Arizona Fishing Report: The Reel Deal

Striped bass fishing seems to be picking up, as has been evidenced by an influx of striper success stories from Willow Beach on the Colorado River, Lake Pleasant, and especially Lake Mohave …

Les with his striped bass from Lake Mohave. The striper action is good on Lake Mohave, especially near the dam. Anchovies fished down deep are working the best. The largemouth bass bite is picking up in the coves.
Les with his striped bass from Lake Mohave. The striper action is good on Lake Mohave, especially near the dam. Anchovies fished down deep are working the best. The largemouth bass bite is picking up in the coves.

 

See our Catch of the Week below — a monster 21-pound striper was recently caught in about 13 feet of water at Lake Pleasant.

And we have a new moon this weekend. It’ll be cold — lows in the high 40s are predicted for desert regions — but grab some steamin’ hot coffee get out there and fish with submersible lights. Another option, if you’re fishing Lake Pleasant, is using live shad and fishing 11 a.m. to sunset in the northern coves.

Largemouth bass anglers can chase some potential pre-spawning fish at early-bird lakes such as Alamo, Martinez and Havasu out west, and even Saguaro Lake in central Arizona.

Some fish are moving in shallow from 50-60 feet of water depth. They’re not spawning yet, but anglers can target areas of bait fish with crankbaits early in the morning and switch to dropshot and Texas rigs as the sun comes up.

It’s not quite crappie time.  In a month or so, be ready to load up at crappie hot spots such as Alamo, Roosevelt, Bartlett and San Carlos. (Tempe Town Lake has been producing some nice slabs.)

Updates: Topock Marsh, Rio Vista Pond, Upper Mary

  • Topock Marsh on the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge is closed through March 6 due to U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service management.
  •  Rio Vista Pond in Peoria was not stocked this week, but repairs at the pond have been completed and the pond is scheduled to be stocked with trout for the final time of the winter season during the week of March 6. See the schedule.
  • Anglers can access Dogtown Lake near Williams, but we haven’t received any fishing reports. Upper Lake Mary on Thursday was about 3 inches from spilling.

Stocking report

Thursday, Feb. 16 — Community expansion waters. Wednesday, Feb. 15 — Red Mountain Lake. Tuesday, Feb. 14 — Goldwater Lake. Monday, Feb. 13 — Patagonia Lake, Pena Blanca Lake, Salt River (lower), Fain Lake. Saturday, Feb. 11 — Community waters: Chaparral Lake, Tempe Kiwanis, Desert Breeze, Copper Sky, Lakeside, Kennedy, Sahuarita, Alvord, Silverbell, Desert West, Pioneer, Surprise, Cortez, Encanto, Steele Indian School, Papago Ponds, Evelyn Hallman, Water Ranch, Red Mountain, Green Valley lakes.

Full  schedules

Catch of the Week

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

striperpleasant

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

Read all the Angler Reports

Public fishing events

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

Saturday, Feb. 25 — Just For Kids Fishing Festival, 8 a.m. – noon, Kiwanis Park (5500 S. Mill Ave., Tempe).

See the full schedule

SEE THE FULL REPORT

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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Kelly K.: Last Monday (Feb, 20), I landed my personal best white bass from Lake Pleasant trolling a crank bait from my kayak. It was a successful catch-and-release and I’m kicking myself for not getting measurements. Thank you for making Arizona such a great warm-water fishery.

Discovery Ponds (Gilbert)

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Ryan C.: Today I found my way down to Discovery Park during a break in the rainy weather. It was my only chance at fishing after having to cancel a birthday fishing trip up north because of the winter storm. This was my first time fishing these ponds and didn’t know what to expect.

The water was dark and sight fishing was out of the question. After searching the waters with all your typical trout lures and bait, I finally got a hit. This girl put up a good fight and was beautiful sight to see. She weighed 28 ounces and stretch to 16 inches. She was a personal best and quite a great unexpected birthday present.

Freestone Park  (Gilbert)

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Todd B.: Freestone Park was hot today. The trout bite was strong, and plenty of fish to go around. All the fish I caught were on a No. 4 Panther Martin. Not many people fishing on the ponds, but the attractions were loaded with families having fun.

Colorado River (Willow Beach)

willowbeachstriperBilly’s 7.6 pounds striper caught from the shore casting a Bomber Long A in a trout pattern. Billy and his brother started fishing at 2 a.m. Friday and had no luck with the newly stocked trout.

Being a resourceful fisherman, he started walking the shore casting the Bomber. The big striper chased the bait all the way into the rocks with the third cast the final time. The thrill of having that big of fish attacking his lure in 2 feet of water in the pitch dark — “Wow! I about jumped out of my skin the first time he did it,” he said.

The picture also shows the smaller striper he caught.

 

Morrison Ranch Lake

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Chad M.:  8-pound Carp at Morrison Ranch lake yesterday (Feb. 19) on corn.

Lake Montezuma (Rimrock)

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Clinton N.: Me and a friend were bass fishing and I got a surprise catch! Caught an 11.8-pound channel cat on a crankbait!

Lake Pleasant

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Gary S.:  Caught an18.8-pound striped bass from Lake Pleasant last weekend.  It was caught using an A-rig on 20-pound Berkley trilene and using my Kistler sponsorship rods.

See more about fishing in Arizona

Peoria man catches 21-pound striper Thursday at Lake Pleasant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The technique

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

See more about fishing in Arizona

Arizona fishing report: The Reel Deal

Heavy rains and run-off has Horseshoe Dam flowing, Kaibab Lake spilling and anglers dreaming of spring.

Fishing likely will be unpredictable with  changing conditions. Another heavy storm is predicted statewide for Saturday and Sunday. Fish react to conditions and anglers must react to the fish. Anchor up to this rule: find the bait, find the fish.

Water is being let out of Horseshoe Lake, and Bartlett Lake is now at 95 percent full — up three feet since Tuesday. This featured image is from 2005 at Horseshoe Dam — the last time we had similar high rains and run-off:

Credit Rory Aikens/AZGFD
Credit Rory Aikens/AZGFD

A new moon is coming Feb. 26, so maybe plan to fish at night with submersible lights that weekend. With some stable weather, that weekend could be prime for great striper fishing at lakes such as Pleasant, Mead and Mohave.

Finally, at Pena Blanca Lake, the lake is full and water quality problems have improved — trout stockings are finally underway.  It’s scheduled to be stocked the week of Feb. 27.

Stocking report

Thursday, Feb. 9 — Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake; Wednesday, Feb. 8 — Fortuna Pond; Tuesday, Feb. 7 — La Paz County Park Lagoon, and Pond, Cluff Res. #3, Roper Lake, Dankworth Ponds; Monday, Feb. 6 — Goldwater (upper), Dead Horse Lake, Verde River (middle).

Next week: We’re scheduled to stock the Dead Horse Lakes, Goldwater Lake, Saguaro Lake, Red Mountain Lake, Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Parker Canyon Lake, and Roper Lake.

Full  schedules

Catch of the Week

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

parkercanyonbass

Rod caught this largemouth bass, weighing approximately 5 pounds, from Parker Canyon Lake in heavy winds with a 2-inch grub on a 1/32-ounce jig and 4-pound monofilament line.

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. 25 — Just For Kids Fishing Festival, 8 a.m. – noon, Kiwanis Park (5500 S. Mill Ave., Tempe).

See the full schedule

 

SEE THE FULL REPORT

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

lakeplezbass

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

parkercanyonbass

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

High flows from Bartlett Lake likely this weekend

Increased run-off from snow melt due to warmer weather, coupled with a storm forecast for this weekend, could result in releases between 5,000 and 10,000 cfs out of Bartlett Lake this weekend.

Already, the Verde River watershed is at more than 184-percent precipitation for the year; Bartlett Lake is at 83-percent full.

The flows would likely begin Sunday night, move through Granite Reef Dam and into the Lower Salt River early Monday morning. The flows in the lower Salt River could continue for several days depending on the amount of snow melt.

With these likely releases, please be aware of your location and do not cross flooded roadways.

At this time, the Roosevelt system has plenty of water storage capacity.

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)

saguaro-bass

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

 

Trout recipe: Complement your Community catch

So you’re looking to go fishing and impress that special somebody on Valentine’s Day. (Yes … it’s Tuesday — also our state’s birthday.)

As long as you have a bit of fishing know-how, we’ve got you covered on the cooking side. In a big way.

Many of you have taken advantage of our recent incentive stockings — the Angler Reports have been pouring in. And we’re putting trout in all “core” waters this week.

Catch some this weekend, turn it into something tasty by Tuesday. Make sure you cook this with your partner — you fold the fish in heart-shaped paper.

Here’s a video from our very own “Fish Lady” about Valentine’s Day trout:

 

 

 

  • 2 trout fillets
  • ½ cup carrots, julienned
  • ½ cup green beans, trimmed
  • 6 pats of butter
  • 4 lemon slices
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large sheets of parchment paper
  1. Fold one of the parchment paper sheets in half lengthwise.  Draw a half-heart shape as large as possible.  Cut out heart shape.  On one side of the heart shape place half of the carrots, half the green beans, three pats of butter, one trout fillet, two lemon slices, half the thyme and parsley, one tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Fold over the parchment paper to close it.  Starting at the top of the heart, make small folds by picking up the edge of the paper and folding it over on to the top about ¼ – ½ an inch.  Then sliding your hands down the paper, continue picking up the edge and folding it over.  When you get to the bottom of the heart, tuck the tail piece under the package.
  3. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make two complete packets.
  4. Place packets on a baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 16-18 minutes or until fish is flaky.
  5. Serve in the paper to keep the food hot.  Also makes for a nice surprise — plus the aroma is amazing when the packet is first opened.
Happy Valentine’s Day from The Fish Lady!

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