Arizona fishing report: The Reel Deal

Arizona Game and Fish Department  employees ready to ride out to several high elevation lakes on snowmobiles to monitor water quality under the winter ice. These lakes (Crescent Lake, Carnero Lake, and Lee Valley Lake) are all more than 9,000 feet in elevation and develop thick ice cover for 3-4 months during the winter. Because of the productive nature of these lakes, this ice cover can lead to a loss of oxygen and produce a winter fish kill, which greatly limits the fishing opportunities in these lakes. Biologists monitor the water quality conditions during the winter to gather data that will help them develop solutions to preventing or reducing the fish kills. Since the roads to these high elevation lakes are closed during the winter, snowmobiles are the only way to get there.

Water temperatures across the state have dropped to their winter standards, and rain and snow has slowed or stalled driving in the high country.

Be sure to check the Arizona Department of Transportation website for the latest road conditions.

Also boaters must use caution when fishing some of our high-inflow lakes such as Roosevelt Lake, where some boating hazards, including some full-sizes trees, had been knocked into the lake.

OK, ready for some winter fishing? First, anglers can pick a species to target, then figure out where you’ll go and how you’ll fish ’em. Here are some updates on a few popular species to target:


It’s a great time to take on our Arizona Trout Challenge and explore some new waters. Read about the Challenge. 

Also, this week we’re stocking larger-than-usual fish into Community Fishing Program lakes and ponds: 13-16 inches in length, and averaging 1 pound or greater. The fish are going into: Silverbell; Riverview; Papago #1; Kennedy; Green Valley #1; Papago #2; Sahuarita; Green Valley #2; Papago #3; Lakeside; Green Valley #3; Steel Indian; Copper Sky; Red Mountain; Encanto; Veterans Oasis; Water Ranch; Cortez; Desert Breeze; Chaparral; Rio Vista; Kiwanis; Evelyn Hallman; Surprise; Desert West; Alvord; Pioneer.

Also, our expansion waters last week received bonus trout.

These waters were: Friendship Pond, Avondale; Bonsall Pond, Glendale; Roadrunner Pond, Phoenix; McQueen Pond, Gilbert; Freestone Ponds, Gilbert; Discovery Ponds, Gilbert; Dave White Park Pond, Casa Grande; Pacana Park Pond, Maricopa.


It’s not an easy time to catch bass, so know your winter tactics. With typical wintertime water temperatures (surface temperature in the desert lakes are in the low-50s) a largemouth bass becomes lethargic and may feed once at first light and be satisfied for a couple days.

This isn’t to say avoid bass fishing. Just be prepared. Consider that about 10 percent of largemouth bass in our lakes will be staying shallow, or within the first 10 feet of the bank, throughout the day. As the sun comes up, many will travel deep where they might settle into a comfortable 66 degrees (say, 25 feet down.) This also is where the shad has been. In fact, as pointed out by  Gary Senft, Bass Pro at the Mesa Bass Pro Shops, the deeper the water, the more plentiful the bait.

Target points, humps, reefs and islands.

And fish slowly. For example, creep a dropshot-rigged Roboworm (bass might be eating a lot of orange and red colors, such as Salt River craw) along the bottom. Wait for a possible, subtle bite as the bait is falling. This is where bite-feeling techniques such as holding or thumbing your line as the bait is falling can be critical to catching a bass. Also, this is when having better gear such as fluorocarbon line and sensitive rod tips can make a big difference. Check online about the advantages of having tungsten weights.



Recent storms haven’t helped crappie fishing. Crappie prefer stable weather and clear water. Expect crappie fishing to pick back up at crappie hot spots Roosevelt Lake and Alamo Lake in 1-2 weeks. (Apache Lake was a crappie hot spot this time last year.)


Your fishing license

Although this is the time many anglers renew their licenses, our licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. Buy your license online and fish our great state for a year (and help conserve all species of wildlife while doing so.)

Upcoming free fishing clinics

What: Youth and Family Fishing Day
When: Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Red Mountain Park , 7745 E. Brown Rd., Mesa, 85207
Comments: Arizona Game and Fish Department and City of Mesa Parks and Recreation invite you to a family fishing day at Red Mountain Park. Fishing license fees will be waived by registering with AZGFD during the hours of the event. Bait will be provided as well as loaner equipment will be available. There is no cost for this event!

See the rest of the fishing clinics schedule.

Angler reports


(Send your fishing reports and picture to

Freestone Park

Liz F.: I handed my rod to a 5 year old  (Jan. 14) and he reeled in a beautiful large trout. His first fish, too. It was the best watching him experience the excitement of the reel and landing it himself! Caught 4 today and earlier in the week caught upwards of a dozen since Sunday, but throw ‘em all back. Thanks for the fun!




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