Category Archives: Fish Stories

A bass story: Community Fishing Program stocks first largemouth since 2011

PHOENIX — A long, black figurine of a fish cruised out of the underwater drainage pipe. My flutter spoon dropped — and of course fluttered — right in front of the fish’s mouth.

“There are fish like this in Alvord Lake?” I thought, eyes no doubt bulging and bobbing like frying egg yolks.

I’d come for the crappie. Read on my I Support Wildlife report they had just been stocked. Little did I know … we had made a surprise stocking into Alvord before this Saturday morning.

We had stocked bass.

Largemouth bass.

Whomp!

A big bass took the No. 10 flutter spoon and yanked out the 3x leader and tippet from my 5-weight fly rod.

After a few long runs, I grabbed this guy by the mouth:

A bass maybe around 4 pounds, probably between 19-21 inches. Not that it matters — it was a fun fish. Still not sure it was a stocker.

Regardless, it had been the first stocking of largemouth bass into Community Fishing Program lakes since 2011.  This week,  we stocked more largemouth bass into “core” Community waters. Before more are stocked, our biologists will monitor if — and where — these bass manage to survive and develop a quality population structure.

After a quick photo, this lunker was released:

Go get ’em.

Minutes later, another bass cruised out of the same structure — a large chunk of a two-way drainage pipe that looked like an excellent place for bass to hide until unsuspecting quarry passed by.

This bass measured 16 inches and probably weighed about 2 1/4 pounds. Likely a stocker:

With apologies to all the catch-and-release bass purists, this one came home to a sizzling skillet.

Recipe for the above:

  • Coat fillets in egg wash and roll in white flour. Re-coat in egg wash, roll in Panko bread crumbs, and saute in hot coconut oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Dry on  paper towel and add salt/pepper.

That side is just homemade mac ‘n’ cheese — corn, garlic salt, pepper, a bit of sour cream, butter, milk, elbow macaroni and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Note that daily bag limits for largemouth bass at Community Lakes are two bass at a minimum of 13 inches in total length.

Best part about Alvord Lake, located in Cesar Chavez Park at 7858 S. 35th Ave. in south Phoenix? It’s a 10-minute drive to the world’s largest city park — South Mountain Park.

So afterward …

Mountain biking and fishing makes for a prime Saturday.

Tips on fishing a flutter spoon

Many sport fish like largemouth bass rely on sight and vibration to identify prey. A flutter spoon allows for the flash and action to attract attention.

Make a few strips if  fly fishing (or reels if spin fishing) and stop. Let the flutter spoon drop and do its fluttering magic. Typically, a fish will hit as the lure is falling (like with jigging). This was exactly the case.

Even a No. 10 flutter spoon can catch big fish.
Hope this helps get you out to Community waters and onto some fish.

In case you need a license, you can get ’em easily online, 24/7. A Community fishing license is $24, and like all licenses, good for 365 days. Funds go back into wildlife conservation, as well as other efforts such as fish stockings.  A General License is $37, and Hunt/Fish Combo License $57.

Read more information about the Community Fishing Program.

Flagstaff man breaks 30-year-old catfish state record

Carson Pete with his 33.36-pound, 39 ½-inch channel catfish that set an inland waters hook-and-line state record for channel catfish.

A giant, dark fish tail curled beneath the surface of the water.

Carson Pete, shore-fishing about 50 yards away, hiked to where he spotted the tail Sunday at Upper Lake Mary near Flagstaff.

He happened to have brought a heavy spinning rod with 50-pound braided line, a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a 7/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. Just before the sun crawled beneath a horizon of pine trees, Pete grabbed a few frozen anchovies he’d dipped in a homemade fish oil/garlic mix and slid them onto the hook. Then he cast the bait near a brush line in 2 feet of water depth.

Immediately, a fish took the bait, drifted away — and then bolted. Pete said he set the hook three times as the fish peeled out about 60 yards of line during a cool and breezy evening. After about 20 minutes of wrestling and reeling, Pete got the huge fish to shore.  Monday morning at the Arizona Game and Fish Department office in Flagstaff, the catfish weighed 33.36 pounds, measured 39 ½ inches in total length, and set an inland waters hook-and-line state record for channel catfish.

“Before I left, my 7-year-old daughter kept saying, ‘You’re going to catch a big fish. Send a picture when you do,’” said Pete, a Flagstaff resident who was targeting northern pike. “Well I saw a few people fishing for pike and no one was having any luck. So I just kept fishing and fishing.”

As one reward for his persistence, Pete has quite the picture to send his daughter.

Pete broke the previous record by about one pound. That record belonged to Chuck Berndt of Sierra Vista, who caught a channel catfish at Parker Canyon Lake that weighed 32 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 38 ¾ inches.

Berndt caught that previous record fish in 1987.

It is possible that Pete’s catfish is as old as the record.

“It is feasible that this new record catfish is 30-plus years old,” said AZGFD Wildlife Specialist Scott Rogers, who helped weigh the fish. “The oldest on record for this species is 40. These slow growing cats live a long time. Perhaps he was hatched the same year the old record was set.”

The inland waters, catch-and-release record catfish also was taken from Upper Lake Mary. Jared Sandall of Rimrock caught that 34-inch channel catfish in 2015.

With an elevation of about 7,000 feet, Upper Lake Mary has excellent springtime fishing and refreshing summertime temperatures.

See  more information on fishing in Arizona.

Arizona fishing report: The Reel Deal

Flooding has caused closures to roads and many popular Tonto National Forest campgrounds.

Tempe Town Lake reopened to water activities Thursday, March 2 at 4 p.m.

The lake has been closed due to upstream Salt River debris.

In western Arizona, Alamo Lake resembles a chocolate milkshake as the lake has risen 13 feet in two days.

Shore anglers might have a chance to avoid debris — but not stained/muddy water. Boaters might have a difficult time avoiding floating debris — boat with extreme caution. The Salt River at Roosevelt was running at 3,934 cfs on Wednesday afternoon (2,978 at Tonto Creek at Rosy).

Update from Tonto National Forest: Forest Road 19, leading to Bartlett Lake, reopened Wednesday.

The following recreation sites have reopened to the public:

  • Bartlett Flat Campground
  • Yellow Cliffs Boat Launch
  • Rattlesnake Cove Picnic Area
  • SB Cove Shoreline Site
  • Jojoba Boat Launch

Phon D. Sutton, Coon Bluff, and Granite Reef Picnic Sites along the Lower Salt River have also been reopened for day use.

The Horseshoe Dam Road, Forest Road 205, leading to Horseshoe Reservoir and the following recreation sites remain closed:

  • Riverside Campground
  • Ocotillo
  • Fisherman’s Point
  • Horseshoe Campground
  • Mesquite Campground

Both Forest Road 20, leading to Needle Rock and Box Bar, and Lower Sycamore Road, Forest Road 1847/403 remain closed until the water recedes and road conditions improve.

This was the Verde River Wednesday afternoon at the Beeline Highway Bridge (by Fort McDowell):

 

OK, back to hooking fish. Water temperatures at many desert impoundments are hovering at or above 58 degrees, the mark that typically triggers pre-spawn bass activity.

At Lake Havasu on Thursday, Feb. 23, a smallmouth bass Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record was set. See the story as well as some springtime bass tips.

Other fishing notes:

  • Community fishing. The final scheduled trout stockings of the winter-spring season will take place the week of March 6.  Catfish will return to Community waters  the week of March 20.
  • Repairs at Rio Vista Pond have been completed. We were not able to stock the pond last week as scheduled due to the repairs — those fish went to Pioneer Lake i Peoria — but do plan on stocking it next week.
  • At  Apache Lake this week, we determined a threadfin shad die-off was due to high numbers of golden algae. We continue monitoring the situation.
  • Alamo Lake rose 13 feet in two days and on March 1 was at 1,118 feet in elevation.  Mark Knapp from Alamo Lake State Park said when the lake is done rising the main ramp should open.  Cholla ramp is open, but there are log jams all over and fishing is poor. But in one month, fishing should be incredible. Get ready.
  • White Mountains regional updates. Accessible  lakes as of Feb. 28  include Willow Springs Lake, but it is walk-in only (road is snow packed) and ice is thin and unsafe. The gate is closed. Sardine Point is open, but the road is snow packed.  Fishing at Fool Hollow Lake is fair. There’s no ice and rainbow trout are being caught. Fishing pier and platforms are accessible.  Northern pike should be congregating to spawn this time of year; try throwing Rapala lures or streamers in shallow coves.  Northern pike spawn and congregate in weedy shallow coves.   Also, there’s no ice at Show Low Lake, Woodland Lake, and Becker Lake.   Big Lake is still inaccessible and has extremely thin, unsafe ice.  Best bet in this region remains Silver Creek. See the full report.

Stocking report

Friday, Feb. 24 — Community “core” watersThursday, Feb. 23 — Dankworth Ponds. Wednesday, Feb. 22 — Community expansion watersTuesday, Feb. 21 — Parker Canyon Lake, Dead Horse lakes, Dave White Pond, Roadrunner Pond, Bonsall Pond, Full  schedules

Catch of the Week

(Send your Angler Reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov –
one will be featured as Catch of the Week)

Sue Nowak of Lake Havasu City with her Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record smallmouth bass.
Sue Nowak of Lake Havasu City with her Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record smallmouth bass.

Well this one was easy. Sue Nowak caught this 21-inch, 6.28-pound smallmouth bass that is a  Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record. She caught it around noon on Thursday, Feb. 23 with a dropshot-rigged True Image mini shaker lemonade worm. She was fishing with Shaun Bailey’s Guide Service in Lake Havasu City.

Read all the Angler Reports

Public fishing events

At these free fishing clinics, loaner rods are provided, bait is free, and no license is required for those who register during event hours.

Saturday, March 11 — Family and Community Fishing Event, 8 a.m. – noon, Roper Lake State Park (101 E. Roper Lake Rd., Safford). For more information please contact Kelly Wright at Roper Lake State Park at (928) 428-6760 or the Sport Fishing Education Program at (623) 236-7240.

See the full schedule

SEE THE FULL REPORT

AZ state record kicks off banner spring bass season

Once again at Lake Havasu, someone has hooked fishing gold.

“I thought it was a tree stump or rock,” Sue Nowak said. “Then the snag moved.”

The “snag”  turned out to be a 21-inch, 6.28-pound smallmouth bass that is a  Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record.

Nowak caught the monster around noon on Thursday, Feb. 23 with a dropshot-rigged True Image mini shaker lemonade worm. She was fishing with Shaun Bailey’s Guide Service in Lake Havasu City.

Sue Nowak of Lake Havasu City with her Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record smallmouth bass.
Sue Nowak of Lake Havasu City with her Colorado River waters hook-and-line state record smallmouth bass.

And so, this catch answers our question from just one month ago: where will the next AZ state record come from?

The smallmouth bass was weighed on an AZGFD certified scale at Bass Tackle Master in Lake Havasu City.  See more about the catch.

Not only have record amounts of rainfall refilled many lakes statewide, giving anglers new areas to target,  some of the biggest bass are usually caught during the spring season.

Here’s some tips:

Bass fishing in AZ: 5 springtime tips

Early-bird spawning activity: head west

havasu
Fishing at Lake Havasu heats up early.

For the next month, try western Arizona lakes such as Alamo, Havasu and Martinez, some of the first Arizona waters to heat up following winter.

Pre-spawn movement typically begins when water temperatures hit 58 degrees — during late February, that’s been about the water temperature at Havasu.

Prefer central Arizona? Some fish already are moving up on beds at Saguaro and Canyon lakes.

Remember: fish will be all stages of a spawn (pre-spawn or staging fish, actual spawning fish, and post-spawn). They don’t spawn at the same time, and will do so from March through June.

Dropshot worm the ticket at Havasu

At Havasu for the next couple weeks, you can’t beat a dropshot-rigged plastic worm. Use nothing heavier than 8-pound fluorocarbon line. Bass have been staging in 14-20 feet of water.

Early season bass: hit a warmwater hideaway

rosybass
Bass fishing can pick up in March at Roosevelt Lake, where a southern sun heats up northern coves.

A southern sun blasts directly on the large, northern coves at Roosevelt Lake. From secondary points in about 10 feet of water, cast a buzzbait or spinnerbait to various shoreline spots.

After covering a lot of water with this technique, switch to a Texas rig and some sort of creature bait like a lizard or craw, flipping to isolated bushes or cover.

“First full moon in March” rule

A full moon can trigger heavy spawning activity.
A full moon can trigger heavy spawning activity.

Simply put, get bassin’ after the first full moon in March. Every year, a heavy wave of spawning activity follows this annual ritual.

Great news for weekend warriors — this year the full moon falls on Sunday, March 12.

Something new for the tackle box:
a yellow bass imitator

Relatively new on the market are crankbaits and swimbaits resembling a yellow bass. Try one at waters such as Saguaro, Apache and Roosevelt on the Salt River-chain that hold high populations of yellow bass.

Now’s the time to grab a fishing license online, 24/7, and get ready for spring bass fishing.

Try these out and get on a great springtime bass bite. Tell us how you do by sending your reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov.

See more about fishing in Arizona

Peoria man catches 21-pound striper Thursday at Lake Pleasant

The first head shake gave it away. This wasn’t a log or boulder David Campbell had hooked Thursday afternoon. Whatever gulped his 1-ounce Kastmaster spoon at Lake Pleasant was alive.

After about 5 minutes of line-peeling action in the Castle Hot Springs area, the fish flashed in the water — it was a big striped bass.

Campbell, of Peoria, brought to our Phoenix headquarters Friday morning a striper that officially weighed 20.92 pounds and was 35 inches long — about 9 pounds short of a state record.

“The fight was sweet,” Campbell said. “It was pulling all the line out because we were trolling. So I told my partner to kick the motor out of gear so we could coast. I said, ‘This is a bull.'”

The inland waters, hook-and-line state record striper weighed  29 pounds, 13.76 ounces (45 1/4 inches). Bob Liddington caught that monster in 2010.

The striper is also a Big Fish of the Year leader:

Lake Pleasant, located in Lake Pleasant Regional Park, is just northwest of Phoenix.
Lake Pleasant, located in Lake Pleasant Regional Park, is just northwest of Phoenix.

The technique

Water conditions: Stained (mossy green), light chop
Tackle: One-ounce Kastmaster spoon, 16-pound Stren MagnaThin line (green color to match the mossy green water)
Water depth: 12-14 feet
Moon phase: Waning  gibbous (third quarter)
Presentation: Trolling at 900 rpms (about 2.5 mph)
Boat: Spectrum 19 1/2-foot

See more about fishing in Arizona

Silver Creek season opener: Wounded U.S. Army veteran finds some healing

Through the peaceful and rhythmic sport of fly fishing, and the tugs of a mighty trout, U.S. Army Veteran Juan Galvez found a bit of healing on Saturday.

During the catch-and-release season opener at Silver Creek, Project Healing Waters took some wounded veterans such as Galvez out to fly fish for some lunker rainbow trout.

Watch Galvez catch fish and tell his story of dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 

Finally, some images from this scenic day at Silver Creek in Show Low:

 

A beautiful day at Silver Creek.
A beautiful day at Silver Creek.
John McKay of Tucson with a monster rainbow trout.
John McKay of Tucson with a monster rainbow trout.
Joshua Sphon of Show Low anglers a fish at Silver Creek in Show Low.
Joshua Spohn of Show Low angles a fish at Silver Creek in Show Low.
Wounded veteran Juan with his big rainbow trout.
Wounded veteran Juan  Galvez with his big rainbow trout.
One of the many trout caught Saturday at the wounded veterans event during the Silver Creek catch-and-release season opener.
One of the many trout caught Saturday at the wounded veterans event during the Silver Creek catch-and-release season opener.

 

Go out and catch some fish at Silver Creek. Read all about the new regulations.

Casting and blasting in Casa Grande is Arizona outdoors heaven

Hunting and fishing in Arizona can be combined into a cast and blast. Casa Grande, Arizona is just one area that can accommodate both sports in one trip.
Hunting and fishing in Arizona can be combined into a cast and blast. Casa Grande, Arizona is just one area that can accommodate both sports in one trip.

 

Rainbow trout had just been stocked into the little pond at Dave White Regional Park in Casa Grande, Ariz. For the first time. Some good dove hunting is also in Casa Grande.

Hmm …

Trout and dove for dinner?

Let’s go.

On Friday, Jan. 8 — just a few days before dove season ended — I set out from Phoenix to this 1-acre pond in Casa Grande,  an hour from Tucson, about 1 1/2 hours from Phoenix, and the newest addition to the Community Fishing Program.

Another cast and blast.  One of the best ways to combine adventure with solitude and a bit of strategy. And maybe even some wild vittles.

As a relative newbie to the blasting side, I would be “winging it.” (Bad pun, but you get what I mean.)  The idea was to catch a quick 2-trout limit from the pond during the early afternoon, hopefully find a local to put me on a nearby dove hole, catch the sundown flights, and get home in time for a freshly “caught-and-shot” meal.

Quail season ends Sunday, Feb. 7, and there are good quail populations in this unit, so although dove season is over until next fall, a hook and bullet trip is still a way to enjoy scenes from water and desert.

Hot trout bite at Dave White Regional Park Pond in Casa Grande

 

Dave White Park is Casa Grande, Ariz. also has playgrounds and restrooms and is safe for family outings.
Dave White Regional Park in Casa Grande, Ariz. also has playgrounds and restrooms and is safe for family outings.

 

A trout bit within 10 minutes — the first got off on a black-and-silver rooster tail, but the next two, running about 10 and 15 inches respectively, took a nightcrawler and corn PowerBait, both on gold No. 12 hooks.

A hook was tied to a 4-pound monofilament leader with a small split-shot (2 feet up from the hook) and 8-pound mono backing on a medium-action spinning outfit. (Tied with uni and, for the backing-to-leader connection, double-uni knots.)

Confusing? Check out our Fishing Basics page.

Quote of the day from a lady: “Are you testing the fish?”

Hadn’t thought of that. “Yeah … I guess you’re right. I’m a fish-tester.”

Anyway, these were some pretty big stocker trout:

 

CasaGrandeTrout

 

For the record — sometimes talking to strangers pays off. (Sorry, Mom.) An employee from the city of Casa Grande, who also keeps the pond in great condition, was generous enough to point me to a nearby agriculture field with rows of mesquites where dove often choose to roost. And fly circles above a wandering shotgun barrel.

Arizona dove hunting: fast, furious, fun

 

This is the “winging it” part. Maybe some other beginning wing-shooters can relate or learn from this experience, similar to my first cast and blast adventure at Bartlett Lake.

Around 3 p.m., dove sightings are few …

CasaGrandeDesert

The next couple hours require flushing and chasing with a 12-gauge Savage pump shotgun.  A few doves flash their wings and seem to stay just outside the ideal range of 15-40 yards for the 7.5-shot, 12-gauge ammo.

Sunset comes, and a pair of quail had baited me into chasing far from the truck, and the roost-worthy mesquites. Heading back, the dove flights pick up. Two mourning doves are in the vest as the sun spits a pink hue on jagged clouds. Doves cruise from left and right and overhead, barely giving their short, chirping warnings before erratically dipping and rising into a dim sky. Turn, aim, blast … and hope for a diving dove.

DoveSunset

The pace quickens. Doves sprinkling onto mesquites like salt onto steak. Adapt to their behavior. No use in spotting a take-off. Walk through open areas a couple dozen yards from the mesquites, and look for open pockets where dove could be shot and responsibly retrieved. Yip-yip-yip … and a head turn and the doves are distant blips.

Late afternoon, dry and cool enough to show puffs of breath, smelling of cold dirt and occasional gun powder smoke. Still-desert sounds — a pulse beating in the ears and lungs belching air. From 3 hours of hiking with gear and stalking prey.  A sudden influx of doves makes the heart sprint. Aiming at those beating, wayward wings. Sunset shots.

A few more doves make their way into the vest, and it cost this hunter a little more than a box of ammo. Legal shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Hunt over. Cheers to the doves — this was every bit of fair chase. Or maybe, for the hunter, unfair chase.

How to eat healthy, wild, fresh

But still it was enough for the first night’s dinner — dove and trout (tossed in a combination of bread crumbs, white corn meal, garlic salt, basil and a little cayenne pepper and sautéed in coconut oil) with homemade broccoli mac ‘n cheese.

Refer back to our Fishing Basics page for filleting and preparing trout.

Easy to prep after a tiring trip, and excellent table fare:

DoveTroutCooked

 

And the next night’s, shredded dove burritos, enchilada-style (dove sautéed in coconut oil with a pinch of cayenne pepper, rolled with refried black beans in a flour tortilla, topped with cheese, green chili and some shredded mixed greens and sour cream):

 

SmoDoveBur

DoveBur

 

In this author’s humble opinion, no better way to eat.

New to hunting and fishing in Arizona? Join the club

 

A few ideas from a beginning “cast-and-blaster”:

  • This type of cast and blast was simple because, by going to a pond and to a nearby field, full equipment didn’t need to be lugged around for one trip. Fish, put the rods and bait away, chuck the fish in the ice chest, drive to the dove spot, strap on the hunting gear and keep the fun going. Easy.
  • A hunting and fishing combination license and a $5 migratory bird stamp take care of all your license requirements in one pop and helps conserve wildlife for future generations.
  • The book “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game” SMallGameBookwritten by our own Watchable Wildlife Program Manager Randall D. Babb, has helped me with the knowledge needed to find, harvest and prepare the small game. My mentor. (Not Randy, necessarily, but he has given me some great tips.) Our publications are sold at all offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Or go online and download an order form. Best way to get started if you can’t find a mentor: read it and do it.
  • The best kept secret in Arizona is hunting and fishing in a state diverse in wildlife and habitat. And even without a meal to end the day, there are still sights and solitude and adventure and camaraderie.The memories can’t fully be described in a blog.
  • One last suggestion: go.

Want to fish and hunt in Arizona? Try both on a “cast ‘n’ blast”

Wondering how to fish and hunt in Arizona -- during the same trip? Therer are many ways, and onw last Wednesday involved Nick Walter, AZGFD public information officer, paddling for a few casts and banking his kayak before heading into the desert for small game.
Wondering how to fish and hunt in Arizona — during the same trip? There are many ways, and one on Wednesday, Nov. 11, involved Nick Walter, AZGFD public information officer, paddling for a few casts and then banking a Tetra Angler 10 kayak before heading into the desert for a small game hunt.

 

Cast ‘n’ blast. It rhymes, so it must be fun, right? On the phone last week with my step brother, who plans on coming into town this weekend, I said that we could always go on a trip to fish and hunt.

“You can do both?” he said with a jolt of energy.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. So then I did.

In one trip, you do a little fishing, a little hunting, and in the case of a solo mission to Bartlett Lake in the Tonto National Forest on Wednesday, Nov. 11, some paddling and hiking and wild game eating.

It’s a Great Outdoors dream. Yet somehow, it’s all real — you’re actually awake while getting to do all this — and such an eclectic trip is available to Arizonans year round.

I’m just finding this out.

A week removed from this fish/hunt, the echo of adventure tingles. For sure one of the best things to do in Arizona.

So for those looking to get into this sport of “cast ‘n blast” or (fin ‘n’ feathers or fur ‘n’ fin — whatever you want to call it), here’s some fishing and hunting cast ‘n’ blast tips from a fellow beginner.

There were a few primary goals:

  • Get some wild harvest, preferably quail
  • Don’t get lost
  • Don’t drop shotgun in the water
  • Don’t drop keys in water
  • Don’t drop anything in the water

Had to head out with my Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler around noon (I own a big dog and can’t leave him home alone too long.)

Fishing for bass was spotty the day after a cold front. The Yellow Cliffs boat ramp is closed, so putting in at the main, Jojoba ramp, I paddled a mile or so northward, crossed the lake, and took a couple dozen fish-less casts with a tube on a 1/8-ounce jighead  (I accidentally left my baby brush hogs and Roboworms at home. The packing list for a cast ‘n’ blast in a kayak is lengthy yet economical).

While casting, though, I thought mostly of blasting, of rocking through the desert with a shotgun and some brand new snake shields. Coupled with a time restraint — I didn’t want to return through the desert in the dark looking for a beached kayak — the focus quickly switched from casting to blasting.

The kayak scraped up the sand. Fully “beached.”

Pulling from a dry storage compartment a bag with hiking boots, a hunting vest, extra socks, and the snake shields (for cacti as much as anything), I  geared up for quail.

Time to dive into desert.

 

Desert darts
Desert darts

 

First, after crossing the first major hill into the desert, I turned and with an iPhone took a picture of the landscape that would be my heading (specifically the higher, double peaks) as I returned. Here’s the picture:

reference

But no quail.

Not even their distinctive, three-syllable “ha-HA-ha” singing in the distance. As the sun began a home-stretch dive  to the horizon, and the primary goal being to stay safe during this initial voyage that was as much of a scouting trip as a hunting adventure, I headed back.

Looking, while negotiating the prickly terrain, for the slightest twitch on the immediate landscape. Ready for rabbit.

Mostly, I was quiet. And focused on food. At this point,  I’d come too far to not return with something fresh, healthy and wild to eat.

A piece of brush went, “wiiish.” Out sprung a cottontail rabbit. In one motion, the Savage 12-gauge pump shotgun dropped from shoulder to chest and the rabbit flashed just below the gun sight and an eruption and spray of 7.5-shot ammunition awoke a desert afternoon.

Clean hit. I picked up the spent shell. And  then the rabbit, which that night became country fried with a side of sweet potato puffs and some regular ol’ tater tots:

 

Bartlett4
A wild harvest sure beats relying on grocery stores

 

A major tool was  “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small SMallGameBookGame” (right) written by our own Watchable Wildlife Program Manager Randall D. Babb. The book has helped introduce me to all things about hunting Arizona’s small game, specifically the appropriate types of shotguns and ammo for various species, and hunting tips for dove and quail and rabbit. (All Arizona’s small game species are covered.) Our publications are sold at all offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Or go online and download an order form. Best way to get started if you can’t find a mentor: read it and do it.

This night, I followed instructions from the book’s diagrams to skin and prepare the rabbit.  As someone who’s new to hunting in Arizona, and has only hunted a dozen times in my 37 years of living, this has been my primary mentor.

You’ll also need to purchase a Combo Hunt & Fish license online, which funds our efforts in conserving wildlife for future generations (a Youth Combo is just $5).

Bartlett Lake
Bartlett Lake

So some takeaways from one of my most exciting outdoors excursions:

  • Consider picking up some “arm floaties” for your shotgun if you’ll be kayaking. Although traditionally cast ‘n’ blasters take a motorized boat. (I managed to keep mine dry.)
  • Make a checklist: there is such a wide variety of tackle and gear needed for a cast ‘n blast: dry containers for hunting gear and ammunition and your wallet or purse, the minimal amount of bait needed if kayaking, ice chest, life jacket, etc.
  • Bring a carabiner for your keys, or hide them somewhere outside your car. Read how I learned my lesson on this one.
  • Consider bringing orange marking tape, and a fully-charged cell phone for pictures, to use as return markers. (Tell a friend before you leave where you’re headed and when you’re expected to return. Going with a partner is preferred.)
  • Invest in snake shields and an anti-venom kit (and First Aid Kit)
  • Bring lots of food, plenty of water (Camelbak hydration packs are handy in the field) and for your fish and game, an ice chest.
  • Check out more information on how to “Cast ‘n blast” from a Sept./Oct. 2007 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine.
  • Oh, the thin strip of “backstrap” rabbit is tasty …  the legs, on the other hand, are probably better stewed.

Fall fishing at Lake Powell an angler’s dream

Arizona Game and Fish Department fishing report editor Nick Walter with a 2-pound smallmouth bass landed in a Wigglin' Minnow top-water lure.
Arizona Game and Fish Department fishing report editor Nick Walter with a 2-pound smallmouth bass landed on a Wigglin’ Minnow top-water lure.

 

Fall fishing at Lake Powell. Perfect air and water temperatures, bass rising to the surface for boiling shad, your top-water lures drawing monster strikes. And scenery that’s part Mars, part red-rock cathedral.

This lake, with more than 1,800 miles of shoreline, is a geological and fishing wonder. During fall, boat rental prices drop, and there are plenty of nearby hotel accommodations ranging from cheap to luxury. It’s well worth any driving distance to Page.

See for yourself the in this video from a Oct. 9 fishing trip with Wayne Gustaveson, who has fished the lake 41 years and is the primary fisheries biologist at Lake Powell for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

 

History of Lake Powell’s finest fishing report

In 1995, Gustaveson began writing a fishing report targeted at helping reduce the population of invasive striped bass. The report began as a hard-copy version that he passed out at boat ramps. By 2000, the report went online at http://www.wayneswords.com.

“We have a striped bass population that is doing too well. There’s too many fish,” Gustaveson said. “I thought, ‘We have too many striped bass, but we also have 3 million people who visit Lake Powell every year. So if I can send  one fish home with each one of those guys, then we’d have 3 million less striped bass in the lake.’ So I  started doing fishing reports telling people where to go, what to use, how to do it, and hopefully they’d harvest striped bass. It’s worked out very well for us.”

Wayne Gustaveson
Wayne Gustaveson

This excellent report written by the man who has fished the lake 41 years is now the go-to report for anyone who wants success at Powell.

The memories and photos from Lake Powell make this a destination that lasts. Be sure to purchase your fishing license online before heading to Powell or to any of Arizona’s fishing waters.

Lake Powell at daybreak
Lake Powell at daybreak

Fishing in a county pool? AZGFD clinic one way to learn how to fish Arizona

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Sitting on the dock of the … swimming pool

AJO — Learning how to fish in Arizona can be easy. Hit the water on your own, find a mentor, join a fishing club. Or let the Arizona Game and Fish Department give you free hands-on advice. AZGFD wants to teach — even if that means delivering catfish to a county swimming pool in the middle of the Sonoran desert.

It’s not easy fishing in Ajo, Arizona, located 43 miles from the Mexican border, and a 2 1/2-hour drive away from Tucson or Yuma. The only real fishing hole is the Gila Bend canal off S.R. 85. The Department-hosted, free fishing clinic Sept. 26 in Ajo that was slammed with anglers is just one of an ongoing assortment of free statewide fishing clinics. See the full schedule through November.

“This was something they never thought they’d see in Ajo,” said Merrill Meadows, a park manager for Pima Country Natural Resources.”Ajo’s out in the middle of the Sonoran desert; we get maybe 8-9 inches of water per year. Fishing in a county swimming pool is not something that’s typically done elsewhere. Or anywhere.”

Fish, swim — but don’t let Mr. Whiskers tickle your feet. This was, in a sense, a once-in-25-year event. The Ajo Pool in Bud Walker Park is about to undergo resurfacing, a project that tends to take place every quarter century.

AjoFishingBest

The channel catfish stayed deep, milling in and around plants and plastic buckets, hovering in the cooler, deeper end. About 200 registered. A few kids showed up an hour early on their bicycles, asking if they’d be able to bring fish home to eat (for this event, they did.) They asked what they needed, and like at most AZGFD fishing clinics, loaner rods and reels and bait were provided. No license is needed during clinic hours to those who register.

The kids asked when the event would begin.

“Then all three started talking at once,” said Marci Alderman, AZGFD Sport Fishing Education Coordinator. “Everyone was super-excited. I wasn’t joking when I said it seemed like the whole town showed up.”

AjoStickers

Continued tips on how to fish Arizona

After attending an AZGFD fishing clinic, continue following the Fish AZ blog, or head to the AZGFD fishing page for information and maps on where and how to “Fish AZ.”