Photos: Spearfishers Shoot Thousands of Fish from Lake Powell

Dozens of the ideal spearfishers from around the country dove into Lake Powell to shoot extra than 19,000 thousand pounds of fish in two times through the freshwater nationals event final month.   

The spearfishing groups battled extremely small water ranges due to drought. The reservoir’s past tournament in 2018 observed drinking water ranges virtually 90 feet bigger. That was not the scenario this 12 months, and some teams arrived a 7 days early to scout the lake. Even teams who have hunted the lake beforehand uncovered on their own in unfamiliar territory. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Crew Tres Leches member Fernando Gutierrez hunts alongside a wall during the 2nd working day of opposition in the 2022 Freshwater Spearfishing Nationwide Event in Lake Powell on Saturday, April 30, 2022. Guttierez is a member and founder of OC Spearos, a club primarily based in Orange County, California. Evan Frost

“Scouting was a lot more challenging mainly because you experienced in essence a distinctive lake. You experienced to scout as if you’ve never been to the lake just before. The structure and every little thing can modify due to the fact of the h2o level,” suggests Mike Livingston, Nationwide Freshwater Spearfishing Association president.

In addition to altering the landscape for hunters to navigate, the file small water levels manufactured for a logistically extreme tournament. Only two lanes at one particular doing the job boat ramp had been usable to get a lot more than 20 competing boats in and out of the water in tight time frames. 

Carp fishing Lake Powell.
Fernando Gutierrez pulls in a prevalent carp on his spear in the course of the second working day of competition Saturday, April 30, 2022. Guttierez shot 68 carp and two striped bass for a whole of 74 details, but his crew was disqualified for an early start. Evan Frost

Groups accustomed to saltwater experienced to adapt to an fully new style of looking. Working day 1 sent groups right after gamefish, generally striped bass and the occasional walleye. Both equally are non-native species in the lake. On day two, the spearfishers specific carp. Factors were being awarded for the heaviest fish, but it was the quantity of fish that could force groups on to the podium.

In its place of deep dives and extended breath retains waiting around for major fish in the blue water like they may in saltwater, hunters dove repeatedly towards murky bottoms in slender canyons, reloading their guns dozens of instances an hour. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Contestants don wetsuits and use sunscreen as they hold out for a 7 o’clock shotgun get started right before the first day of the match on Friday, April 29, 2022. Evan Frost

“I imagine I did 204 or 208 drops on the carp working day,” suggests Justin Lee, who completed first location in the men’s division, bagging 82 fish over 2 times. In his indigenous Hawaii, three-moment breath holds and dives of a lot more than 100 ft into crystal clear h2o is the system. 

“You just just cannot get the quantities that you will need if you are diving like that. So you type of gotta change your total technique, your way of diving, to just get much more time underwater,” Lee suggests.

Scouting Lake Powell.
Darvil McBride dives into a canyon whilst scouting for fish ahead of the match on Thursday, April 28, 2022.  Evan Frost

By the finish of working day two, teams ended up crammed into boats with hundreds of lbs of carp stuffed into trash bags and barrels. Nicole Burko shot 61 carp and 3 striped bass. She took second in general in the women’s division.

“It’s a nightmare, you are working with fish slime almost everywhere. It’s all about the boat, it is all in your encounter, and all more than your wetsuit,” competitor and 2021 winner Darvil McBride claims. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Darvil McBride stops for a photograph from guiding a rock cliff beneath the floor of Lake Powell. Evan Frost

In prior yrs, the tournament labored with fertilizer producers and reptile farms to donate the significant quantities of carp to useful will cause. This calendar year, the Nationwide Park Company disposed of the fish from the Wahweap Marina subsequent weigh-in. 

While not officially deemed invasive in Lake Powell by the states of Utah or Arizona, there is a significant population of carp that competes for sources with additional common species. In sections of Utah, carp are managed with state elimination programs to degree the taking part in field for other fish. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Mitchell Bellanger gears up to get in the drinking water. Indications of previous water levels, identified as bathwater rings, can be found on the canyon walls.  Evan Frost

Utah Division of Wildlife Methods biologist Dan Keller started off fishing the lake as a teen and can only recall a few times that he has caught a carp on a rod and reel. The performance of the spearfishers impressed him, but the affect of the event is unclear. 

“I would say, Yeah, eliminating [thousands] of fish from a reservoir as significant as Lake Powell in all probability is not building a organic influence,” Keller states. “At the similar time, the optimist perspective is, perfectly, that is [a few thousand] fish out of there that are competing. Maybe we’re liberating up some resources for some other species.”

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Darvil McBride surfaces with a Utah state-document striped bass soon after spearing it on the next working day of competitors Saturday, April 30, 2022. The 6-pound 3-ounce bass practically tripled the condition history for a striped bass shot on a spear. Evan Frost

Eurasian carp (or frequent carp) have been rampant in waters throughout the U.S. given that they have been brought to the region for cultivation in the late 1800s. The fast reproducing species of base feeders can crowd out other fish populations and muddy waters as they lookup for food, feeding on everything they appear throughout.

The development of the lake by the damming of the Colorado River in 1963 led to the introduction of other numerous non-indigenous activity fish. Species of bass and carp make up the major share of the lake’s fish population, competing with native suckers, bonytails, and chubs among the many others. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell
Competitor Heather Kirby enters the drinking water as boat captain Jonathan Durtka tosses in her line and float. Each and every diver was needed to swim with a float and dive flag connected to them with a line. Evan Frost

Over and above the biological impacts, Keller thinks that the most important positive is the engagement with the ecosystem that the tournament brings, bringing hunters from all around the place to expertise and link Lake Powell’s fisheries.

The working experience improvements drastically year-to-year with Lake Powell’s drinking water degree, which has dropped 40 feet considering that 2021. Keller cites the variable drinking water amounts as a software in the struggle against invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which consume phytoplankton young fish count on. Web pages in which colonies of mussels settle in are disrupted when dams launch h2o, leaving the mussels significant and dry. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Competitor Jake Lords swims together the surface in a slot canyon as he prepares for a further dive. Evan Frost

As the lake methods critically minimal water stages in the second ten years of the Southwest’s megadrought, the Office of the Inside is having unparalleled measures to hold a water stage capable of generating hydroelectric ability. What’s fantastic for ability may perhaps also be superior for invasive mussels according to Keller.

“If [water levels remain consistent] we may have quagga mussels genuinely develop up in large densities and we could possibly see some impacts to the fish populations from that.”

Spearfishing Lake Powell.
Heather Kirby warms up on the boat immediately after a early morning of diving in the 58-degree water. Many competitors arrived from warm coastal waters, touring from as far as Florida, California, and Hawaii.  Evan Frost

Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the point out of the reservoir, the National Freshwater Spearfishing Association is on deck to host the globe championship in Lake Powell following year, in which competitors will fly in from around the world. Mike Livingston, NFSA president, hopes that a secure, albeit lower, water level will lead to a thriving event up coming year.

Spearfishing Lake Powell
Darvil McBride friends around a cliff’s edge as he searched for carp on the next day of competition. Evan Frost

“We definitely will have the very greatest freshwater divers in the overall world convening in one location at a stunning spot to dive and to display how great they are,” Livingston states. 

Lee and McBride equally competent to appear again next 12 months. Group United states receives 4 groups for each individual division: mens, womens, blended, and masters. Lee is hoping to bring an additional trophy dwelling to Hawaii. 

Spearfishing Lake Powell
Hunter McBride secures trash cans total of speared carp in the front of the Tres Leches group boat as his brother Darvil (suitable) drives the group to their future dive spot. Evan Frost

“Spearfishing, and residing outdoors, off the land is just the way of everyday living. To get some notoriety and to win a national championship, for something that you learned to do as a small boy, or minor girl in the compact town to carry house food stuff is big,” Lee stated. 

Until the competitors returns to Lake Powell, Lee claims he’ll be education in Honoka’a and “living on cloud nine gazillion.”

Spearfishing Lake Powell
Mike Livingston (remaining) and Bahia Bros teammates deliver their striped bass haul to the weigh-in table at the conclude of the to start with day of level of competition at the Wahweap Marina around Webpage, Arizona. The group took initially spot in the tournament members will be on teams representing the U.S. at the 2023 world championship in Lake Powell.  Evan Frost

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