Category Archives: News

Year of the Big Fish: 5 record certification tips for your next big catch

The Chinese Zodiak says 2017 is the year of the Rooster. We say it’s the year of the Big Fish.

There was a state record smallmouth bass catch from Lake Havasu in February, a channel catfish record from Upper Lake Mary in March, and even rumors coming out of Canyon Lake of a world record largemouth bass and even a man-sized catfish (which we just helped 12 News debunk).

As far as certified catches, the list goes on with all the Big Fish of the Year entries.

Question is: if and when you catch that state record fish, or Big Fish of the Year entry, what’s the best way to get the fish weighed and certified?

Glad you asked.

Five Fish AZ record certification tips

  1. Know locations of fish weighing scales. We have a list in our regulations (bookmark pg. 42 of the 2017-18 Fishing Regulations, and see below). Anglers also might give their local grocery store a call to see if a frozen food department will weigh wild fish. If possible, get the fish weighed soon after it’s caught. Note that Kilmer’s Kounty Corner outside of Globe has since gone out of business.
    * Kilmer’s Kounty Corner outside of Globe has since gone out of business.

     

  2. If you caught that record fish and plan on having it weighed within 24 hours, the best way to keep it fresh and at a maximum weight is keeping it immersed in ice. Storing the fish in the refrigerator overnight also is a decent option.
  3. Freezing a fish can make the fish lose a bit of weight, but may be the best option if you can’t get to a weighing scale within a day.
  4. Catch and release records require a clear photo verifying the species and length that must be included with an entry form (pg. 42 of fishing regulations booklet). The picture must include a tape measure, ruler or other measuring device next to the fish in the photograph. Entries cannot be considered without a measuring device in the photograph.
  5. Be familiar with any special regulations at your fishery to see if a certain fish species may legally be kept, or if it would be better to submit a catch-and-release record. We have a Special Regulations map to easily help sort this out.

Time to chase tiger trout records

At Willow Springs and Woods Canyon lakes, try Kastmasters, small Rapalas, Panther Martin spinners, or flies for tiger trout.

Heading into the summer, it’s an excellent time to keep cool and try and catch a state record tiger trout.

On March 27, Roger Thompson of Concho caught the above catch-and-keep tiger trout Big Fish of the Year from Carnero Lake. This dandy tiger went 15.4 inches and 1.49 pounds. There are special regulations at Carnero.

In addition to Carnero, the Department has stocked tigers into Becker Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Willow Springs Lake and, for the first time, Marshall Lake.

Quarter-million extra fish

Community Fishing Program Specialist Joann Hill stocks channel catfish into Cortez Lake in Phoenix.

By now you’ve probably heard that by the end of July, the Department will have stocked an additional quarter-million fish into waters statewide. For another couple weeks, those fish are still pouring into some of your favorite honey holes. Grab a license online, 24/7, and Fish AZ.

See more about fishing in Arizona

Tiger trout arrive in Flagstaff

Marshall Lake

Tiger trout have arrived in the Flagstaff region. Today, tiger trout ranging from 5-10 inches were stocked into Marshall Lake, located 15 miles southeast of Flagstaff. It’s the first time Marshall”s been stocked since 2010.

Another load of tiger trout arrive tomorrow at this watchable wildlife wetland that is great for paddling but not so great for shore angling because of its thick vegetation. Only motors that are electric, or 10hp or less, are allowed.

If water quality continues to be good through the summer, we expect these tigers to grow about an inch per month.

Go catch a tiger!

Homes for fish: habitat improvement project underway at Roosevelt Lake

In first phase of long-term project on Tonto National Forest lakes, AZGFD biologists sink fish habitat structures

Habitat is dropped into Roosevelt Lake Thursday, April 20.

PHOENIX – They are manmade homes for fish, some made of concrete, others of PVC, and like building a neighborhood, provide the architecture for sustainable life.

The first step in placing fish habitat into the  central Arizona reservoirs took place on Thursday, April 20 at Roosevelt Lake with Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists dropping Fishiding HighRise structures made of environmentally-safe PVC  to the bottom of Roosevelt Lake. These recycled items, 8 feet tall and excellent habitat for crappie, became the first fish homes. AZGFD plans to expand them into fish cities.

For anglers, this Tonto National Forest Lakes Habitat Improvement Project will result in better fishing for generations to come in the region’s most popular fishing lakes.

Ongoing improvements to Rosy

Also in April, Roosevelt Lake was stocked with 12,000 crappie fingerlings, as well as 25,000 4-inch Florida-strain largemouth bass for the third consecutive year. Roosevelt Lake also is above 70-percent full for the first time since October of 2011. The higher water level has flooded shoreline brush that provides more cover and habitat for spawning fish. The fish habitat improvement project includes placing multiple types of fish habitat around the lake at varied depths to ensure there is plenty of fish habitat available for when water level fluctuates.

Similar work is planned for other lakes along the Salt River chain and Bartlett Lake. The next planned step involves AZGFD biologists using a 36-foot pontoon boat to transport and lower heavier concrete fish habitat structures — critical to anglers’ fishing opportunities — into Roosevelt Lake.

Working OT for better fishing

This fish habitat project is a cooperative effort with numerous anglers, as well as volunteers from organizations such as Gila Basin Angler Roundtable and Midweek Bass Anglers. Supporting agency partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, Tonto National Forest, and the National Fish Habitat Partnership-Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership. Volunteers have been helping build concrete fish balls and Georgia cubes for two years and have donated hundreds of hours to the project.

Fishiding HighRise structures are made of environmentally-safe PVC and are excellent habitat for crappie.

Natural and artificial habitat are critical for fish spawning, recruitment, and growth. The reservoirs of central Arizona lack sufficient hiding and ambush cover and habitat for growth and survival of young fish. The artificial structures provide a surface for microscopic animals to grow, which attracts bait fish and in turn the predatory fish for anglers to target.

Background: a return to glory

Fishing is one of Arizona’s most popular outdoor activities. Providing good places for anglers to fish is one of AZGFD’s primary goals. Five of the biggest and most popular lakes to fish are located in central Arizona and are managed by Salt River Project for the valley’s water supply: Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, and Bartlett Lake.

In 2014 the Department embarked on a program to improve fisheries habitat in the reservoirs of central Arizona and restore the fisheries to their former glory days. All five of these lakes are more than 70 years old, and Roosevelt Lake is more than 100 years old. Over time, reservoirs lose quality fish habitat through decomposition of the natural vegetation that was flooded, particularly where water levels fluctuate wildly, such as at Roosevelt.

Similarly, one of the largest and most successful fish habitat projects in the nation, the Lake Havasu Fishery Improvement Program, has been ongoing since 1993 and is credited with improving sport fish habitat in this Colorado River reservoir.

The Tonto National Forest is the land management agency for five of the biggest and busiest fishing lakes in Arizona. In 2013, the economic value to the state of Arizona associated with these five lakes was estimated to be more than $318 million.

See more about fishing in Arizona.

Spring fishing has arrived in northern Arizona

Now is the time to get the tackle box ready, grab the fishing rods, and explore northern Arizona for some spring fishing.

Typically by late May or early June, as temperatures warm up and lake levels drop, water quality diminishes and conditions will be unsuitable for stocking fish.

Bass, pike, catfish, and crappie fishing are the best during the summer — but now is the ideal time for trout fishing. Get up there while you can.

Stocking trucks from Page Springs Hatchery have been loading up trout into Flagstaff/Williams regional waters the past few weeks.

Fishing at Lower Lake Mary is refreshing and trout fishing opportunities are abundant.

Top 5 spots to fish near Flagstaff and Williams

(All are being stocked with trout):

  1. Upper and Lower Mary lakes. A state record channel catfish was caught from Upper Lake Mary, and trout fishing can be good at Lower Lake Mary.  Upper Lake Mary is full.  Lower lake Mary is half full and has more water in it than has been seen in 7 years. See more information from Coconino County on fees and hours of operation at Lower Mary.
  2. Ashurst Lake. Ashurst  is full and the road is open. The water in the lake is relatively clear so try fishing with lures for the fresh stockers. With the low water level of the lake prior to the spring runoff many fish may not have survived the winter.
  3. Frances Short Pond. Anglers have been catching fish using flies and lures.  Some have also been caught using corn and worms.  A recent load of trout included some trout measuring more than 14 inches.
  4. Kaibab Lake. The lake is full and spilling for the first time in years. When muddy, try small silver or gold lures for trout.
  5. Dogtown Reservoir. This 50-acre lake in the Kaibab National Forest can be one of the best bets for a high country Arizona trout fishing adventure. Some experienced anglers can catch plump winter holdovers. Effective baits are PowerBait, small spinners, and wet flies such as bead-headed prince nymphs and zug bugs. Make sure the spinners are small — no heavier than 1/8 of an ounce. Some anglers can have success slow-trolling spinners. (There are special regulations at Dogtown: the limit is six trout, two bass at a minimum size of 13 inches, and a limit of four channel catfish). Electric-only motors are allowed.

 

Grab your gear and your fishing license and get ready for a pine-scented weekend!

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.

Free “hook to plate” clinic April 22 at Silverbell Lake in Tucson

TUCSON – Catching, cleaning and cooking fish – it’s a sustainable and healthy process of getting food. The Arizona Game and Fish Department and Seis Kitchen and Catering want to show you how to do it all at a “Fishing for Sustainability” event during the morning of Saturday, April 22 at Silverbell Lake in Tucson.

This “hook to plate” event for beginning and experienced anglers is the first event of its kind offered by AZGFD.

Catching: the start of the adventure

 

For those who register during event hours of 8 a.m. to noon, no license is required and bait and loaner rods are available. Staff from the AZGFD’s Tucson office and Sport Fishing Education Program, as well as certified angler volunteer instructors, will give angling tips. Channel catfish will have been stocked. Ever felt the bouncing tugs of a fish at the end of your line?

Cleaning: a life-sustaining skill

An AZGFD expert will be on-hand for filleting demonstrations, as well as showing how to properly handle, euthanize and clean fish. Learn a unique and valuable life skill.

Cooking: learn from the pros

Seis Kitchen and Catering will be hosting two fish cooking demonstrations. Cooking demos will occur at 9:30 a.m. and again at 11 a.m. Come learn how to take your catch from the “hook to plate” for a delicious, locally-sourced food source that is sustainably-produced.

Silverbell Lake is located in Christopher Columbus Park on 4600 North Silverbell Road.  The event will be staged from Ramada 4.

For more information, contact the AZGFD Sport Fishing Education Program at 623-236-7240.

Also, see a list of upcoming fishing clinics statewide, or visit azgfd.gov.

Full fishing report has moved to azgfd.gov

The full weekly fishing report, which includes any regional updates, has changed locations. Please visit www.azgfd.gov and look under “News” for the latest reports.

Because of a software upgrade, the reports no longer will be posted here: http://www.azgfd.net/artman/publish/FishingReport/

Also, consider signing up to receive fishing reports via email as soon as they go out.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department also social media channels to follow on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Glendale fishing clinic to give away up to 1,000 youth licenses

Bonsall Park

PHOENIX – As many as one thousand youth hunt/fish licenses will be given away free of charge at the third annual “Hook a Kid on Fishing” event on Saturday, April 8 at Bonsall  Park in Glendale. The annual event was organized by Glendale City Councilmember Jamie Aldama in cooperation with the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, which will be sponsoring the giveaway of youth licenses.

The giveaway coincides with a free fishing clinic  — loaner rods will be available, no license is required, and bait will be provided. Licenses will go to the first 1,000 youth ages 10-17 during the event at Bonsall Park. Register on-site during clinic hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re excited to have an opportunity to give kids a window into the world of fishing,” Arizona Game and Fish Department Community Fishing Program Manager Scott Gurtin said. “This will be a great community event and the fishing should be excellent.”

Bluegill and catfish will be stocked (more than four times the regular amount of catfish), and the free licenses will be valid for 365 days of fishing and hunting. Grab your kids and come on out.

Bonsall Park is located at 5840 W. Bethany Home Rd. (59th Ave. and Bethany Home Rd.) in Glendale.

A drenched desert: slideshow from a wet and messy week

Well this has been some kind of wet and sloppy week, right?

Tempe Town Lake has reopened once again, and at most desert impoundments, rivers and creeks statewide, run-off and high flows shook our desert fisheries into a sliding chocolate milkshake.

This slideshow begins with a kayaker at Phon D. Sutton on the Lower Salt River, heads to Stewart Mountain Dam, and ends with sights from Tempe Town Lake.


CREDIT: George Andrejko/AZGFD

 

Fishing will only pick up from here, folks. Grab your gear, a license online, 24/7 if you need one, and “Fish AZ.”

How was your wet and messy week? Catch any fish? Chat us up in the comments below.

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