The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,


A pending world record, Arizona style, was yanked out of Lake Havasu on Sunday. Hector Brito’s redear sunfish weighed 5.78 pounds. A steroid shellcracker, it was.


If you’ve never seen a 6-pound panfish, it’s time to head to Havasu, where the redear sunfish are likely benefitting from the invasive quagga mussels as a food source.


Brito (right) caught the redear sunfish at 11:30 a.m. and brought it to Bass Tackle Master in beautiful Lake Havasu City, where John Galbraith weighed it at 5.78 pounds on an Arizona Game and Fish-certified scale. It was 17 inches long. Brito caught the plump panfish by the chalk cliffs with a dropshot rig that included a No. 8 Aberdeen gold hook and a nightcrawler.

The record awaits certification by the International Game Fish Association.

The previous record, held by Bob Lawler, was 5.55 pounds in 2011. Redear sunfish have grown to trophy size in Lake Havasu. Redear sunfish in the 2-pound range and larger are regularly caught at this 19,300-acre impoundment on the Colorado River, formed by Parker Dam. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs.


Yeah, it’s a pending world record, but with the unprecedented sizes of redear that have been caught at Havasu, look for an even bigger one to be caught within the next couple of years, or even months — redear bite better in May and June. Might as well make it your record.


“(Brito) said he thought it was a catfish,” Galbraith said. “I don’t know what the genetic potential is for redear. But this record fish was not even a spawning fish. There’s some out there that are in the mid-6 (pound range) easy.”

Galbraith said the redears have been getting exceptionally large during the past four years the lake has been infested with the invasive quagga mussels. (Be sure to clean, drain and dry your boat before leaving Havasu or any AIS-affected lake – it’s the law.) See more information on aquatic invasive species.


Crawdads eat quagga mussels, which could be another reason for the enlarged redear, as well as smallmouth bass. Redear, we assume, eat quaggas, although this hasn’t been proven. These sunfish meander along the bottom of lakebeds seeking and cracking open snails and other shelled creatures with its thick, pharyngeal teeth and hard, movable plates in its throat that allow it to crunch exoskeletons.


Congrats to Mr. Brito on the record. Who’s next?


As expected, last weekend’s warm spat of weather, coupled with the full moon, convinced many largemouth bass to move into shallow waters and stage up to spawn. At some of the warmer desert lakes in western Arizona, the bass spawn schedule should be ahead of the rest of the state.


Already at Roosevelt Lake in Central Arizona, water temperatures have been between 50-55 degrees, and at 55, bass become more active and begin to spawn. With air temperatures forecast to be about 80 degrees steady for the next week, with overnight lows of 52-54 degrees, look for the bass action to get even better at some of these pristine lakes, including Apache, Canyon and Saguaro. All have been stocked with rainbow trout throughout the winter, and so throwing some big swim bait, trout imitations can produce some trophy bass. We just stocked Saguaro last week.


At Alamo Lake, Mark Knapp at Alamo Lake State Park said bass fishing is finally picking up, as is the crappie bite. These speckled beauties also have been biting better at Roosevelt. See more on both lakes in the full report.


Also, we received an Angler Report of a great striper bite at Lake Pleasant by dropping nightcrawlers 60-70 to the bottom of Humbug. Keep sending your fishing reports along with photos to BFishing@AZGFD.gov.


Finally, beginning March 24, we’ll be stocking the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), Goldwater Lake, the Lower Salt River, Patagonia Lake, and Fortuna Pond.


Enjoy all these fishing options, and don’t forget about the 14th annual Arizona International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) that has filled the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale since Thursday, Feb. 20 and will end Sunday, Feb. 23 with an expanded presence of outdoor product and service exhibitors, attractions, seminars, and the incorporation of the Arizona Boat ShowTM. See full details.

Oh, here’s the full winter trout stocking schedule.

And if you need that fishing license, you can buy it online.


Additional public meetings scheduled on fisheries management in Haigler Creek

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department will host public meetings to discuss the current and proposed management of sport fisheries on Haigler Creek and receive public comment. Meetings will be held in Payson, Young, and Phoenix. Details regarding meeting locations are below.

The Department manages portions of Haigler Creek as a wild rainbow trout and brown trout fishery, as well as a put-and-take rainbow trout fishery. The proposal calls for the Department to reintroduce native Gila trout into Upper Haigler Creek with the goal of developing a catch-and-release fishery for this unique trout species.

Here is the meeting schedule:

  • Payson: Feb. 24, 6 p.m.; Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road, Payson, Ariz., 85541
  • Young: Feb: 25, 6 p.m.; Pleasant Valley Community Center, 72000 N. Highway 288, Young, Ariz., 85554
  • Phoenix: Feb. 26, 6 p.m.; Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters, Quail Room (main entrance), 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086

ANGLER REPORT

(Please send your reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov)

Jeff L. of Tonopah reported about some great striper Sunday, Feb. 16 beginning at 1:30 p.m. action on Lake Pleasant: We went directly to Humbug and saw a lot of fish on the sonar in deep water (60-70 feet.). We anchored immediately and began fishing with nightcrawlers on the bottom. Within about 10 minutes, we boated the first striper. Before we were able to release the first fish, one of our other poles was also hooked up. The action continued for three more hours, slowing at times. We probably caught and released 35-40 striped bass as well as two channel catfish. This hot spot was within 40 yards of a group of seven boats all tied together with loud music booming. Surface water temp was 56 degrees. It was also overcast all day. I would recommend this area right now, unless you don’t enjoy catching a lot of fish in a short time.

FISH STORIES

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.


Have a fond memory? Enjoy this Fish Stories video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

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 bfishing@azgfd.gov, 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.

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