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
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
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
Easy to prep after a tiring trip, and excellent table fare:
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):
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.
The book “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game” written 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
A major tool was “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game” (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.
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.
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. 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.”
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 onlinebefore heading to Powell or to any of Arizona’s fishing waters.
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.
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.”
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.”
Some misspell them, “strippers.” True enough, they are just that: strippers of line.
Today, though, we’ll be talking about stripers.
Just northwest of Phoenix, the striped bass fishery is buzzing. Lake Pleasantis a haven for these linesiders, known for their line-stripping potential, excellent table fare (their mild, white meat is great for fish tacos) and, under special regulations at this 9,500-lake, no bag limit.
Great to eat. No bag limit.
Yep, and this type of fishing is suitable for men and women, great-grandparents and children.
So during the next month or so, here’s one way to catch these feisty fighters.
Summer and early fall striper fishing at Lake Pleasant, Arizona
Fishing at night is usually the best option during the summer and early fall. The process can be simple: submersible lights below the boat at Lake Pleasant (above) attract tiny shad, and the shad attract the predatory striped bass. The green-tinted surface shows juvenile stripers chasing and flashing and dicing balls of one-inch shad. Nature’s aquarium.
A key is to find darkness. Again, fish at night. And away from full moons and removed from other boaters who are dropping submersible lights. Check asolunar calendar before heading out.
On Friday, Sept. 18, multiple boats — 13 in an 80-yard radius — flashed their green submersible lights. Coupled with red-and-yellow lights streaking off the dam, the scene hinted at Christmas:
It also meant the lights weren’t as effective because, in this scenario, the shad disperse among the additional light. Anglers want them congregated. Find a lonely cove on a new-to-quarter moon. Corner the shad market.
Boat anglers can head out with medium-action spinning rods filled with 12-pound fluorocarbon line (or monofilament to save some money.) Rig up a dropshot with No. 2 baitholder or circle hooks and 1/2-ounce weights. Do not set the hook with circle hooks; baitholder hooks, on the other hand, will allow the angler to set the hook, an advantage with light, bait-thieving bites.
Also pick up some anchovies (the north Phoenix Sportsman’s Warehouse and most WalMarts have them) and keep them frozen in an ice chest. Head out to 50 to 100 feet of water and lower the submersible lights, chum the waters with bits of anchovies, kick back, and tell your fishing buddy a couple old line-soaking stories (true or not) as the food chain under the boat forms like bubbles into foam.
In general, quality stripers tend to suspend right off the bottom, and aggressive, smaller fish around the middle of the water column.
Monitor the fish finder for the indications of fish. If you’re fishing from a kayak/canoe, cover a lot of water until you find the bite.
Cut one-inch sections of anchovies (frozen anchovies stay on the hook much longer). Hook a piece anchovy through one side of the skin, rotate the hook 180 degrees, and hook it back through the anchovy. If your fish finder is marking fish at, say, 30 feet, or on the bottom, drop the rig into the water, counting the seconds it takes for the bait to get into the target area. Keep that count in your mind — once you’ve found the depth of the fish, it’ll be time to figure out the next number on the fish-finding combination: the bite and hook-set.
“One is the ‘dink, dink dink,’ really weak bites: these guys are master thieves at getting anchovies off. The second is where you get two feet of slack (in your line). They’re coming up, so you’ve got to reel in the slack and whack them. The third bite is your rods just bends.”
Arizona fishing offers more than just striper action at Lake Pleasant, so see our www.azgfd.gov fishing page for a mixed bag of resources, such as stocking schedules, maps of our top fisheries (including access points to Lake Pleasant), and details of where to fish.
Mmm … fish tacos
Stripers make for great fish tacos because of their mild, flaky, white meat, and medium texture. Also, the average-sized striper (10-12 inches) naturally fits into taco shells. If anything were meant to be …
And here’s why: once an angler fillets a striper, he or she should cut out the blood line along the center. With average stripers, that leaves two strips tailor-made to relax in those crunchy or soft, curved-corn delicacies.
Here one way to prepare them: dip the fillets in an egg wash and roll ‘em a bed of white corn meal and either Panko bread crumbs or your favorite spices (I used a creole seasoning). Heat vegetable oil (enough in the pan so the fillets float) to the point that a pinch of corn meal flicked into the oil will sizzle. Fry for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets.
Fish tacos can be as simple as adding your favorite salsa and greens. Simple can be delicious.
As head we deeper into fall, expect successful striper techniques to involve jigs and swimbaits. Stay tuned to this blog for updates. Also, the Arizona Striper Fishing Facebook page has a helpful article on jigging for stripers.
In the end, whether you’re catching stripers or “strippers,” the result is the same: lots of action, unlimited bag limits, and local, organic fish.
How can you catch multiple species of bass as well as a mixed bag of bluegill and catfish?
Jig a nightcrawler. But you already knew that. Right?
How to fish Arizona-style for multiple species
Here’s the rig Troy Ackerman of Cottonwood used on Tuesday, July 28 to catch a 1.44-pound slab of a redear/green sunfish hybrid, as well as bass and catfish, from Lake Pleasant: An outfit comprised of a flexible, medium-action 8-foot-6 Eagle Claw rod with a standard spinning reel, 6-pound monofilament test line and a 1/8 ounce leadhead jig (shaped like a pencil bobber) with a nightcrawler.
Slide the nightcrawler all the way onto the jig, which is bounced along the bottom in this pattern: jig, reel in the slack, wait for the bite as the jig is falling, and repeat the process.
Ackerman and a friend said they catch all the aforementioned species using this rig. The Eagle Claw rod and reel outfit can be purchased at Big 5 Sports for around $60 and the jigs are available at Walmart.
Many stripers had likely fed during a full moon on masses of creeping crawdads. But trolling choppy water that had ideal temperatures of 72-75 degrees, the Striper Snatcher still targeted schooling fish with 3 1/2-inch paddletail swimbaits on 1/4-ounce darterheads with 10-pound fluorocarbon line on ultralight spinning outfits:
Franks, a licensed professional fishing guide, dyes his clear paddle tail baits with these pink/purple/green hues to mimic the purple the shad fry have been glowing. That said, for the next 2-3 months, he recommends throwing 2-inch swimbaits on 1/8-ounce jigheads — the fry we spotted were around that size.
We trolled at about 2 mph.
The schools of stripers cooperated. In this video, Franks lands an average-size striper of about 12 inches — a perfect eating size. The daily bag limit of stripers is unlimited at Lake Pleasant.
“The water temperature is starting to warm up,” Franks said. “This lake has changed so much depth-wise this year. We’re actually 8 feet higher than this time last year and that affects the water temperature significantly. So that delayed the spring-time pattern a bit.”
Anglers also can target the big stripers, largemouth bass and white bass on points, ledges and brush off windblown shorelines.
All told, a party of three caught about 15 stripers — keeping 11 — weighing up to 3 pounds. We fished from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (the full moon had not yet taken a peek at the lake.)
Anglers who need a license can purchase one online and help conserve wildlife for future generations.
Undulating water that rippled across Canyon Lake in early November, gently rocking the kayak, was felt from head to hips.
Paddling a new Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler for the first time, and during what was this angler’s first time fishing this desert dandy, made for excitement that filled the head and heart with ideas of possible thrills — catching a monster largemouth bass on a 6-inch rainbow trout swimbait, carving open water, and endless other adventures.
Losing the truck keys, however, wasn’t supposed to be one of them.
A community of paddlers and anglers
A “thank you” is in order. Four gracious (and sympathetic) kayakers offered this nearly stranded stranger, who somewhere among kayaking excitement lost the truck keys, a ride from the Salt River-chain lake in the Tonto National Forest to their mobile home in Mesa.
Then, a party invitation. A full moon bash would be happening that night at the swimming pool of their 55-and-over senior community. Karaoke, conversation and wine. “Wow, this is turning out OK,” I thought.
The lesson: fishing can be the doorway to any adventure.
All you need is to purchase a license, some tackle and poles, and maybe a kayak, which is cheaper and more stealthy than a boat. Fish rarely are spooked by a ‘yak — it’s cheating.
But one tip: keep your keys. Consider carrying a carabiner. Or even sign up for one of our free paddling classes — call 623-236-7219 for information.
Anyway, the party didn’t happen — this writer was able to find a ride from the senior community back to his north Phoenix home. But still in order was a cold Bud Light and some macaroni and cheese at the courteous kayakers’ Mesa mobile home. Almost made up for not catching a lunker bass.
What did redeem this whole mess two days later? Four, fresh fish tacos.
Fishing trout swimbaits at Canyon Lake, Arizona
Canyon Lake is the “land of lunkers,” and after our first winter rainbow trout stocking, some ambitious anglers begin to throw big rainbow trout swimbaits (usually 4-10 inches) in an attempt to catch one of those plus-size bass that occasionally feed on trout.
It can be absolute hit-and-miss fishing; maybe an angler can catch one during two or three full day trips.
No luck this day. Didn’t sound like any other anglers fishing the Boulder Creek area that day had big bass luck, either. But one pesky bass was on the full moon feed.
The setup for monster bass included a 6-inch Huddleston rainbow trout swimbait tied with a uni-knot to 50 yards of 17-pound Stren fluorocarbon line (a roll of 200 yards was just $13 at Sportsman’s Warehouse), connected with a double uni-knot to 20-pound braided line as backing. Go with a medium-heavy action rod of at least 7 feet. Purchasing components for this rig is like buying a really expensive scratch ticket (but a lot more fun.)
Fishing from a kayak on such an expansive and deep lake, and it being this angler’s first time at Canyon Lake, trolling a spoon or crankbait and the swimbait from the kayak’s two rod holders seemed to be the most effective method to cover water and possibly figure out a pattern or location of congregated fish. (Tip: put one line out about 10 yards farther than the other to avoid lines crossing.)
The 10 1/2-foot Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler, a sit-on-top, is narrow and weighs only 50 pounds, and so is easy to transport. Stealthy and smooth on the water, it’s designed for those with small-to-medium builds (the kayak has a weight capacity of 225-275 pounds.) Well worth buying if on clearance or marked down on craigslist.
Trolling from this ‘yak with a 3-inch, orange-and-silver Kamlooper spoon produced the above 13-inch largemouth bass around 2 p.m. in about 20 feet of water in Boulder Creek near the fishing pier.
The bass skyrocketed from the water four or five times, a memory-making sight.
Then, Mr. Bass went from the water to the table.
Taco time (bass, not beans)
Two days later, the bass was filleted into 1/2-inch wide chunks, soaked in cold water, rolled in white corn meal, and fried in a shallow amount of peanut oil …
… then laid to rest on paper towels and sprinkled with salt and pepper …
… then finally dropped into plus-size corn tacos shells (25-percent larger!) along with shreds of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese and homemade medium salsa (thanks, the mom of Mary from Game and Fish). Few ingredients helped highlight a fresh fish taste.