The Reel Deal

Ahh, sunlight. Unseasonably warm temperatures, coupled with the full moon that began Thursday, Feb. 13, should trigger more largemouth bass to move into shallow waters to spawn (or stage up to spawn.) In doing so, they should feed better. That’s not all.

The weather has also helped walleye to cooperate at Upper Lake Mary in Flagstaff, based on a couple reports that Scott Rogers, our Fisheries Program Manager out of Flagstaff, was able to gather. He said the warmer water temperatures and sunny days likely have allowed baitfish and predators to become active again. Both shoreline and boat fishing with worms have been effective. Trolling worm harnesses slowly along the bottom is usually the most effective means to collect these wonderful fish. Be mindful of the mercury warning for these fish in this lake.

Over in the White Mountains, keep in mind that Highway 149 to Willow Springs Lake and Forest Roads 300 and 86 to Black Canyon Lake are still open.

Now to the desert impoundments. Anglers are still having success at Bartlett Lake, especially using crankbaits and dropshot techniques. Some anglers reported recently fishing crankbaits all day in 2-6 feet of water for biting bass.

Because it’s being stocked this week, Saguaro Lake should be a decent place to try for some combo fishing.

The lake has lots of fishing  piers, and so it’s pretty shore-fishing friendly.

Bring  along some nightcrawlers and meal worms – not only are they good baits for  trout, the yellow bass also like to chew them up.

Winter bass had generally been lethargic feeders, but this warm spat could get some of them biting more aggressively. Bass in the desert impoundments were mostly biting in deep water (up to 60 feet deep!). Bass usually feed better in shallow water than in deep water. Some of the big females might move into the shallows to build nests. But if you catch a spawning bass, please release it quickly to help future bass populations be robust. Big bass spawn in February –heavier spawning periods traditionally come in March and April.

The warm weather unfortunately doesn’t help Community Fishing Program trout fishing too much. In many of the Phoenix area lakes and ponds, for example, water temperatures had been 58-60 degrees. By Wednesday, they were in the mid-60s, and they’ll warm up again just as easily this weekend. As a rule of thumb, many of those lakes/ponds will be about the same temperature as your backyard swimming pool (if in the same region, of course.)

That said, some anglers, such as the one who caught his limit in 30 minutes at Discovery Ponds this week (and who submitted the below Angler Report to are having plenty of success. Take your shots and be sure to keep up with the community fishing stocking schedule. We just stocked trout into eight new ponds!

Beginning Feb. 17, and for a week, we’ll be stocking rainbow trout into Dead Horse Lakes, Tempe Town Lake, Saguaro Lake, Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Graham County Pond and Roper Lake.

See the winter trout stocking schedule.

Need a fishing license? Just click here and you’re on your way.


Please send your reports to

Matt managed to get to Discovery Ponds on the morning they were first stocked last week and caught his limit in 30 minutes in the lower pond!

Charles S. with a recent Colorado River report, from Picacho State Park to Imperial Dam: Water surface temps are sitting around 58 degrees in the current and I noticed some backwaters that were over 60 degrees. Water levels on the Colorado are slightly higher than they were in December and January, but the ever shifting sandbars still pose a threat to boaters.

On Feb. 8 we fished the current all day; at 2 p.m. we had not yet had a single bite. But between 2 p.m. and 2:10 p.m. we boated four keeper smallmouth and one dink, then the bite just stopped. We set out fishing the current for largemouth using stick worms and fished that pattern into the evening. I stuck it out with that pattern mainly because we know the area can, and has, produced some very nice bass.

On Feb. 9 we did nothing but fish the underwater structure in the lakes. We rotated shallow diving crankbaits and worms. Our largest fish weighed 3.5 (pictured), though all of the bass we caught that day were keepers. The areas we fished had not been producing fish for a few months now, so it’s nice to see the bass on structure and pushing closer to the shallower waters. With temps on the rise like they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some fish on beds in as early as three weeks. With trips planed for every weekend this month I pan on keeping a close eye on their movement.

I would like to add that while you can fish the river year round, people can and do run aground on the sandbars. We were the only boat on the river and we found one couple had run aground late Saturday evening above Picacho State Park, and because of the size and weight of the boat, we were barely able to assist them. There is not a lot of boat traffic this time of year (or police patrols) and some areas may not have a boat pass through for days. It’s a good idea to let someone know when you plan on returning, that way they can keep an eye out for trouble.

Sherry W. of Phoenix with a carp tale from Roadrunner Park: We’ve been doing some fishing at Roadrunner Park lately because it’s cold out and hadn’t had much luck with trout at any other local lakes/ponds.

I use a Shakespeare rod and a Zebco Hawg reel with 30-pound test because Roadrunner is KNOWN to have some very large carp in it. AND I SNAGGED ONE! This big guy (Jan. 19) was 34 inches, but alas, our scale wouldn’t work so we’re only guessing his weight at about 15 pounds. I brought him in by myself, with some coaching from my hubby on how to adjust my drag. By the time we got him out, we had a crowd of about 15-20 people cheering me on. Since taking up local fishing a little over three years ago, this IS the largest fish I’ve caught and he’s quite a catch, no?

Thanks for all you do for us anglers!


What’s your fish story? In the fourth segment of “Fish Stories” Tyson Warren, a Lees Ferry Anglers fishing guide, remembers growing up in Flagstaff, fishing almost every weekend with his dad, campfires always crackling at night. Check out the latest Fish Stories segment from Lees Ferry.

Enjoy this Fish Stories video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

Have a fond memory? An exciting experience? A funny situation? Or, just a special day on the water with family and friends enjoying Arizona’s amazing outdoors? Email your story to, and we may share it with others online, in print, or on television.

Stay tuned for future additions of “Fish Stories,” which will frequently appear here in print, online or on television.

OK, onto the full report.

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