Our state fish is coming back where it belongs — in the lakes and streams of our White Mountains.
Stockings of Apache trout, one of two trout native to Arizona, are returning by May.
We are scheduled to stock around 55,000 Apache trout of a catchable size from our Silver Creek Hatchery (in video below) from May through September. Stockings could not occur in 2017 due to federal hatcheries having tested positive for Bacteria Kidney Disease (BKD). The state relies on federal hatcheries to supply the eggs necessary to raise Apache trout.
This year, we’re expecting this year to receive about 200,000 Apache trout eggs.
AZGFD has around 100,000 Apache trout eggs (BKD free) at its Tonto Creek Hatchery that came from Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery and are scheduled to be stocked next year.
Where to find “Oncorhynchus apache”
AZGFD typically stocks Apache trout into Lee Valley Reservoir, East Fork of the Black River, West Fork of the Black River (campground), West Fork of the Little Colorado River at Sheep Crossing (below Mt. Baldy), West Fork of the Little Colorado River in Greer, and Upper Silver Creek.
Apache trout can be caught by a variety of methods, including wet or dry flies, small lures, or natural baits, in either lakes or streams. Artificial flies produce the best results. Best natural baits tend to be worms or grasshoppers.
Unless you’re brand new to boating, chances are you’ve been through a boat inspection in the western U.S., or seen messaging such as “Clean, Drain, Dry” and “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers.”
The days of transporting your boat haphazardly from water to water without a care are a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop enjoying your favorite spots or exploring new places.
A new threat: Recreational boating main pathway for AIS
Many freshwater systems in the western U.S. are under threat from non-native invasive species of plants and animals that have been slowly taking over. These invasive species can clog up pipes that deliver water to municipal and agricultural water supplies, alter ecosystems that fisheries rely on, and damage watercraft and recreational equipment. These species have no natural predators or disease outside of their native range, and are often able to outcompete native species for nutrients and space, eventually overtaking the ecosystem.
Many of these harmful species were originally transported to the U.S. through shipping and air trade; however, the main pathway spreading these species now is recreational boating.
Aquatic plants and animals can’t survive long periods of time out of water, so it is imperative to thoroughly Clean, Drain, and Drywatercraft and equipment that comes in contact with water in between each and every use. While aquatic species cannot survive indefinitely out of the water, some species such as New Zealand mudsnails and quagga or zebra mussels can survive for weeks at a time under the right conditions.
Boat inspections: a few minutes can save a waterway
Boat inspections provide an additional level of protection for the lakes and reservoirs that we love. Trained inspectors can quickly identify potential threats, and if necessary, decontaminate any areas or equipment on a boat safely and effectively to eliminate the threat of moving an invasive species.
Keeping invasive species from spreading to other lakes and reservoirs and preventing new introductions requires active participation from boaters, agencies and the boating industry. Together, we can ensure healthy lakes, reservoirs and streams for our enjoyment, and preservation for future generations. It only takes a few minutes. Remember, with great boating comes great responsibility.
In Arizona, winter doesn’t have to mean sending boats and rods and reels into hibernation. While outdoor recreation opportunities across many U.S. states shut down during the season of freeze, Arizona rolls on with trout stockings and water temperatures just warm enough to convince fish to bite during the holidays.
Although fishing tends to slow a tad this time of the year, there are some spots that are winter-friendly.
Here, then, are the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s top-5 fishing holes for this winter. AZGFD staff determined rankings based on angler reports, historical winter fishing opportunities, and recent survey data.
Not only does Parker Canyon Lake in southern Arizona have great access with an abundance of shoreline options, its water temperatures remain cold enough to keep trout active throughout the day — not just during the late evening and early mornings.
This stretch of the lower Colorado River in Bullhead City is excellent for trout fishing and can produce some big striped bass. Trout are being stocked monthly. Meal worms, nightcrawlers and PowerBait are effective baits for trout near the stocking sites.
Anglers get the unique experience of stream fishing for trout in the desert. The Lower Salt River, just minutes from some of the Valley of the Sun’s population centers, is stocked with trout throughout the winter and offers good shoreline fishing options as well.A Tonto Pass is required.
Try nightcrawlers, small spinners, Kastmasters and flies. You might be able to catch some bass or sunfish in the deeper holes.
Alamo is a western Arizona dandy that can heat up quickly during the winter. At any given time from Nov. – Feb., Alamo can have some of the best crappie fishing in the state.
The black crappie fishing should be excellent: Few were caught/harvested last year due to rising and particularly stained water. Those fish should be bigger and more plentiful than the previous years and will hopefully provide some amazing fishing.
Tell us your favorite AZ winter fishin’ spots in the comments!
He’s the line-ripping, whisker-faced fish with a helmet of steel. Just in time for the return of football season, fall weather, and dove hunting, channel catfish make their return to Community Fishing Program waters.
Along with the first catfish stocking of the fall season, we’ll be unveiling a pair of additions to the Community Fishing Program:
Show Low Creek
Located just downstream of Show Low Lake, we’re scheduled to stock this scenic, high country creek with trout in September. (And there’s even a disc golf course nearby.)
The new addition to the Community Fishing Program is the meadow portion of the creek, downstream of Show Low Lake approximately 3 miles, starting near the Hampton Inn & Suites, and running downstream through the large open meadow to the foot bridge at Show Low Bluff Trail.
Trout will be the primary species and stocking is scheduled to occur during September, October, November, March, and April. Catfish and sunfish will be stocked at least once during the summer months when the temperatures are too warm for trout.
Note that catfish aren’t planned to be stocked into Show Low Creek until next summer.
Greenfield Pond (Mesa)
Located just north of Water Ranch Lake in Gilbert, Greenfield will be stocked with catfish for the first time in November.
Until then we’ll just be stocking forage fish into the pond to serve as a food base for the catfish. Basically, the pond is open to fishing in November.
How to catch Community Fishing Program catfish
First of all, all fishing and combo licenses allow the angler to fish with two poles or lines simultaneously (more than two poles may not be used at the same time). So try a couple different baits and stick to what works.
Worms, stink baits, hot dogs, liver and shrimp (anglers can get uncooked saltwater shrimp from some discount stores) all have been known to catch cats.
Pick up a Community Fishing Program guidebook at all AZGFD offices, and grab a licenseonline (Community licenses are $24, valid for 365 days from the date of purchase and conserve wildlife for future generations).
Family fishing and camping during summers in Arizona can produce some of the best memories life can spawn.
What makes for good camping and fishing during triple-digit months of desert sweat? Escaping to the high country for a ton of stocked or self-sustaining fish, quality camping amenities, and scenery that’s as cool as the air temps.
Be safe with summer monsoon storms — get off the water when you hear lightning, watch out for flash flooding, and don’t forget to bring a few extra layers and a rain jacket to stay comfortable in the mountain cold.
OK, here is our top-5 list of family camping and fishing spots. Do you agree?
5. Kaibab Lake
This family-friendly camping area is a few miles from Williams and an hour’s drive from the Grand Canyon to the north.
Anglers are still catching a few trout on a variety of colors of PowerBait with the best fishing being early in the morning. Try taking kids to catch crappie around the fishing dock on yellow or orange mini-jigs.
Directions: From Flagstaff, take I-40 west to Exit 165; turn north onto AZ 64 and go about 2 miles to the campground entrance on your left. Paved and all-weather gravel roads are suitable for passenger cars (but in winter may be closed at times because of snow).See a Google map.
4. Show Low Lake (and Show Low Creek)
Possibly the state’s premier walleye fishery. Has a year-round concession with 75 campsites (seven have electric hook-ups). New facility improvements, including a new fish cleaning station, restrooms, stairs from the upper parking lot down to the boat launch, and ADA boat trailer parking are now open.
Like Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low lake and creek are great for putting the family on trout, sunfish and crawdads. In addition to the premier walleye, the lake also has smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill, and is stocked regularly through the summer with 12-inch rainbow trout. Kids can catch sunfish from the fishing piers or among the rocks along the dam with a small hook and piece of worm.
Directions: From Show Low, take Show Low Road southeast one mile from Highway 260. See a Google map.
3. Fool Hollow Lake
An excellent fishery for getting the family into the outdoors and onto sunfish and mudbugs (crawdads). Has excellent family-fishing amenities such as clean and spacious campgrounds, picnic areas and fishing piers.
Kids can catch sunfish off piers and over rocky shoreline areas using No. 12 hooks and small pieces of worms. Crawdads can be trapped here as well. Read moreabout how to catch both.
The lake has self-sustaining populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish, walleye, carp, catfish, black crappie and black bullhead that are easy for kids to catch (try a simple worm on the bottom). Fishing also is good for 12-inch stocked rainbow trout — try fishing at least 10 feet deep.
Directions:Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area is located in east-central Arizona, two miles north of US 60 off Highway 260 in Show Low. See a Google map.
2. Woods Canyon Lake
A family fishing mecca. Woods has been stocked with tiger trout, and along with nearby Willow Springs Lake, is scheduled to be loaded with rainbow trout weekly.
For families who aren’t in to camping in a tent or camper during the summer monsoon storms, the closest lodging is at Forest Lakes Lodge, just 11 1/2 miles away on Highway 260.
A little tip: refuel your automobile at the Rim Resort Filling Station, just a mile east of the Forest Lakes Lodge on Hwy 260. Call 928-535-9682 to ensure it’s open.
At this small town station, the pumps are “old school”:
Back to fishing. For a novice angler – or for a kid’s first fish – try putting a small piece of a worm on a small hook (No. 12 or smaller) and dangle it in shallow water between rocks for sunfish. Don’t forget about catching crawdads, too.
The best bet for anglers with boats or kayaks (the Woods Canyon Lake Store has boat and canoe/kayak rentals and necessary camping amenities) is to hit the water just before sunrise and troll, or slowly work, small in-line spinners 15 feet deep. Any deeper, and you’re typically fishing below the thermocline where during the summer there is no oxygen.
Anglers could have no problems getting a six trout daily bag limit or hooking into a rod-rattling tiger trout.
Directions: From Phoenix, take Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) northeast to Payson and then Highway 260 east to Forest Road 300 (Rim Road). Then turn north onto paved Forest Road 105 and proceed about a mile to the lake. The lake is about 30 miles east of Payson. See a Google map.
1. Big Lake
An Arizona summertime family staple.
Cutthroats have been biting on and off, and there are plenty of rainbow trout along with lots of crawdads for kids if the trout are not biting. The best part may be the excellent and plentiful campground amenities.
Shore-angling is still an option, but as the summer goes along, you might want a boat (rentals are available at the store) because most trout will be deep.
Trolling from a boat is the most productive method during the summer. If shore fishing, get out early or late in the day, and take cover in your vehicle or camp during monsoon/lightning storms.
Directions: Big Lake is accessed via state routes 260 and 273 (Forest Road 113). See a Google map.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
Catch and release records require a clear photo verifying the species and lengththat 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.
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
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
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.
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.
In first phase of long-term project on Tonto National Forest lakes, AZGFD biologists sink fish habitat structures
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.
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.
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 fromPage Springs Hatchery have been loading up trout into Flagstaff/Williams regional waters the past few weeks.
Top 5 spots to fish near Flagstaff and Williams
(All are being stocked with trout):
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.
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.
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.
Kaibab Lake. The lake is full and spilling for the first time in years. When muddy, try small silver or gold lures for trout.
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 licenseand get ready for a pine-scented weekend!
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 reportthey had just been stocked. Little did I know … we had made a surprise stocking into Alvord before this Saturday morning.
We had stocked bass.
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.
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.