It’s looking a lot like winter trout and crappie time.
First, the trout. There are rainbow fishing opportunities galore.
Topping the list is Lees Ferry in northern Arizona, a spectacular wild-trout fishery. A guided fishing expedition at the Ferry would be a great Christmas present.
The Community Fishing Program lakes and ponds have also been stocked with rainbows. See the latest Community Fishing Program schedule.
Of course, winter weather can be detrimental to travel. Motorists traveling in Arizona’s high country need to be aware of some annual closings. See the latest information from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
In the desert impoundments, consider targeting sporting crappie populations at Alamo, Bartlett and Roosevelt. As the water temperatures lower, the crappie will congregate into large schools in open water that can be up to 50 feet deep or so. The crappie formations, or schools, look like inverted pyramids (or Christmas trees if you like), with the most active fish at the top, around 15 or 20 feet deep.
The two primary strategies for catching these crappie are to use your fish finder, locate a school, sit over it, and slowly jig a 1/16- or even a 1/32-ounce jighead with curly tail or other small grub, Roadrunner or maybe a marabou jig. The other is slow trolling (1.5 mph) crappie jigs or even small crankbaits. Or combine the two — trolling until you get a bite, then vertically jig.
The Topock Marsh (close to Needles along the Colorado River) can provide some nice crappie fishing as well. This is also a superb place to see migrating waterfowl (maybe take along a shotgun or camera, or both).
And don’t forget — it’s quail season, and dove season re-opened on Thanksgiving!
Although Arizona is a flathead catfish destination, action at prime flathead fisheries such as Lake Pleasant and Bartlett typically slows this time of the year. But don’t tell that to Jim N., who caught the above 40-pound flathead catfish (see the angler report).
Flatheads weighing more than 20 pounds get lethargic as the night get colder. Still, anglers can catch 15-18 pound flatheads with better consistency by locating bluegill in 30-35 feet of water. Find the bluegill, and you’ll often find feeding flatheads looking for dinner.
Finally, a repeat of 2013. Jenny Blumenstein caught this Big Fish of the Year leader in the catch-and-keep category. It’s a 15 ½-inch , 1.62-pound white bass taken from Lake Pleasant on Nov. 20 on a medium-diving, white Rapala crankbait.
This same time in 2013, Blumenstein caught a 16-inch white bass that also was a Big Fish of the Year.
Before fishing this weekend, see our Fish&Boat AZ map for exact locations.
Finally, by purchasing your license online annually, you also are conserving wildlife for the future and leading wildlife conservation efforts. Thanks for your passion for wildlife.
(Send your fishing reports and picture to BFishing@AZGFD.gov)
Anonymous: Fish was slow today and the winds were up. Tried drop shot and no bites. Was able to hit this bass off a silver rattle trap on the edge of the weeds. 8 lbs 4 oz on the scale.
Jim N.: While fishing Lake Pleasant on Monday we found striper action in the Agua Fria, catching 1-3-pound fish on live bait, then the Castle Creek area at night catching 2-6-pound channel cats on homemade stinkbaits ,then a bonus fish: a 40-pound flathead catfish on live bait with a bright moon overhead. Good luck fishermen. Jim, Jimmy, Tyler, Team AZ.