The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,

First, a quick fish story. On Tuesday, April 8, angler Jack Head of Phoenix was taking his wife and sister-in-law boating, fishing, and for a quick picnic. What he saw in the Agua Fria arm floating on the surface was a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

A monster striper, with a roughly 5-pound carp wedged in its mouth, was floating on the surface.

Head pulled the fish in and weighed it on his hand scale — the fish pinned his 30-pound maximum scale. Head said the fish was far more than 40 inches in length. The point is: these monster stripers are in Lake Pleasant, and they’re willing to eat a 5-pound carp.

I got him up with the gaff, then I handed the pole to my wife,” Head said. “I had fish smell on my arms after I reached out and hugged him.”

You never know what adventure awaits on Arizona waters. Go create yours.


Now to the report.

April and October can be the best months of the year to fish in Arizona. The water temperatures are ideal for waves of spawns. Access to high country lakes has opened the way for lunker holdovers. The flathead frenzy hardly left.

The buffet is laid out – bass are spawning, especially with an April 15 full moon; crappie should be spawning; flathead catfish are making camera lenses struggle to keep fish in frame; trout are being stocked all across the high country and anglers are catching hold-overs as well as tasty stockers; channel catfish are abundant in the Community Fishing Program lakes.

Here’s a rundown of some possible action:

Trout

Check the summer stocking schedule. Rainbow trout are being dumped, and when they do, tend to stay near the top of the water column for a few days — something to keep in mind when rigging.

On April 1, the catch-and-keep season began at Silver Creek. Carlos Arias (right) already scored a 6-pound, 8-ounce, 24.5-inch rainbow trout from Silver Creek on April 1 that has been submitted as a Big Fish of the Year nominee. Anglers now may use barbed hooks and live bait. If you want to catch your first Apache trout, come on out — they’re stocked weekly. The creek is located about 5 miles east of Show Low. See more detailed directions.


Ah, brookies. When planning your weekend excursion, consider that we just finished stocking Perkins Tank in the Flagstaff area with some brook trout.

Tonto Creek Hatchery also just stocked rainbow trout into Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek, Haigler Creek, and the East Verde River, where ourtrout-tagging project is underway.

Bass

They have several spawns that will occur until June. They’ve already spawned in the city lakes. If you’re bed-fishing, use brighter, chartreuse or orange-colored grubs so you can see your bait – and please release spawning fish quickly and move on.

Some fish have already spawned. And these post-spawners will be hungry. That means anglers can try a top-water bite. Try something such as a 1-3 inch Zara Spook in shad colors, or even a small swim bait (shad). The first and last lights of the day are the best lights, but top-water options are possible all day and night. Don’t discount an evening bite, especially during a full moon. Dark-colored grubs, for example, stand out to fish as a dark silhouette under a bright moon. Although chumming for stripers under light is less effective under new and full moons, it’s still worth a shot – especially with overcast skies.

Catfish

It has been one year since Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson boated the heaviest recorded fish in state history. On Friday, April 12, 2013, Wilcoxson brought aboard a mammoth 76.52-pound, 53.5-inch flathead catfish out of Bartlett Lake. See video of Wilcoxson’s fish story.

Also, until around April 19, come into our main lobby at AZGFD headquarters on 5000 West Carefree Highway in Phoenix and see a life-size cast of Wilcoxson’s fish. It’s an impressive display.

Seems this is the time of the year the big flathead begin to roam the banks, looking for something like a live bluegill or carp (your bait) to munch. On March 24 at Patagonia Lake, Rich Stachel of Tucson caught a 56.2-pound flathead. See the first Anglers Report below about the Colorado River – another flathead phenomenon was caught.

Finally, get ready for the channel catfish stockings to begin the week of April 20 at the “non-core” Community Fishing Program lakes, which now include Yuma’s Fortuna Lake, Redondo Pond, Yuma West Wetlands Pond and Somerton’s Council Avenue Pond. Other non-core waters that will receive catfish stockings every two months (with catfish and bluegill coming in June).

Other non-core stockings that will receive loads are Discovery Ponds, McQueen Pond, Pacana Pond, Granada Ponds, Roadrunner Pond, Eldorado Lake, McKellips Lake.

CC Cragin opens

CC Cragin (Blue Ridge) Reservoir, a favorite for paddler, has reopened after construction. Read all about this long-awaited reopening.

Roosevelt Lake fishery could receive monster boost with Florida-strain largemouth bass stockings

 


PHOENIX – Anglers who love to fish Roosevelt Lake located in central Arizona’s Tonto National Forest have a future hope for the fishery — monster bass.

To help boost fishing opportunities at the 13,000-acre lake, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) through April to stock up to 500,000 fry of Florida-strain largemouth bass, which have been known to eventually attain sizes up to 20 pounds.

The FWC will be donating the bass fry in cooler-contained sacks via FedEx. The first shipment arrived Tuesday, April 8, at the Arizona Game and Fish Department regional office in Mesa. Department biologists then dumped about 275,000 fry into the lake. There will likely be one to two additional, weekly stockings.

See a department video (includes underwater footage) of Tuesday’s initial stocking.

“We hope that within the next 5-10 years anglers can enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake,” said AZGFD Fisheries Branch Chief Chris Cantrell. “This effort also should have a positive economic impact on local communities. The state of Texas has had huge success with stocking Florida-strain largemouth bass, and we expect the same.”

The department has not stocked Roosevelt Lake with Florida-strain largemouth bass since the 1980s. Since 2011 surveys, there has been an 80-percent reduction in largemouth bass catch rates. Still, in 2013, Roosevelt Lake was the most fished water in the state.

Florida-strain largemouth bass is the same species as the northern strain that dominates Arizona’s warm-water fisheries. But unlike northern strain, adult Florida strain in the 10- to 15-pound range is relatively common. An additional benefit of the Florida strain is its potential to feed on Roosevelt Lake’s nonnative gizzard shad.

The department expects at least a few thousand Florida strain to survive to adulthood. It will likely take at least two years before the bass grow to a catchable size of 10-12 inches.

A United States Forest Service Tonto Pass is required to fish Roosevelt Lake.

This is a one-time stocking effort. Future stockings of Florida-strain largemouth bass efforts are possible, but would rely on public donations. To contribute to a thriving Roosevelt Lake fishery, visithttp://www.azgfd.gov/bassDonations.

ANGLER REPORTS

(Send your fishing reports and photos to Bfishing@AZGFD.gov.)

Judy C., a host/attendants at the BLM Oxbow Campground located at the Oxbow Bridge on the Colorado River, with a report from anglers who she said fished between March 28-31: We have guests camping in here who do a lot of fishing. The first picture is of a day’s worth of catch for four anglers on two boats… caught along the river banks and backwaters from Farmer’s Bridge in Cibola to Walter’s Camp.

The second catch was from different a guests’ catch from a night’s fishing in a backwater at Mitchel’s Camp — two 15-pound flatheads and\ one 17-pound flathead.

The last pic (left) is of the next night’s catch at the same backwater at Mitchel’s Camp… their scale said 57 pounds.



Todd B. enjoyed some good catfish action Friday at Red Mountain Lake: Caught a few cat: one nice 8-pounder, which must have been a holdover. I let it swim away for another to enjoy, but kept a couple stocker-sized cats. They were maybe 2 pounds apiece. I saw many very, very nice sized bass hanging shallow near their beds. I did not realize the size of the bass in some of these community parks. Some of the bass I saw had to be 5-6 pounds. I enjoyed the sights, but let them rest to finish spawning.

I have run into a sight that is starting to really make me sad. I normally see a carp thrown up on the beach to rot, but I am starting to see more and more stringers with fish attached floating in the water. I do not know why fishermen would leave their catch behind, but it is starting to become an every time scene. I just wish the folks who do not want to keep, and eat, their fish would release them back into the water.

I am very proud to be able to fish these wonderful community parks that Arizona has to offer. They are a great way to stay local, and catch fish. Back home the parks are only stocked once or twice a year. We Arizonians have it made with all of the fish that are made available to us. Thank you, Arizona Game and Fish Dept.


Theresa P. with a report from Knoll Lake: Went to Knoll Lake this weekend, and had a great time. The roads were rough, but well worth it. Caught four rainbow trout and one Apache trout over the four days. There was cold weather and a very low lake. Not sure why the stocking report looks different for this lake though; this is my family’s favorite place to go almost every weekend, as soon as road 300 opens.

Paul J. and Co. had some tough fishing recently at Woods Canyon Lake, but took in plenty of wildlife, such as elk: Two of us fished the cove next to the parking lot on the left side as you face the store at Woods Canyon Lake from 6:15 a.m. ‘til 11:30 a.m. Used assorted colored PowerBait, nightcrawlers and assorted sizes and colors of spinners, silver flat fish, assorted sizes of KastMasters none of the lures were followed by trout or bass; caught one lowly trout about 15 inches after 9:00 a.m. on green PowerBait.

One couple caught five and we saw no one else with any luck. Had the pleasure of an audience of one cow elk in the parking lot next to our SUV who watched us not 25 feet down at the lake’s edge for some 20 minutes as she grazed the grass at the parking lot concrete tired guard. Best part of the whole fishing trip was the elk.

The local osprey and one bald eagle had better luck fishing, and their fishing is spectacular as they soar, hover, and dive into the lake, come up and fly away with a trout any fisherman would be proud of. Lake was not as clear as usual….not real murky but not crystal clear.

Cathie Z. send in a fish story of a woman’s first fish, caught at Roosevelt Lake: My wife, after many trips of not catching anything on the water, was excited to nap this fish! This was at Roosevelt in 4-6 feet of water. This is her first fish out of Roosevelt.

We stayed out after sunset and had an idea… let’s set out the submersible lights and see what happens. After about an hour the magic happened. Being so fascinated we put our poles away and watched as minnows appeared, then shad, then bigger shad appeared! We’d never seen this before so we continued to watch. Soon, larger fish darted through the swirl and broke water around us. We kept seeing a looming shadow under the light but couldn’t tell if it was a fish or wood. Like two kids, we were lying on the bow for two hours watching all this take place! Finally the shadow moved. It was a BIG catfish. I mean it was HUGE. It came up, opened its mouth and was sucking in water, and probably food!

We determined we probably could never fish with lights; we would watch more than fish!

That experience is a memory we won’t soon forget. Due to the restructure of the licenses, we have been able to get back to the things we love. We go so often, at least three other friends have joined in the fun. Thank you again for providing disabled veterans with free licenses; it has definitely improved my quality of life!


FISH STORIES

What’s your fish story? In the eighth segment of “Fish Stories,” we look back on April 12, 2013, the day the heaviest recorded fish in state history was caught. See this week’s “Fish Stories” video about Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson’s 76.54-pound flathead catfish taken from Bartlett Lake.

Want to see a life-size cast of the fish? During the next week, come into the main lobby of our Phoenix headquarters on 5000 W. Carefree Hwy. and check out Wilcoxson’s incredible display.

Have a fond memory? An exciting experience? 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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