Map of Lake Mead
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Lake Mead was impounded in 1935 following the completion of Boulder Dam. Just prior to the dam, the Colorado River had carp, channel catfish, and four native fish. Threadfin shad were introduced in 1954 and the largemouth bass fishery flourished. In 1969 when largemouth fishing began to wane, striped bass and7 different trout species were introduced to create a two-story fishery. By 1974, striped bass reproduction was documented and they soon reigned supreme. Trout fishery began to decline and, therefore, was discontinued for 7 years beginning in 1983. Trout stocking resumed in 1989 and was discontinued again in 2011 due to the Lake Mead Hatchery closure brought on by declining lake levels and the invasive quagga mussel. Smallmouth bass and blue tilapia were found in 1999 and gizzard shad, a forage species, was discovered in 2007.
Lake Mead has a maximum depth of 465 feet at full capacity and covers 150,000 surface acres over its 110-mile length. The primary game fish include striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, black bullhead catfish, bluegill sunfish, green sunfish, and black crappie. Catch rates for 2011 were 4.03 fish per angler and 0.84 fish per hour. Stripers averaged 16.8 inches, 1.8 lbs. Peak catch rates were seen July through December. Anglers caught 87% stripers and 8% channel catfish, with largemouth bass, rainbow trout and bluegill making up the rest. Smallmouth bass are now well established with an abundance rivaling that of largemouth bass. Threadfin shad production was low for both Las Vegas Bay and the Overton Arm for 2011. The adult gizzard shad population has grown large, indicating successful spawning each year. The most productive months for catching largemouth bass are May through September; for bluegill are May and June; for black crappie are January, November, and April; for channel catfish are April through September; Striped bass are caught year around, however July through December were the most productive for 2011. During November through March, striped bass can be taken in daytime with bait and nighttime with top water plugs. Largemouth bass can be patterned in both shallow and deep water with lures fished in the early morning or evening. Black crappie are caught generally at night with live bait such as shiners or jigs fished against rock walls or brushy areas in the upper Overton Arm. Channel catfish occasionally hit lures, but they are typically caught while fishing the bottom with beef/chicken liver, shrimp, or prepared baits.
Shad are the best bait to use for stripers, but are, at times, hard to find and catch. Prepared bait and anchovies are good replacements and fished down to 120 feet. Chumming is allowed on Lake Mead with anything except game fish or parts of game fish. A favorite chum is anchovies or corn. Striped bass typically move in schools and will clean up an area quickly, then move on. Therefore, fish over chum for at least an hour then move to a different spot. At times, anchoring along a steep drop off and chumming will do the trick. Lures such as Sassy Shad and KastMaster jigged down to 120 ft work great, as well as top water lures fished on“boils” (surface activity by stripers actively feeding on shad). Check with the local sporting goods dealer, they will be more than happy to sell the latest “hot” lure.
Fishing at night is a slow, relaxing way to spend an evening. Bait up, chum up, “bell” up, and have a seat. You could catch anything from catfish, stripers, to a turtle. Striped bass over 40 pounds have been caught this way; however, you will typically catch 2 to 3 pounders, which make excellent table fare.
While fishing the backs of coves, especially in the Overton area, look for Tilapia. Try fishing with corn, peas, hot dogs, sour mash, or corn meal. Tilapia can weigh as much as 5 pounds and are excellent to eat.
Camping by boat is allowed lake-wide and mobile-type campgrounds are becoming commonplace around the lake. Developed campgrounds are found at every launch ramp except South Cove, Hemenway, and Government Wash. Amenities can include bathrooms with showers, water, tables, and grills. Camping with full RV hookups include Trailer Village and Echo Bay Marina. Floating restrooms are found around the lake. Consider that summer temperatures generally reach 110°F, so carry water and leave a note as to your destination and expected time of return. The lake can, at times, get very rough, so listen to the weather forecast before boating for any distance, especially in a small craft.
Season is open year round, any hour of the day or night, except in areas as posted. Limits are 5 trout, 6 black bass, 25 catfish, and 15 crappie. There is no limit on striped bass less than 20 inches total length. Limit on striped bass 20 inches total length or longer is 20. No limit restriction on other game fish.
Take Highway 515, 93, or 95 east out of Las Vegas for 24 miles to Boulder City. Lake Mead is just north and east of the town. Follow the signs. A paved road runs along the west side of the lake.
General boating regulations apply. Watch for posted or prohibited areas and be mindful of newly created, shallow hazards as the water level changes.