. Here is his outline of the seasonality

Spring. As the water warms in the spring the shad move into shallow water to spawn and the bass follow them. This is prime time for spinner baits fished among the submerged brush along shore. The biggest largemouths of the year are caught during this early season. After the shad fry hatch, stripers and largemouth trap schools of fry on the surface. Fish will slurp the bait. This is not a boil like you get later in the year. Rather, it is a more subtle bubbling of the surface as the fish slurp up these small fish just below the surface. The fry are small so the best method of fishing is with a fly rod and small streamers like clousers and deceivers. Match the size of the fry for best results. Most fishers use too big a lure.

Summer. As the shad get bigger, look for the boils that the lake is famous for. The best way to find a boil is again to watch for birds. Gulls circling and making a racket are a sure sign of shad below. The stripers will be there too. Stripers trap the shad on the surface and hit them with their tail to stun them, creating the boil. Then they feed on the stunned bait. Again streamer flies work well. Kevin likes to use a popper at this time of year but he insists that the popper have a feather tail for more undulating action. Lures that work well are walker surface lures. He prefers the Japanese lures with great detail that look almost real. There can be top water action all day.


Fall. In the fall the shad again move into the shallows and so do the stripers and largemouths. When stripers are present, this is the time for swim baits. It is also the time for spinner baits. The spinner bait imitated a ball of shad. However, the imitation is only an approximation so these lures are best fished in shallow cover with slightly murky water. When the fish move out to deeper water during mid-day, use crank baits in the channels.


Winter. As winter approaches, a cold north wind blows off the new snow on Mt Charleston. The water begins to cool and the shad

 move into warmer deeper water for comfort. Jerk baits, swim baits and crank baits all work well once you find a concentration of shad. As the water continues to cool, the shad bunch up in 40 to 50 feet of water, usually relating to structure like a drop-off. Now is the time for cut bait. Fish are chummed in with bait. Use a piece of cut bait on a sharp hook with 3 feet of fluorocarbon leader, a swivel, and a half ounce of weight to get to the fish. It is not uncommon to catch fish after fish with this technique, once you find them.


From December through February the State stocks trout in the lake. Stripers love these trout. Each Friday fishers line up their boats near the stocking sights and wait for the truck. Armed with 6 to 10 inch swim baits or top water lures, the fishers are likely to have great action as the stripers bust the unsuspecting trout. This is the time for the largest stripers of the year. Fish of 7 to 25 pounds are caught during this 'trout hatch' and there is the chance for a truly large fish. The record striper in the lake is 58 pounds.


Continuing The Day 

I fished with Kevin in mid-November and, as expected, the stripers were in shallow water busting the shad. A large splash would signal the location of a group of fish. Casting the swim bait toward the splash frequently was rewarded with a fierce strike. I was in fisher heaven. As the sun peaked over the mountain ridge, the shad started to move toward deeper water. We had almost two hours of

 great fishing and then it stopped. Time to look for another alternative.

The search was on. Working our way into Las Vegas Bay, we again looked for birds working the shallows but this time it was slightly different. The target was largemouth bass rather than stripers. Kevin said that as the water warmed the largemouths would be in shallow cover so we went from cove to cove looking for activity. It didn't take long. Casting a spinner bait into pockets between the sunken brush was quite productive. Most bass were in the 1.5 to 2 pound range but I did catch a couple of 3 pounders. As we worked one area, an osprey landed on a flooded tree attracting our attention. Ospreys are fish eaters so, following the 'find the birds' rule we paid close attention. Shortly, the water exploded below the tree as bass chased the shad hiding among the bushes. We worked our way to within casting distance and started catching fish. There was a huge concentration of bass in a pocket next to the tree. We caught a fish on almost every other cast. I may not be remembering correctly but I recall catching 17 bass on 30 casts. Then it stopped. Did we catch all the fish in the pocket or did they moved out after the shad? In any case the fishing was done so we headed for home. As we did so, we passed several boats fishing in deep water. They were jigging for stripers. This method is successful but I think casting the shallows is more fun.


As we glided across the water I took in the beauty of this great lake. Mountain ridges confined the lake on the east, which looked wild and undeveloped. Dry desert met blue water in a contrast that stirred the senses. What a wonderful day! It was hard to believe that I was so close to the glitter of the Strip.


Size: Lake Mead is 112 miles long with over 500 miles of shoreline.  There is a lot of accessible shoreline but this is mostly a boating opportunity lake.  Like, Lake Powell, there are hundreds of coves and inlets.

This is high desert country so summers are hot. Winters can be quite cool in the morning but tend to warm up as the day progresses. Rain is sparse but wind can be a problem at any time.

There is no closed season. The lake is in both Nevada and Arizona so make sure you have the proper licenses.

Tackle and Techniques:
Medium action casting or spinning rod with 12 pound test line is good for most applications. Fly fishers will find a 7wt rod with a floating line just the ticket.







You Are Now Subscribed To Recieve TFDN Updates!