The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,

Get ready for an early spring. The Vernal Equinox, or first day of spring, is March 20, but with an unseasonably warm winter bass will be spawning ahead of schedule. Even the rainbow trout fishing will get a boost with this weekend’s rain and wind that’s expected to whip and sop the state’s soil and water.

Regardless, after last week’s pending world record redear sunfish that was caught at Lake Havasu (5.80 pounds), we have another big fish. Don’t let anyone tell you there are no lunkers in Arizona. You can’t always have pending world records, but this one’s impressive.

An angler brought in a 24.7-pound pike (right) he caught at Ashurst Lake yesterday to the Arizona Game and Fish Department Flagstaff regional office. He was using a rainbow trout swim bait about 4 inches long. Hats off.

And get this — we’re almost a month away from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the flathead catfish that weighed 76.54 pounds and became the heaviest recorded fish in state history. “Flathead” Ed Wilcoxson caught the record on April 12, 2013 out of Bartlett Lake, and since Arizona has become known for its destination-worthy flathead fishery. Look for flathead fishing to pick up through March.

The rainy, windy weather this weekend will help trout fishing in our desert lakes and ponds. With the warmer-than-average winter, trout fishing has suffered. Check our winter stocking schedule because we’re about to be down to our final stocking weeks of the season, so consider targeting trout just after the cold front coasts through. This week (Feb. 24-March 2) we’re scheduled to stock the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), Goldwater Lake, The Lower Salt River, Patagonia Lake, and Fortuna Pond.

And don’t forget to keep up with the 2014 Community Fishing Program stocking schedule.

Bass statewide are staging up to spawn, and in some cases, already are on beds. The problem this weekend is that the winds will at times make spotting the beds difficult. There’s a full moon March 16 and that should help induce a second wave of bass to spawn. If you do bed fish, use light colored jigs so you can see your bait. Remember that bass are not on their beds to feed, but to fend off intruders – once the bass picks up the bait, set the hook. Admire your catch, but please quickly release the fish to reduce stress on the fish and help them survive and spawn.

Expect Alamo Lake to be phenomenal in the spring for bass and crappie. Already the fishing for both has skyrocketed after a slow month or two. Anglers can prepare for this great fishing by fishing for trash and help one of the state’s most productive fishing holes. The 15th annual Alamo Lake Cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, March 1 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. During the past 14 events, volunteers have picked up more than 25 dump trucks full of trash in and around the lake. See more information.

Some other quick-hit fish news:

Have fun, and don’t forget to bring your fishing license. Need one? We have plenty — stay online to buy.

I’m headed to Lake Havasu for a few days of working, camping, and a little bit of fishing next week. I hear there are some big redear and plenty of smallmouth bass up there … follow me on Twitter @NickFishAZ for updates.

OK, onto the full report.


Send your fishing reports and photos to

Erland has been slaying the smallmouth bass at Apache Lake the past two weeks, including a 4-pounder on Thursday, Feb. 20: I started taking my family out to Apache this time last year and discovered what an amazing desert jewel this lake is. Last spring my father and I caught many personal-best bass, including a 6-pound largemouth and 4-pound smallmouth.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get back out there this year. In the past 2 weeks we have been slaying the smallmouth, all “cpr” of course. I’ve attached a few pics, including a 4-pound smallmouth pops caught yesterday. These fish are not only beautiful, they are amazing fighters.

Thanks again for the great reports.

R. Gomez with a report from Roadrunner Lake: They probably won’t post this but if you are planning to fish the new community lake in Roadrunner Park — it is a waste of time and money. Visibility in the lake is probably 2 inches (maybe) it is probably 75-percent full and not a soul is catching a thing. This lake is nothing but a dumping ground for people’s overgrown redear turtle pets that have out-grown their owner’s size capacity.

Capt. Noland with a great report from Thursday, Feb. 20 at Cortez Lake: Thank you, AZGFD. This community fishing is awesome. This morning I grand slammed at Cortez Lake!!! I started with catching a 4-pound, 3-once rainbow trout, on a hot dog; a short wait later I landed a 17-inch largemouth bass, on a hot dog; another short wait, and I landed a fat 20-inch catfish, on hot dog. Fishing is surprisingly good in the urban lakes. Keep up the good work, AZGFD.

Orrin with a bass spawning report, and some advice, from Bartlett Lake: Attached is a pic of two fish I caught at Bartlett Lake. These fish are a product of a successful spawn. Last year,,, there WAS NO SPAWN!! The water fluctuated so much the fish did NOT spawn. There are NO mid-sized fish in the lake — just big ones. When they are gone Bartlett will turn into another San Carlos… NO FISH!! PLEASE leave the water alone here until mid-April.

Finally — 4-year-old Mason and his grandparents with his first fish ever, a largemouth bass (right).

Q & A

  • Q: Fished for two days Feb. 15-16 (at Parker Canyon Lake) and only caught one trout. Was told by camp host that the last two stockings had not taken place. … did catch a small bass with a Rapala. Would like to know when Parker actually gets stocked. – Christopher S.

A: Hi, Christopher. The last rainbow trout stocking did take place Feb. 10-17. The next and final trout stocking of the winter at Parker will take place the week of March 10-17. See the entire stocking schedule, which still applies. Here’s the problem: as with most of the desert lakes and ponds that are being stocked with trout throughout the winter, water temperatures are higher than average, which has made the trout sluggish to bite. For the most part, the trout fishing will not be as good as last year, so don’t fish in the same spots or with the same baits. Fish deeper, for one, and switch up your presentations.

That said, bass will be spawning earlier this year, so they’re a better target if you’re looking for high catch rates. Thanks for your question, and good luck! — Nick


What’s your fish story? In the fifth segment of “Fish Stories” Kristen gets after the smaller fish that are plentiful. For her, it’s about the little things in life.

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.

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