The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,

If you enjoy reeling and popping top-water plugs and watching a bass destroy the surface, then Lake Havasu might be your pick for a weekend fishing destgination.

Water temperatures at Havasu have topped out around 70 degrees and anglers can get ready to skim the surface with frogs, buzz baits, or Zara Spooks.

Havasu, with the emergence of monster redear sunfish (during their May/June spawn, the big redear will move in shallow), along a robust population of largemouth and smallmouth bass, has during the last few years become even more of a destination for recreational anglers. At a recent Bass Pro Team Open tournament, the largest bass weighed 9.70 pounds and the largest limit (five fish) was 28.14 pounds – a remarkable report that indicates this fishery’s potential.

Oh, and that 5.80 redear sunfish caught Feb. 16 by the chalk cliffs is still a pending world record. John Galbearth of Bass Tackle Masters said the International Game Fish Association needed only a picture of the rod used by Hector Brito in order to certify the 17-inch redear as a world record. Stay tuned.

Meantime, head out to “Arizona’s West Coast” and get in on all that action.

If you’re in western Arizona (or plan on going), Alamo Lake is a great bet for catfishing. Mark Knapp, the Park Ranger at Alamo Lake State Park, said on Thursday he heard the cats are busting shad right up on the shoreline. Some 2-5-pound catfish are waiting to grace your table.

We also have a new leader in the Big Fish of the Year Community Fishing catch-and-keep category for channel catfish. Duane Carble (right) caught a 26.25-inch, 7-pound, 3.84-ounce catfish from Red Mountain Park. Let’s see if someone can top that.


Catching trout

Trout stockings continue, so head to your favorite pine-scented spot and wet a line. Check out the entire summer stocking schedule, consult our Fish & Boat Arizona map if it helps, and head on out.

Fishing Lake Powell

Up at Lake Powell, water temperatures have broken the 60-degree mark and bass have built some nests. Crappie are searching for ideal spawning spots as well. Wayne Gustaveson, in his full report below, said this final week of April and the first week of May should be the best times for sight-fishing spawning fish.

In central Arizona, at lakes such as Roosevelt, Saguaro and Canyon, this past week’s full moon triggered a heavy wave of spawning bass. This should continue for another week. Some bass will spawn well into June.

Roosevelt Lake fishing update

At Rosie, crappie are in spawn and some have been feeding heavily on a post-spawn.

Don’t forget about northern Arizona, where last week Lower Lake Mary in Flagstaff was a scorching-hot spot for trout.


(Send your fishing reports and photos to

Robert D. and his son caught some memories last weekend at Rose Canyon Lake: Here is a photo of my son James D. from one of his two weekend adventures to Rose Canyon Lake this past weekend. James was able to take his limit both days (six fish because he has a combo youth license) fishing with both PowerBait and also meal worms. The fat, tasty rainbow trout all came on PowerBait, and the meal worms resulted in small browns, which all were released. Fishing was quite outstanding and the road and campgrounds are all open for the season.

Doug F. with an April 20 report from Woods Canyon Lake: Brother and I fished for 6.5 hours and caught 70 (all released and were swimmers). Sizes were 8-17 inch. Weather was cool with light rain.

Catch of the week goes to Bo N. for his “catch” of cans: Yesterday afternoon (April 19) I raced up to the Lower Salt River from Tucson to do a little scouting. I arrived late, after 5 p.m., looked at 3-4 spots then decided to give the Pebble Beach area a try with the last hour or so of daylight. In just a few minutes I landed a medium-sized Sonora sucker and a small rainbow trout. But, a slow seam in the middle of the river had some curious bright spots so I waded out to investigate. It turned out to be hundreds of beer cans!

Being an International Game Fish Association representative and the son of a Forest Ranger, I couldn’t stand it so I stopped fishing and picked cans until my only garbage bag was full. Other anglers in the area looked at me like I was crazy. I’m sure 100s of people have walked right by this mess without picking up a single can. Shame on you, Arizona!

Next time I go to the Salt River I’ll bring two garbage bags.

William M. caught this flathead catfish (right) fishing from a kayak on Lake Martinez, April 15, using a savage gear 3D trout lure while wind-drift trolling for bass. He fought this flathead with 10-pound test line.

Charles. S. with a Colorado River report from Picacho State Park to Imperial Dam: Peggy and I did some lite fishing in-between Martinez Lake and the dam over the weekend. Water temperatures in the current averaged around 73 degrees and lakes and backwaters averaged around 74.5 degrees. Daytime air temps have been in the 90s, so expect the water temps as well as vegetation to grow exponentially in the upcoming month.

For our first day out we fished out in the current, but quite honestly there wasn’t much going on. I am going to blame much of that on the recent high water flows, which have dramatically re-arranged the bottom contours of the river in many, many areas.

Most of the sand bars got “topped” by the current, as well as spread over a greater surface area, causing prior depressions to fill and creating an overall flatter river bottom. I found one sand bar that grew by almost an eighth of a mile, so while the fishing areas in current have been altered quite a bit, we maximized our bang for the buck by taking time on the water to re-adjust our GPS maps of the river.

But enough about sand — on the second day we stayed away from the main current and scoured a few of the lakes. Ironically, lakes that were getting greater amounts of water flow during the recent water push were still pretty mucky looking. It didn’t matter if you were on the southern or northern ends of the lakes; most bodies of water were just dirty looking.

With the bass, in dare I say… post spawn, and on the heels of massive flooding, finding ‘em in the lakes was as challenging as ever. We worked the almost mired up banks near areas that previously held pre-spawn as well as spawning bass, and there wasn’t a bite to be had — not even a charge from a bluegill.

We later shifted our efforts to locating cleaner waters, and voila! While the banks were still pretty inactive, we did locate bass far from the banks at approximately 15-foot depths. The key that day was finding areas that had good underwater vegetation AND good water clarity. Bloody-looking silver rattle traps were getting the job done, though I wish I had allowed for more water time so I could experiment with some worms.

I would also like to add that I saw some extremely massive balls of baitfish this weekend. I always take that as a sign of being in a healthy fishing habitat.


Q: What is the status of Hulsey Lake? It was emptied to fight the fire a couple years ago. Then I heard that while it was empty you were going to go in and get rid of the silt that had developed over the years before you refilled the lake. It depends on who you are talking to what story you get about Hulsey. It WAS one of the nicest small lakes in the entire area around Alpine. Also, what is the status of Luna Lake? It was an overgrown mess the last time (a year ago) I tried to fish it.

Thank you for the wonderful job that you and the rest of the folks at AZGFD do. The back country would truly be a mess without your continuous efforts. Michael W.

  • A: Michael: Thanks for your question and kind words — much appreciated! I turned to our Pinetop-based Fish Program Manager Mike Lopez for this one. Here’s what he said:

    “The situation with Hulsey has been that we have been waiting for hydrologists to tell us that the watershed has recovered enough after the Wallow Fire (2011). We have had intentions of dredging the bottom to remove the silt and ash that came in after the fire; however, forest hydrologists had advised us that dredging before the watershed has recovered enough would only result in more silt filling the improvement.

    Just recently (two weeks ago), the forest told us that the watershed looks stable enough now and their engineers are currently working on a plan to dredge the lake. We will be applying for a Resource Advisory Committee grant to fund the dredging. If that comes through, we could possibly close the head gate on Hulsey this fall and let it fill during the winter and stock next year.

    Regarding Luna Lake, it is fishing well right now. It always has good water quality in the spring after it fills during the winter. Plus, ice cover on the lake kills back some of the algae blooms and weeds. So now is the time to fish Luna Lake.

    As the year progresses, the irrigation company pulls out water to irrigate in New Mexico, so the water level goes down. And as the water temperatures increase, the algae blooms and weeds grow aggressively and impacts the fishing.

    We have lost our weed harvester program, so we will no longer have that tool to address the weed problems. But the problem is actually excessive nutrients that fuel the algae and weed growth. Addressing excessive nutrients is very difficult, but we have a few ideas that we hope to implement soon that will help with the problem. We are working closely with the Friends of Luna Lake group out of Alpine to get some work started. It will be a long road to improving conditions at Luna Lake and will take some additional funding. Until then, the springtime is the best time to fish at Luna.”

    Hope that helps, and thank you again for your question! – Nick


What’s your fish story? In the eighth segment of “Fish Stories,” In this latest segment of Fish Stories from the “AZGFD” YouTube site, take a ride on Willow Springs Lake (a great spot to fish right now) as Bobby Avery tells his fish story!

See this video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

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, 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.

See the full report.

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