Category Archives: Uncategorized

Filling and spilling: Flagstaff area lakes highest in years

A recent influx of snow and subsequent run-off is giving many Flagstaff area lakes a refill.

During the past two years, water levels at Kaibab Lake near Williams had been far too low to stock fish. Thanks to recent heavy rains, the lake is full and spilling.

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Kaibab Lake near Williams can finally be stocked with fish after two years of extremely low water levels. Photo courtesy Kaibab National Forest.

All lakes in the Flagstaff region are ice free.

We will not be stocking all lakes, and the ones that will be stocked will not get fish until after March 1.

Some other updates from this region:

  • Dogtown Lake, near Kaibab on the south side of I-40, should be full. Anglers who can get into Dogtown might catch some of the holdover rainbows and browns since spring fishing can be pretty good. The lake has probably picked up 10 to 11 feet of depth since December and so the fishing might be a little slow, but the trout should be feeding.

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    Ashurst Lake is full
  • Ashurst Lake is full.  The road to Ashurst Lake remains closed and  is very muddy and there are some heavy snow drifts.
  • Upper Lake Mary is about 1 foot from spilling (up 6 inches since Tuesday) and Lower Lake Mary is about 1/3 to 1/2 full.  If more moisture comes this weekend, Upper Lake Mary will probably spill into Lower Lake Mary — and so it might fill this year.
  • Frances Short Pond will be stocked with the normal weekly stockings starting in March. Anglers should be able to catch fish at Frances Short right now since they were catching them before it iced over (and since it was full at that time, the fish-to-water ratio is the same.)  For all of the other lakes, until we can stock the fishing will probably be somewhat poor.

See more about fishing in Arizona

Weekend Roundup: Angler Reports

Send your fishing reports and pictures to BFishing@AZGFD.gov — one that includes a photo will be featured as Catch of the Week

Here’s the latest from your fellow anglers (click on the water for directions):

Lake Pleasant

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Scott L.: Caught this last night (Tuesday, Feb. 14) out at Lake Pleasant in a cove using a cut of anchovie total length was 20 inches. I couldn’t weigh it.

We were fishing with frozen anchovies hoping for some catfish or stripers but hooked this instead. I love fishing in Arizona.

Desert Breeze Lake (Chandler)

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Todd B.:  Fished Desert Breeze Lake today (Sat., Feb. 11) for 2 hours in the afternoon. My first time to the lake and I am in love with both the beautiful park and  the lake itself. I was using an ultralight rod throwing small Blue Fox spinners.

Countless bites and landed a few decent sized trout around 12-13 inches. I saw other anglers plunking with little success. In these smaller bodies of water, my best luck is always with spinners or spoons.

Spinners and spoons are good because you can use them to search for the fish, while covering each inch of the lake in a couple of hours. I tried a few sizes of lures ranging from Nos. 2- 0s. My best action came on No. 1s.

Thanks AZGFD for the many community waters close to home.

Fain Lake (Prescott Valley)

Michael W.: Another great day of fishing at Fain Lake!  In 5 hours of fishing, I caught and released 95 beautiful rainbow trout, ranging from 9-12 inches.  Fish caught from right corner of dock at a depth of 18 inches to 4 feet, on 1.5 inch crappie tubes.  Weather Conditions: Cool and partly cloudy. Water conditions: stained.

Gilbert Riparian

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Anonymous: My husband slayed this guy on Feb. 8 at the Gilbert Riparian on soft bait.

Parker Canyon Lake

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Rod: Hope each of you are well and able to fully enjoy these 70-degree temperatures.  70 degrees in February, wow!  Anyhow I managed to get on the water just about noon today, right when the winds were building up.  I got in some good rowing exercise.  The winds were below my no-float threshold of 20 mph.  They built up later on to make me question my decision to goof about in the dinghy.

Anyhow it turned out I caught three fish in 3 hours of fishing.  Small, medium, and extra largemouth!  Sorry no measurements (I’m pretty sure the last two were well over 5 pounds), but I’ve got photos and memories.  I can tell you that they were all caught using a 2-inch grub on a 1/32-ounce jig on 4-pound mono.  All of them were really fun using the ultra-lite rig!  Talk about a full load on the pole.

What is more challenging is to get the dinghy positioned for a proper photo.  That wind was blowing me about while trying to get a proper photo using the self timer on the camera.

A great beginning to a new year of fishing!

 

Copper Sky Lake (Maricopa)

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Domingo S.:  This was caught at the fishing clinic at Maricopa Park last month (Saturday, Jan. 14).

 

See more about fishing in Arizona

Future of baitfish in AZ: problems and solutions

Does anyone use live baitfish anymore?

Well heavens, yes — especially if you’re fishing for big flathead catfish or crappie, right?

And when I say live baitfish, I mean just fish. Talking about other types of live bait such as worms, crayfish, waterdogs, and so on, would make the conversation much longer. And this is a blog. So let’s just talk fish.

The problem is the use of non-native baitfish: it’s great bait, but it out-muscles native fish and other aquatic species.

We’ll talk about some possible solutions.

But first, the problem of non-native livebait.

Non-native baits a management challenge

The speckled dace is a native fish to Arizona.The speckled dace is a native fish to Arizona

In recent decades, using live baitfish was the best way to catch your dinner.  But with more and more people  practicing catch and release, fishing with live bait has become less popular, almost to the point that if you do use live bait, you could be criticized.  This is because using live baits typically results in deep hook-sets that make releasing a fish back into the water unharmed a challenge.

The other challenge — from a management standpoint — is that all of the well-known and legal baitfish species are non-native to Arizona and can have detrimental effects on native fish and other aquatic species.

They are good for bait because they are easy to raise, and they survive on a hook.

For these same reasons, they are also ultra-competitive in  Arizona lakes and streams and out-muscle native species for food and space.

Also, these non-native species of fish come from fish suppliers outside of Arizona.  So water, plants, snails and all kinds of other non-native stuff can come along with them and end up in your bait bucket.

Why anglers should care:
money and fishing memories

Did you know some of your fishing license dollars are spent on mitigating the harmful effects of non-native species?

Yep, we are charged with providing quality sport-fishing opportunities — among many other things — while simultaneously ensuring our native aquatic species are protected and enhanced.

If fish, and other non-native aquatic species, just stayed put and didn’t move upstream or downstream, it would make it a lot easier.

But we all know water flows all over the place (downhill mostly), along with everything else  in the water.  So when people use live baitfish in one spot, and a few live ones are let loose, those fish and everything in your bait bucket will eventually be all over that watershed.

And that’s exactly what has happened during previous years. There are few wet spots in Arizona that don’t have some sort of non-native aquatic organism competing for food and space with something that has evolved in that spot.  More and more non-native aquatic invasive species are being discovered or identified every year.

So what to do?

Live baitfish solutions: some considerations

The Sonora sucker is another possible native baitfish that could be a solution to our state's nonnative baitfish problem.

The Sonora sucker is another native baitfish
that could be part a solution

  • Working towards raising enough native baitfish in our existing hatcheries. We believe it would help to raise species of baitfish native to our state in enough numbers that baitfish dealers wouldn’t have to import baitfish. Then all the non-native species that come along for the ride with the baitfish from other states would no longer hit our borders.It’s just one part of the puzzle, but it’s a start. If this works, it could help us spend more of your fishing license dollars on stocking, enhancing fish habitat and forage, and less on mitigating the harmful effects of non-native species.
  • Make sure enough native baitfish can be raised and maintained in the sizes anglers want. Native species need to be hardy enough to survive on a hook. It still won’t be OK to “dump your bait bucket” when you’re done fishing, but when a native minnow gets off your hook, it won’t endanger anything.

So that’s it. There’s still a lot to be done, and catching and using bait species at your favorite lake or stream wouldn’t change — even if it’s a non-native species. The only changes would be what’s available for purchase at a bait dealer and what species you could legally move from one spot to another.

So stay tuned!

Andy Clark is the AZGFD statewide sportfish management program supervisor

Arizona Fishing Report: The Reel Deal

Sounds like fishing action in desert regions is picking up thanks to stable weather — especially for largemouth bass. We have a full moon to possibly trigger some early spawning activity at western lakes such as Alamo, Havasu and Martinez.

Already there have been reports of small populations of bass moving in shallow at lakes such as Canyon and Saguaro (most bass remain deep and water temperatures at most desert lakes are in the low-to-mid 50s). Crankbaits and spinnerbaits have been the most widely reported successful baits.

Moderate rain is predicted to fall in central Arizona on Sunday, so plan accordingly.

A couple of trout stockings remain for Community waters before catfish return in late March.

Stocking report

Rainbow trout

Thursday, Jan. 26 and Friday, Jan. 27 — Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, all “core” waters except Rio Vista, as well as Patterson Ponds, and Green Valley lakes. Tuesday, Jan. 24 — Pena Blanca Lake, Council Ave. Pond, Yuma West Wetlands Pond. Monday, Jan. 23 — Lower Salt River, Verde River (middle).

Next week: We’re scheduled to stock the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), the lower Salt River, Parker Canyon Lake, Patagonia Lake, Hidden Shores (Imperial Dam), Parker (La Paz), Somerton (Council Park) Pond, Yuma West Wetlands.

Full  schedules

Catch of the Week

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

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Ray B. caught this largemouth bass from Saguaro Lake in 3-5 feet of water on a brown-and-yellow crankbait around noon from the reeds. He said it weighed 5.51 pounds.

“BIG THANKS to the recent fishing articles in Arizona Wildlife Views Magazine,” He said. “Great tips lead to an amazing catch. AZ winter bass fishing at its best.”

See 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, Feb. 11 — Take a Kid Fishing Day, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., La Paz County Park (7350 Riverside Dr., Parker).

See the full schedule

Nets and waders: Working for you

This new section will periodically show what our fisheries biologists have been doing in the field to improve fishing in Arizona.

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Aquatic reef ball habitat that was being built Friday, Feb. 3 outside the AZGFD Mesa office. GEORGE ANDREJKO/AZGFD

These habitat reef balls are planned to be deployed into Roosevelt Lake this spring. Habitat serves as excellent structure/shelter for sport-fish species such as bass, crappie and bluegill for anglers to target.

SEE THE FULL REPORT

 

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Weekend Roundup: Angler Reports

Send your fishing reports and pictures to BFishing@AZGFD.gov — one that includes a photo will be featured as Catch of the Week

Here’s the latest from your fellow anglers (click on the water for directions):

Verde River (at Camp Verde)

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Troy G.: Winter bass fishing is good in the Verde River in Camp Verde this week. Starting to clear up a bit since all the rain a while back. Got this one on a chartreuse/blue crankbait.

Saguaro Lake

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Ray B.:  Caught this one on a 3-5 foot brown and yellow crankbait around noon from the reeds at Saguaro Lake. She was 5.51 pounds.

Water conditions couldn’t be better. BIG THANKS to the recent fishing articles in Arizona Wildlife Views Magazine. Great tips lead to an amazing catch. AZ winter bass fishing at it’s best.

Lower Salt River (below Saguaro)

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Justin M. fly-fished the Lower Salt River on Friday. The river is scheduled to be stocked with trout next week and was flowing at 13 cfs below Saguaro Mountain Dam on Tuesday.

Try the Phon D. Sutton, Water Users or Granite Reef Recreation Areas.

Justin M. said, “I have been fishing the Salt River the past six weeks or so on every Friday. Most of the time I’m fishing at Water Users and have had success every outing. All I do is fly fish anymore and have caught quite a few bass and lots of bluegill

For the bass, my most productive flies have been AZ simi seal leeches in canadian black, halloween, blood red and olive. Another productive fly pattern has been cheechs low fat minnow. Its a bluegill imitation.

For the bluegill, on warmer days I’ve done fairly well getting them on the surface with a beetle imitation. Other productive flies i’ve had great success with is a hares ear soft hackle pattern I tied up. The only time I tried for trout was a couple of weeks ago when it was raining and cooler.

Fished below the bridge using the hares ear soft hackle and caught and released 14 trout in a matter of a couple of hours. I have talked to other anglers on my outings and have been told that they were having luck with nightcrawlers, small spinners, and one fella was doing well for bass on dropshot with a green Roboworm.”

Canyon Lake

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Brian S.: Temps are warming up and in a few areas the bass are moving up, however most are still caught deep. This beauty was caught in 35 feet with a hinged spinnerbait with a zoom fluke trailer.

Utilizing sonar electronics is critical for deep water fishing. Find them, mark a way point and slowly work your baits into the strike zone. Pay attention to your sonar through the entire process because once you entice one to bite, have your angling buddy be ready with a flutter spoon or Kastmaster as you may find you just ignited a school of them. Hopefully your angling buddy is ready with the net as well.

 

Gila River

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Ramon: This was on a Saturday night, Feb. 4, around 9 p.m. at Gila River on right side of bridge! Used chicken lever and caught a channel catfish at 18 pounds and 31 inches!

See more about fishing in Arizona

Arizona fishing report: The Reel Deal

Now’s the time make a strategic plan to set that state record. See where we think the next AZ state record might come from.

Snow melt is still finding its way into lakes such as Bartlett Lake, where on Wednesday surface water temperatures ranged from 49-51 degrees — too cold even for crappie to move in shallow.

Waters are muddied and stained at Bartlett Lake. Waters temperatures Monday were 49-51 degrees. The lake is 75% full.
Waters are muddied and stained at Bartlett Lake. Waters temperatures Monday were 49-51 degrees. The lake is 75% full.

But we are on the cusp of some great fishing. Lakes such as Alamo and Bartlett remain stained and muddied, but with a week or two of sunny, calm weather, rods will be bending.

Crappie anglers might have to wait a couple more weeks until action picks up for these panfish delights – they remain deep at most lakes and mostly inactive. Similar deal with bass.

Meanwhile, it’s still trout time in Community waters. Some big trout have been hooked (and hopefully cooked) the past few weeks. Hot spots seem to be Desert Breeze Lake in Chandler, Tempe Kiwanis and Surprise Lake.

Silver Creek in the White Mountains is fishing great for big trout if you can stand the beard-frosting cold and can find the right holes:

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See a winter trout stocking schedule, maybe grab a fishing license online — you can get them 24/7 — and go “Fish AZ.” Your purchases support wildlife conservation (we do not receive state tax dollars) — so thanks!

Catch of the Week

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

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Karrie R. caught this 22-pound flathead catfish from shore at Lake Pleasant on Thursday, Jan. 26 using a dropshot rig with a worm. “It was definitely cold,” she said, “but worth the catch! Also caught an 8-pound carp and 3-pound channel catfish.”

See all the Angler Reports

Free public fishing events

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

Saturday, Feb. 4 — Youth Family Fishing Day, 9 a.m. – noon, Anthem Community Park (41703, N. Gavilan Peak Pkwy.)

See the full schedule

Nets and waders: Working for you

This new section will periodically show what our fisheries biologists have been doing in the field to improve fishing in Arizona.

Our fish biologists conserve wildlife, provide sport-fish opportunities — and sometimes snowmobile! This video shows Jan. 25 surveys to Big, Crescent and Lee Valley lakes in the White Mountains.

Biologists checked dissolved oxygen levels under the ice at Lee Valley and Crescent to predict a fish die-off due to low oxygen. Ice conditions were checked on all lakes, and ice was unsafe, especially at Big Lake.

Stocking report

Rainbow trout
Thursday, Jan. 26 and Friday, Jan. 27 — Canyon Lake,  Saguaro Lake, all “core” waters except Rio Vista, as well as Patterson Ponds, and Green Valley lakes. Tuesday, Jan. 24 — Pena Blanca Lake, Council Ave. Pond, Yuma West Wetlands Pond. Monday, Jan. 23 — Lower Salt River, Verde River (middle).

Next week: We’re scheduled to stock Deadhorse Lakes, Goldwater Lake, Canyon Lake, Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Pena Blanca Lake, Fortuna Pond and Redondo Pond.

See the full schedules.

READ THE FULL REPORT

Where will the next AZ state record come from?

This winter has already been a mixed bag: record snow levels in some places followed by some warmer weather. That’s Arizona!

While it’s next to impossible to predict what the rest of winter has in store for us and what water levels might turn out to be, it’s always kind of fun to think about where that next state record fish might come from.

Plus, winter is a great time to think about upcoming fishing trips and where to prioritize your efforts.

This is just one biologist’s opinion, but here are some thoughts of where a few of our most popular game fish might be caught:

Largemouth bass

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 16 pounds, 7.68 ounces, Canyon Lake, 1997

Saguaro Lake is known for its potential record bass.
Saguaro Lake is known for its potential record bass.
  • Saguaro Lake: No surprise for those who have been fishing this scenic lake — there have been great numbers of bass of larger than 10 pounds being caught lately. And there are no signs of that slowing down.
  • Canyon Lake: Always a perennial favorite to foster the next state record largemouth.  After all, it’s where the current record (16 pounds, 7.68 ounces) was caught, and its population has the highest levels of Florida-strain genetic influence (bigger bass) of any water in Arizona.
  • Colorado River waters: If you like to fish the big river on the west end of the state, the Imperial Division and Cibola Division are great bets to catch a largemouth that weighs in the “teens.” Mittry Lake also has big largemouth that rivals Canyon Lake in Florida-strain influence.

Flathead catfish

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 76 pounds, 8.64 ounces, Bartlett Lake, 2013

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The state record flathead catfish taken in April of 2013 by Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson from Bartlett Lake.
  • Bartlett Lake: Hard to argue this one: it boasts the current record.
  • Lake Pleasant and Roosevelt Lake: Both are dark horses to take the record away from Bartlett.  Flatheads of more than 50 pounds are routinely being caught at both of these reservoirs, with reports of 60-plus pounders somewhat common.

Channel catfish

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 32 pounds, 4 ounces, Parker Canyon Lake, 1987

Large channel catfish caught during surveys at Parker Canyon Lake.
Large channel catfish caught during surveys at Parker Canyon Lake.

This one is a little trickier as there is no clear-cut place to catch trophy-sized channel cats (if there is, please let me know).

That said:

  • Parker Canyon Lake:The current record (32 pounds, 4 ounces) came from this lake down on the border.  Parker Canyon could still have another record lurking.
  • Topock March, Lake Havasu, Alamo Lake, Apache Lake, Saguaro Lake: Your odds are probably equal at these lakes. The Colorado River record was from Topock Marsh: 35 pounds, 4 ounces.

Rainbow trout

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 15 pounds, 9.12 ounces, Willow Springs Lake, 2006

Don't sleep on Dogtown -- potential record trout lurk here.
Don’t forget about Dogtown Lake near Williams — potential record trout lurk here.
  • Becker, Carnero or Luna lakes in the White Mountains: These lakes grow trout fast, but are susceptible to winter and summer kills (mostly because of low oxygen).  If all goes well this winter, there could be some really big trout that come out of those lakes.
  • Dogtown Lake: This is a sleeper lake near Williams. The addition of woody habitat during the past few years has really contributed to high growth rates for trout.

Tiger trout

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 0 pounds, 9.23 ounces, Willow Springs Lake, 2016

Tiger Trout raised at the Tonto Creek Hatchery

A newcomer to the state last year, the tiger trout’s maximum potential size in Arizona waters is unknown. But one thing is for sure: the current record of less than a pound from Willow Springs Lake will fall.

  •  Willow Springs, Woods Canyon, Carnero and Becker lakes:  These lakes are stocked with tigers. Trout grow quickly at Special Regulations waters Carnero and Becker, so try these lakes for tigers weighing more than 5 pounds.

Arizona state fish records

For a complete list of Arizona State Fish Records, see pg. 40 of the 2017-18 Fishing Regulations. While you’re at it, check out all our fishing resources.

Got a license? Get ’em online, 24/7 — this helps us conserve wildlife for future generations.

Which record are you going to set this year?

Andy Clark is the AZGFD statewide sportfish management program supervisor

Weekend roundup: Angler Reports

Send your fishing reports and pictures to BFishing@AZGFD.gov — one that includes a photo will be featured as Catch of the Week

Here’s the latest from your fellow anglers (click on the water for directions):

Lake Pleasant

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Karrie R.: I thought I’d share this flathead catfish I caught from shore at Pleasant today: 22 pounds on a dropshot with a worm. It was definitely cold, but worth the catch! 🙂 Also caught an 8-pound carp and 3-pound channel catfish. Tight lines!

Silver Creek

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Max W.: The upper portion of Silver Creek fished great over the weekend. People were doing really well on egg patterns and small midges. One of my buddies even managed to pull out this big guy on a Tenkara Rod– not bad for his first fish on the fly!

Gila River

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Ramon: I caught a 14-inch largemouth bass with a worm at Gila River under the bridge side on Friday, Jan. 27 at 3  p.m.! Gave a good fight! Used 8-pound test line.

Desert Breeze Lake (Chandler)

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Nicholas J.: Decided to spend the day outside at Desert Breeze since it was such an amazing Arizona winter day. All three of the kids caught a fish of their own. (Zac, Nikyah, and Mason Jaurigue).

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Pretty sure all three were “incentive” trout. We got out there about 10 a.m., however we didn’t get our first fish until almost 2 p.m. Then all of a sudden the other two fish were caught. All three within 30 minutes of time.

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The yellow corn/garlic mixed PowerBait is what finally caught them their first fish — after trying all the others we had in our box. Hope everyone else had as good of a weekend.

See more about fishing in Arizona

New fishing map for special regulations available

Seeing the Special Regulations that are in place for certain waters just got easier.

We set these special regulations to maintain the long-term welfare of our fishing waters and provide you some great sport-fishing opportunities.

This map has species-specific tabs for maps of Special Regulation waters and seasons, daily bag and possession limits, and length limits that differ from General Statewide Regulations or Statewide Daily Bag and Possession Limits.

See the map.

Please refer to the official Arizona Fishing Regulations for complete fishing rules and regulations.