Mr. Whiskers returns to a community lake near you

PHOENIX — For urban anglers, the onset of spring also means the return of the feisty (and tasty) catfish — more than 15,600 pounds of it.


On Friday, March 21, the core Phoenix and Tucson Community Fishing Program lakes and ponds (22 waters) will be stocked with channel catfish that average 1.5 to 2 pounds. According to our Arkansas-based contractor, these catfish have typically run from 14-19 inches in length.


In addition, 3,800 pounds of bluegill will be stocked into the same lakes and ponds.

The community lake water temperatures have risen into the 60s, triggering the annual stocking changeover from winter trout to spring catfish. The final winter trout stockings were completed March 8.

“This annual switchover to catfish is now a thriving tradition and an excellent way to get families out fishing,” said Community Fishing Program Manager Scott Gurtin, who has recently replaced longtime CFP manager Eric Swanson (retired). “We have been working hard with our municipal partners to grow from 21 to 36 waters. In addition, we’ve made major changes to our license structure to make it simple, affordable, and fun for the family to get engaged in fishing opportunities within the metro areas.”


Beginning with this spring kick-off stocking, catfish will be stocked every two weeks into most CFP lakes, and every two months into CFP ponds, through mid-June. See a 2014 Community Fishing Guidebook for more details.


How to catch channel catfish

Channel catfish are best caught using a hook and sinker setup fished on the bottom. Anglers should use 6 to 10-pound test line, depending on the amount of structure in the area (use heavier line when fishing near structures), with a No. 2 to No. 6 baitholder hook and typical catfish baits such as worms, stink baits, hot dogs, liver or shrimp. Target deep waters around midday and shallower waters after dark.

What you need to fish


To fish any of the 36 Community Fishing waters, kids under age 10 fish for free. Youth ages 10-17 may fish with the new Youth Combo Hunt/Fish license for only $5.


For adults 18 and over, choices include the Community Fishing license for $24 (good at the 36 CFP locations for residents or nonresidents), the General Fishing license for $37 ($55 for nonresidents), or the Combo Hunt/Fish license for $57 ($160 for nonresidents). Both the General Fishing License and the Combo Hunt/Fish license are valid statewide and at CFP locations, and are valid for 365 days from purchase.


Trout and two-pole privileges are now included in these options. Buy licenses online.

More fishing information

For more information on the CFP, including maps, fish stocking schedules, regulations and fishing tips, pick up a free 2014 Community Fishing Program Guidebook that is available at more than 300 license dealer locations and Game and Fish offices, or download one online.


THE REEL DEAL

Hello, anglers,

Spring fishing is here in all its bedding-bass, crisp-morning glory.

Yet the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring when the Earth is neither inclined toward, nor away, from the sun, isn’t until March 20.

Still, this week’s full moon has coincided with consistent, warm weather. The result? Springtime spawning conditions for largemouth bass have graced the desert impoundments.


What I’m saying is: Fishing is “en fuego!”


So many great options can be at the end of the line. Flathead catfishing is picking up, and Arizona has become a destination for these bruisers. Crappie are active, stripers are stripping line at Lake Powell and Lake Pleasant, trout stockings will transition into those of catfish, and redear sunfish have reached world-class status at Lake Havasu.

Wow. Take a deep breath for a second and appreciate all Arizona has to offer anglers and hunters. From the desert to the mountains, all such sportsmen help conserve our wildlife for future generations because, if you didn’t know, the Arizona Game and Fish Department does not receive state tax dollars. We rely heavily on active hunters and anglers who are passionate about our wildlife.

So thank you.

Back to the report. At Lake Havasu, a.k.a. Arizona’s West Coast, anglers are having banner days on the bedding smallmouth bass. Crappie and largemouth bass will follow with their egg protecting endeavors. (Did I say, ‘crappie”? Yep, and it looks like Alamo Lake is ripe to be targeted for this great-tasting fish. Just get some good advice from an area tackle shop – if you need it — and mean business.)

Big redear, by the way, are holding primarily over deep grass beds in 20-30 feet of water at Havasu. Many anglers are using nightcrawlers with dropshots on No. 8 gold Aberdeen hooks.

Any day we should be getting word that the 5-pound, 12.8-ounce redear sunfish caught Feb. 16 by Hector Brito is a certified world record. The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame’s current all-tackle redear record, caught by Amos Gay in South Carolina in 1998, stands at 5 pounds, 7 ounces. But world records aside …


Besides the state hot spot, Saguaro Lake, fishing is excellent all around at Roosevelt, Bartlett, Canyon and Apache, so come on out. Bass finally have moved in shallow at Lake Pleasant, but a big cove may only yield one or two nests, said Bass Pro and semi-professional angler Gary Senft. Sounds like the striper fishing is pretty good at Pleasant, too.

Anglers also can check the winter trout stocking schedule — we’re into the final two weeks of the winter trout stockings.

Beginning the week of March 10, the following lakes are being stocked: (Flagstaff/Williams) Francis Short Pond, Oak Creek and West Clear Creek; (Verde Valley area) Dead Horse Lakes; (Prescott area) Fain Lake, Goldwater Lake, Lynx Lake; (Tucson, Safford area) Parker Canyon Lake.

Beginning March 17, we’re scheduled to stock the following: (Flagstaff, Williams) Ashurst Lake, Cataract Lake, Francis Short Pond, Kaibab Lake; (Verde Valley) Verde River, Clarkdale to Camp Verde; (Phoenix/Mesa) Lower Salt River; (Tucson, Safford) Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Graham County Pond, Roper Lake.


Stockings have ended in the Colorado River/Yuma/Parker area, but look for Community Fishing Program stockings to hit the Yuma Ponds in April – stay tuned (or rigged and ready).

Spring also means Mr. Whiskers returns to the Community Fishing Program lakes March 21! Get ready for the catfish, too.

Also in the CFP scene, the Water Ranch Lake in Gilbert is proposed for catch-and-release only, and Sahuarita Lake repairs are complete, so stockings will resume. See all the details in a Special Edition to the CFP Bulletin.

A quick high-country update – in the Flagstaff area, the roads to Kinnikinick, Ashurst, Long Lake, Blue Ridge and Knoll are still closed.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the grand opening of Maricopa’s Copper Sky Recreation Complex Saturday, March 15. We’ll be there hosting a fishing clinic, and you won’t believe the amenities in this complex. See all the details.

If Maricopa is too far a drive, families will have fun at Bill Luke Bass Days Friday through Sunday at Pleasant Harbor Marina. A fishing tournament, live music and carnival rides await. Yes, once again, you can see all the details by clicking on this link.

OK, that’s all. Nab a license online, and have fun – it’ll be hard not to.

Arizona Game & Fish Department Outdoor Expo is March 29-30

The annual Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo is coming soon! This event located at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility is free and offers lots of activities for the whole family. There will be two kids fishing tanks, live wildlife exhibits, cowboy shooting competitions, boating exhibits, plus archery and firearms activities.

Admission and parking are free. Concessionaires will be on site if you would like to purchase food and beverages, plus vendors will be on site selling outdoor-related products.

The event runs 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 29 and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, March 30. The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located at 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd in Phoenix, which is about ½ mile west of I-17 on Carefree Hwy.

ANGLER REPORTS


(Send your fishing reports and photos to Bfishing@AZGFD.gov.)

A 12 year old caught the biggest fish of his life, a 14-pounce, 9-ounce catfish March 9 at Papago Park: My younger brother and I were fishing at Papago Park on Sunday, March 9 when we landed this monster. Other anglers were impressed at the size of my brother’s catch. We could not believe that this fish was living in such a small pond! We weighed him, unofficially, at 14 pounds, 9 ounces. We were fishing for trout with a small rig and what surprised us the most is that we caught him on corn. We have never caught a catfish on corn before so it was a great shock to us.








The Drydens caught a mess of holdover trout March 8 at Rose Canyon Lake: We had a wonderful family trip to Rose Canyon this past Saturday (3/8). We shared the lake with only a few other fishermen after a short hike to get there. Fishing was fabulous for holdover trout from last fall. James, our 5-year-old son (who has his own license so he can take a licensed limit), quickly caught his limit while releasing another 10 small browns and rainbows. Mom and dad also added another 10 delicious trout to the stringer while releasing another 15 or so. We only fished 2 hours and fishing was excellent. Thank you AZGFD for such a gem of a lake so close to Tucson!


Jim with a 7.2-pound largemouth bass from Saguaro: Took a chance fishing Saguaro early in the morning as I had not done well at this lake in the past. Got lucky and caught two, including this one that weighed 7.2 pounds. Big thanks to my neighbor and buddy, Gary Hotchkiss, for netting it.


Desiree N. with a report from Silverbell Lake in Tucson: Great fishing conditions, went fishing four different days all over the lake, haven’t caught a single fish, and haven’t seen anybody else catch a fish! Great weather though.









FISH STORIES

What’s your fish story? In the sixth segment of “Fish Stories” Garrett recalls how he learned to fish. It went something like this: Father’s Day, 1997. Lots of fish in the boat … but a rod in the water. He was 4 years old, and now fishes weekly. See more in our latest video segment of “Fish Stories,” shot at Tempe’s Kiwanis Lake!

Enjoy this Fish Stories video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

Have a fond memory? An exciting experience? A funny situation? Or, just a special day on the water with family and friends enjoying Arizona’s amazing outdoors? Email your story to bfishing@azgfd.gov, and we may share it with others online, in print, or on television.

Stay tuned for future additions of “Fish Stories,” which will frequently appear here in print, online or on television.

Community Fishing Program bulletin: March 3-16

Public fishing clinics to be held at Bonsall, Copper Sky parks

Two new additions to the Community Fishing Program, Bonsall Park and Copper Sky Park, will be the sites of public fishing clinics over the next two Saturdays.

If you have never fished, or know someone who hasn’t fished, this is a great opportunity to get out and try it for free. Fishing poles and bait will be available to borrow for free and no license is required during the clinic hours (must sign up upon arrival). The Bonsall Pond fishing clinic will be held 9-11 a.m., Saturday, March 8. The park is located in Glendale at 59th Ave. and Bethany Home Rd. The Copper Sky Lake fishing clinic will be 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 15. Copper Sky is located in the City of Maricopa on Bowlin Road, just east of SR 347.

Arizona Game & Fish Department Outdoor Expo is March 29-30

The annual Arizona Game & Fish Department Outdoor Expo is coming soon! This event located at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility is free and offers lots of activities for the whole family. There will be two kids fishing tanks, live wildlife exhibits, cowboy shooting competitions, boating exhibits, plus archery and firearms activities.

Admission and parking are free. Concessionaires will be on site if you would like to purchase food and beverages, plus vendors will be on site selling outdoor-related products.

The event runs 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 29 and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, March 30. The Ben Avery Shooting Facility is located at 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd in Phoenix, which is about ½ mile west of I-17 on Carefree Hwy.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Kiwanis Park

Kiwanis Park was among the first few parks to join the CFP back in 1984, just after Chaparral Park. This lovely park in Tempe has a 13-acre lake with several ramadas for anglers to stay in the shade while fishing. This park has a large playground and swimming pool, and seasonally you can rent a paddleboat and float around the lake. If you rent a paddleboat please try to stay away from shore anglers’ fishing lines. You can fish from your boat on this lake; just make sure you have a boat permit from the City of Tempe.

See full details on the Community Fishing Program.

The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,

Get ready for an early spring. The Vernal Equinox, or first day of spring, is March 20, but with an unseasonably warm winter bass will be spawning ahead of schedule. Even the rainbow trout fishing will get a boost with this weekend’s rain and wind that’s expected to whip and sop the state’s soil and water.

Regardless, after last week’s pending world record redear sunfish that was caught at Lake Havasu (5.80 pounds), we have another big fish. Don’t let anyone tell you there are no lunkers in Arizona. You can’t always have pending world records, but this one’s impressive.

An angler brought in a 24.7-pound pike (right) he caught at Ashurst Lake yesterday to the Arizona Game and Fish Department Flagstaff regional office. He was using a rainbow trout swim bait about 4 inches long. Hats off.

And get this — we’re almost a month away from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the flathead catfish that weighed 76.54 pounds and became the heaviest recorded fish in state history. “Flathead” Ed Wilcoxson caught the record on April 12, 2013 out of Bartlett Lake, and since Arizona has become known for its destination-worthy flathead fishery. Look for flathead fishing to pick up through March.

The rainy, windy weather this weekend will help trout fishing in our desert lakes and ponds. With the warmer-than-average winter, trout fishing has suffered. Check our winter stocking schedule because we’re about to be down to our final stocking weeks of the season, so consider targeting trout just after the cold front coasts through. This week (Feb. 24-March 2) we’re scheduled to stock the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), Goldwater Lake, The Lower Salt River, Patagonia Lake, and Fortuna Pond.

And don’t forget to keep up with the 2014 Community Fishing Program stocking schedule.

Bass statewide are staging up to spawn, and in some cases, already are on beds. The problem this weekend is that the winds will at times make spotting the beds difficult. There’s a full moon March 16 and that should help induce a second wave of bass to spawn. If you do bed fish, use light colored jigs so you can see your bait. Remember that bass are not on their beds to feed, but to fend off intruders – once the bass picks up the bait, set the hook. Admire your catch, but please quickly release the fish to reduce stress on the fish and help them survive and spawn.

Expect Alamo Lake to be phenomenal in the spring for bass and crappie. Already the fishing for both has skyrocketed after a slow month or two. Anglers can prepare for this great fishing by fishing for trash and help one of the state’s most productive fishing holes. The 15th annual Alamo Lake Cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, March 1 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. During the past 14 events, volunteers have picked up more than 25 dump trucks full of trash in and around the lake. See more information.


Some other quick-hit fish news:

Have fun, and don’t forget to bring your fishing license. Need one? We have plenty — stay online to buy.

I’m headed to Lake Havasu for a few days of working, camping, and a little bit of fishing next week. I hear there are some big redear and plenty of smallmouth bass up there … follow me on Twitter @NickFishAZ for updates.

OK, onto the full report.

ANGLER REPORTS


Send your fishing reports and photos to Bfishing@AZGFD.gov.

Erland has been slaying the smallmouth bass at Apache Lake the past two weeks, including a 4-pounder on Thursday, Feb. 20: I started taking my family out to Apache this time last year and discovered what an amazing desert jewel this lake is. Last spring my father and I caught many personal-best bass, including a 6-pound largemouth and 4-pound smallmouth.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get back out there this year. In the past 2 weeks we have been slaying the smallmouth, all “cpr” of course. I’ve attached a few pics, including a 4-pound smallmouth pops caught yesterday. These fish are not only beautiful, they are amazing fighters.

Thanks again for the great reports.

R. Gomez with a report from Roadrunner Lake: They probably won’t post this but if you are planning to fish the new community lake in Roadrunner Park — it is a waste of time and money. Visibility in the lake is probably 2 inches (maybe) it is probably 75-percent full and not a soul is catching a thing. This lake is nothing but a dumping ground for people’s overgrown redear turtle pets that have out-grown their owner’s size capacity.


Capt. Noland with a great report from Thursday, Feb. 20 at Cortez Lake: Thank you, AZGFD. This community fishing is awesome. This morning I grand slammed at Cortez Lake!!! I started with catching a 4-pound, 3-once rainbow trout, on a hot dog; a short wait later I landed a 17-inch largemouth bass, on a hot dog; another short wait, and I landed a fat 20-inch catfish, on hot dog. Fishing is surprisingly good in the urban lakes. Keep up the good work, AZGFD.

Orrin with a bass spawning report, and some advice, from Bartlett Lake: Attached is a pic of two fish I caught at Bartlett Lake. These fish are a product of a successful spawn. Last year,,, there WAS NO SPAWN!! The water fluctuated so much the fish did NOT spawn. There are NO mid-sized fish in the lake — just big ones. When they are gone Bartlett will turn into another San Carlos… NO FISH!! PLEASE leave the water alone here until mid-April.

Finally — 4-year-old Mason and his grandparents with his first fish ever, a largemouth bass (right).







Q & A

  • Q: Fished for two days Feb. 15-16 (at Parker Canyon Lake) and only caught one trout. Was told by camp host that the last two stockings had not taken place. … did catch a small bass with a Rapala. Would like to know when Parker actually gets stocked. – Christopher S.


A: Hi, Christopher. The last rainbow trout stocking did take place Feb. 10-17. The next and final trout stocking of the winter at Parker will take place the week of March 10-17. See the entire stocking schedule, which still applies. Here’s the problem: as with most of the desert lakes and ponds that are being stocked with trout throughout the winter, water temperatures are higher than average, which has made the trout sluggish to bite. For the most part, the trout fishing will not be as good as last year, so don’t fish in the same spots or with the same baits. Fish deeper, for one, and switch up your presentations.

That said, bass will be spawning earlier this year, so they’re a better target if you’re looking for high catch rates. Thanks for your question, and good luck! — Nick


FISH STORIES


What’s your fish story? In the fifth segment of “Fish Stories” Kristen gets after the smaller fish that are plentiful. For her, it’s about the little things in life.


Enjoy this Fish Stories video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

Have a fond memory? An exciting experience? A funny situation? Or, just a special day on the water with family and friends enjoying Arizona’s amazing outdoors? Email your story to bfishing@azgfd.gov, and we may share it with others online, in print, or on television.

Stay tuned for future additions of “Fish Stories,” which will frequently appear here in print, online or on television.

Tip of the Week: Pet store bait shopping

If you’re going after panfish this weekend (and why not since a pending world record redear sunfish was taken on Sunday from Lake Havasu), try something different when getting your bait.


Bring a collection of various worms such as meal worms, red wigglers and wax worms that can be purchased from most pet stores.


Nightcrawlers and meal worms are common; the others might make the difference between an ice chest that’s full of ice or full of fish.

The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,


A pending world record, Arizona style, was yanked out of Lake Havasu on Sunday. Hector Brito’s redear sunfish weighed 5.78 pounds. A steroid shellcracker, it was.


If you’ve never seen a 6-pound panfish, it’s time to head to Havasu, where the redear sunfish are likely benefitting from the invasive quagga mussels as a food source.


Brito (right) caught the redear sunfish at 11:30 a.m. and brought it to Bass Tackle Master in beautiful Lake Havasu City, where John Galbraith weighed it at 5.78 pounds on an Arizona Game and Fish-certified scale. It was 17 inches long. Brito caught the plump panfish by the chalk cliffs with a dropshot rig that included a No. 8 Aberdeen gold hook and a nightcrawler.

The record awaits certification by the International Game Fish Association.

The previous record, held by Bob Lawler, was 5.55 pounds in 2011. Redear sunfish have grown to trophy size in Lake Havasu. Redear sunfish in the 2-pound range and larger are regularly caught at this 19,300-acre impoundment on the Colorado River, formed by Parker Dam. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs.


Yeah, it’s a pending world record, but with the unprecedented sizes of redear that have been caught at Havasu, look for an even bigger one to be caught within the next couple of years, or even months — redear bite better in May and June. Might as well make it your record.


“(Brito) said he thought it was a catfish,” Galbraith said. “I don’t know what the genetic potential is for redear. But this record fish was not even a spawning fish. There’s some out there that are in the mid-6 (pound range) easy.”

Galbraith said the redears have been getting exceptionally large during the past four years the lake has been infested with the invasive quagga mussels. (Be sure to clean, drain and dry your boat before leaving Havasu or any AIS-affected lake – it’s the law.) See more information on aquatic invasive species.


Crawdads eat quagga mussels, which could be another reason for the enlarged redear, as well as smallmouth bass. Redear, we assume, eat quaggas, although this hasn’t been proven. These sunfish meander along the bottom of lakebeds seeking and cracking open snails and other shelled creatures with its thick, pharyngeal teeth and hard, movable plates in its throat that allow it to crunch exoskeletons.


Congrats to Mr. Brito on the record. Who’s next?


As expected, last weekend’s warm spat of weather, coupled with the full moon, convinced many largemouth bass to move into shallow waters and stage up to spawn. At some of the warmer desert lakes in western Arizona, the bass spawn schedule should be ahead of the rest of the state.


Already at Roosevelt Lake in Central Arizona, water temperatures have been between 50-55 degrees, and at 55, bass become more active and begin to spawn. With air temperatures forecast to be about 80 degrees steady for the next week, with overnight lows of 52-54 degrees, look for the bass action to get even better at some of these pristine lakes, including Apache, Canyon and Saguaro. All have been stocked with rainbow trout throughout the winter, and so throwing some big swim bait, trout imitations can produce some trophy bass. We just stocked Saguaro last week.


At Alamo Lake, Mark Knapp at Alamo Lake State Park said bass fishing is finally picking up, as is the crappie bite. These speckled beauties also have been biting better at Roosevelt. See more on both lakes in the full report.


Also, we received an Angler Report of a great striper bite at Lake Pleasant by dropping nightcrawlers 60-70 to the bottom of Humbug. Keep sending your fishing reports along with photos to BFishing@AZGFD.gov.


Finally, beginning March 24, we’ll be stocking the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), Goldwater Lake, the Lower Salt River, Patagonia Lake, and Fortuna Pond.


Enjoy all these fishing options, and don’t forget about the 14th annual Arizona International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) that has filled the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale since Thursday, Feb. 20 and will end Sunday, Feb. 23 with an expanded presence of outdoor product and service exhibitors, attractions, seminars, and the incorporation of the Arizona Boat ShowTM. See full details.

Oh, here’s the full winter trout stocking schedule.

And if you need that fishing license, you can buy it online.


Additional public meetings scheduled on fisheries management in Haigler Creek

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department will host public meetings to discuss the current and proposed management of sport fisheries on Haigler Creek and receive public comment. Meetings will be held in Payson, Young, and Phoenix. Details regarding meeting locations are below.

The Department manages portions of Haigler Creek as a wild rainbow trout and brown trout fishery, as well as a put-and-take rainbow trout fishery. The proposal calls for the Department to reintroduce native Gila trout into Upper Haigler Creek with the goal of developing a catch-and-release fishery for this unique trout species.

Here is the meeting schedule:

  • Payson: Feb. 24, 6 p.m.; Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road, Payson, Ariz., 85541
  • Young: Feb: 25, 6 p.m.; Pleasant Valley Community Center, 72000 N. Highway 288, Young, Ariz., 85554
  • Phoenix: Feb. 26, 6 p.m.; Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters, Quail Room (main entrance), 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086

ANGLER REPORT

(Please send your reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov)

Jeff L. of Tonopah reported about some great striper Sunday, Feb. 16 beginning at 1:30 p.m. action on Lake Pleasant: We went directly to Humbug and saw a lot of fish on the sonar in deep water (60-70 feet.). We anchored immediately and began fishing with nightcrawlers on the bottom. Within about 10 minutes, we boated the first striper. Before we were able to release the first fish, one of our other poles was also hooked up. The action continued for three more hours, slowing at times. We probably caught and released 35-40 striped bass as well as two channel catfish. This hot spot was within 40 yards of a group of seven boats all tied together with loud music booming. Surface water temp was 56 degrees. It was also overcast all day. I would recommend this area right now, unless you don’t enjoy catching a lot of fish in a short time.

FISH STORIES

What’s your fish story? In the fourth segment of “Fish Stories” Tyson Warren, a Lees Ferry Anglers fishing guide, remembers growing up in Flagstaff, fishing almost every weekend with his dad, campfires always crackling at night.


Have a fond memory? Enjoy this Fish Stories video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

An exciting experience? A funny situation? Or, just a special day on the water with family and friends enjoying Arizona’s amazing outdoors? Email your story to bfishing@azgfd.gov, and we may share it with others online, in print, or on television.

Stay tuned for future additions of “Fish Stories,” which will frequently appear here in print, online or on television.

Community Fishing Bulletin: Feb. 17 – March 2

New Expansion Waters Stocked With Trout


Eight of the new waters added to the Community Fishing Program on Jan. 1 received their first trout stocking this month. Fish averaged one-half pound each with some whoppers up to 5 pounds.

The ponds are located in the cities of Gilbert, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Glendale and the City of Maricopa just south of the valley. For details and locations of these new waters pick up a copy of the 2014 Community Fishing Program Guidebook or download the pdf version.

International Sportsmen’s Expo February 20-23


The annual International Sportsmen’s Expo is coming to the University of Phoenix football stadium! The event runs from Thursday, Feb. 20 through Sunday, Feb. 23. Bring the kids to the youth fair with a catch-and-release fishing pond, archery and shooting range, and check out the sport and fishing boats available from local dealers. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults and free for kids under 16, plus parking is free. For more information check out their website atwww.sportsexpos.com.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Chaparral Park

Chaparral Park was the first park to join the CFP back in 1983, when the program was still in the pilot phase. This beautiful park in Scottsdale has a 10-acre lake with plenty of great spots for anglers to relax and get in some fishing time. Lots of huge shade trees and picnic tables, barbeque grills, a playground, swimming pool and even a dog park (north of the lake) are some of the great amenities at this park. You can even fish from your boat on this lake. Remember that feeding wildlife within this city park is a class two misdemeanor, so enjoy the wildlife but please keep them wild.

The Reel Deal


Ahh, sunlight. Unseasonably warm temperatures, coupled with the full moon that began Thursday, Feb. 13, should trigger more largemouth bass to move into shallow waters to spawn (or stage up to spawn.) In doing so, they should feed better. That’s not all.

The weather has also helped walleye to cooperate at Upper Lake Mary in Flagstaff, based on a couple reports that Scott Rogers, our Fisheries Program Manager out of Flagstaff, was able to gather. He said the warmer water temperatures and sunny days likely have allowed baitfish and predators to become active again. Both shoreline and boat fishing with worms have been effective. Trolling worm harnesses slowly along the bottom is usually the most effective means to collect these wonderful fish. Be mindful of the mercury warning for these fish in this lake.

Over in the White Mountains, keep in mind that Highway 149 to Willow Springs Lake and Forest Roads 300 and 86 to Black Canyon Lake are still open.


Now to the desert impoundments. Anglers are still having success at Bartlett Lake, especially using crankbaits and dropshot techniques. Some anglers reported recently fishing crankbaits all day in 2-6 feet of water for biting bass.

Because it’s being stocked this week, Saguaro Lake should be a decent place to try for some combo fishing.

The lake has lots of fishing  piers, and so it’s pretty shore-fishing friendly.

Bring  along some nightcrawlers and meal worms – not only are they good baits for  trout, the yellow bass also like to chew them up.

Winter bass had generally been lethargic feeders, but this warm spat could get some of them biting more aggressively. Bass in the desert impoundments were mostly biting in deep water (up to 60 feet deep!). Bass usually feed better in shallow water than in deep water. Some of the big females might move into the shallows to build nests. But if you catch a spawning bass, please release it quickly to help future bass populations be robust. Big bass spawn in February –heavier spawning periods traditionally come in March and April.


The warm weather unfortunately doesn’t help Community Fishing Program trout fishing too much. In many of the Phoenix area lakes and ponds, for example, water temperatures had been 58-60 degrees. By Wednesday, they were in the mid-60s, and they’ll warm up again just as easily this weekend. As a rule of thumb, many of those lakes/ponds will be about the same temperature as your backyard swimming pool (if in the same region, of course.)


That said, some anglers, such as the one who caught his limit in 30 minutes at Discovery Ponds this week (and who submitted the below Angler Report to BFishing@AZGFD.gov) are having plenty of success. Take your shots and be sure to keep up with the community fishing stocking schedule. We just stocked trout into eight new ponds!


Beginning Feb. 17, and for a week, we’ll be stocking rainbow trout into Dead Horse Lakes, Tempe Town Lake, Saguaro Lake, Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Graham County Pond and Roper Lake.


See the winter trout stocking schedule.

Need a fishing license? Just click here and you’re on your way.

ANGLER REPORTS


Please send your reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov.


Matt managed to get to Discovery Ponds on the morning they were first stocked last week and caught his limit in 30 minutes in the lower pond!

Charles S. with a recent Colorado River report, from Picacho State Park to Imperial Dam: Water surface temps are sitting around 58 degrees in the current and I noticed some backwaters that were over 60 degrees. Water levels on the Colorado are slightly higher than they were in December and January, but the ever shifting sandbars still pose a threat to boaters.

On Feb. 8 we fished the current all day; at 2 p.m. we had not yet had a single bite. But between 2 p.m. and 2:10 p.m. we boated four keeper smallmouth and one dink, then the bite just stopped. We set out fishing the current for largemouth using stick worms and fished that pattern into the evening. I stuck it out with that pattern mainly because we know the area can, and has, produced some very nice bass.

On Feb. 9 we did nothing but fish the underwater structure in the lakes. We rotated shallow diving crankbaits and worms. Our largest fish weighed 3.5 (pictured), though all of the bass we caught that day were keepers. The areas we fished had not been producing fish for a few months now, so it’s nice to see the bass on structure and pushing closer to the shallower waters. With temps on the rise like they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some fish on beds in as early as three weeks. With trips planed for every weekend this month I pan on keeping a close eye on their movement.

I would like to add that while you can fish the river year round, people can and do run aground on the sandbars. We were the only boat on the river and we found one couple had run aground late Saturday evening above Picacho State Park, and because of the size and weight of the boat, we were barely able to assist them. There is not a lot of boat traffic this time of year (or police patrols) and some areas may not have a boat pass through for days. It’s a good idea to let someone know when you plan on returning, that way they can keep an eye out for trouble.


Sherry W. of Phoenix with a carp tale from Roadrunner Park: We’ve been doing some fishing at Roadrunner Park lately because it’s cold out and hadn’t had much luck with trout at any other local lakes/ponds.


I use a Shakespeare rod and a Zebco Hawg reel with 30-pound test because Roadrunner is KNOWN to have some very large carp in it. AND I SNAGGED ONE! This big guy (Jan. 19) was 34 inches, but alas, our scale wouldn’t work so we’re only guessing his weight at about 15 pounds. I brought him in by myself, with some coaching from my hubby on how to adjust my drag. By the time we got him out, we had a crowd of about 15-20 people cheering me on. Since taking up local fishing a little over three years ago, this IS the largest fish I’ve caught and he’s quite a catch, no?

Thanks for all you do for us anglers!

FISH STORIES


What’s your fish story? In the fourth segment of “Fish Stories” Tyson Warren, a Lees Ferry Anglers fishing guide, remembers growing up in Flagstaff, fishing almost every weekend with his dad, campfires always crackling at night. Check out the latest Fish Stories segment from Lees Ferry.

Enjoy this Fish Stories video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!


Have a fond memory? An exciting experience? A funny situation? Or, just a special day on the water with family and friends enjoying Arizona’s amazing outdoors? Email your story to bfishing@azgfd.gov, and we may share it with others online, in print, or on television.


Stay tuned for future additions of “Fish Stories,” which will frequently appear here in print, online or on television.

OK, onto the full report.

The Reel Deal

Hello, anglers,

Think lazy. As a general rule, wintertime fishing means going to a slower-than-normal presentation — jig with longer pauses, retrieve spinners with ease, strip flies with patience. Wintertime fish tend to be lethargic, and aren’t always as willing to chase down a bait, lure or fly. Yeah, they can be lazy.

Present in front of their jaws if possible. Fish deep, where water is typically warmest, before trying other areas of the water column. At the desert impoundments, many of the heftier largemouth bass are particularly deep. With this weekend’s chillier weather, expect that to be the case the entire week. Go for a crankbait bite for a hour before light, then throw that trusty dropshot.

Sounds like the striper action can still be pretty good at Lake Powell. Wayne Gustaveson went to Warm Creek on Jan. 27 and dropped spoons in 65 feet of water for 2 hours of non-stop action (most were fat 17-20 inch yearlings, he said.) See more in the full report.

Trout time. Beginning Monday, Feb. 3, we’re scheduled to stock rainbow trout in the following areas – the Verde Valley (Dead Horse Lakes); Prescott (Fain Lake, Lynx Lake and Watson Lake); Phoenix/Mesa (Apache Lake); Tucson/Safford (Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Graham County Pond, and Pena Blanca Lake); and finally, Parker Canyon Lake (La Paz.)

Our Fish&Boat Arizona map will lead you to all these fisheries. Also, see the full details on the winter trout stockings.



Finally received a good crappie report from Bartlett Lake. Anglers been slaying the crappie on the upper end of Bartlett past the no wake buoys. Try a 1/16 or 1/8-ounce jig with a 2-inch curly tail grub. John Deere green, green and black, and white have been good colors. Remember that as of Jan. 1, some regulations changed and crappie daily bag limits are no longer unlimited. An angler can keep 15 crappie daily.

Anglers also need to be aware that the Arizona Game and Fish Department asks outdoor recreationists to help protect important eagle breeding areas by honoring the closure of 23 areas across the state. See full details of these closures.

Resident anglers can get the Community Fishing Program license included with the $37 General Fishing license, or by itself for $24. Licenses are now good for 365 days from the date of purchase. Go online to review the full details of this new and simplified license structure and purchase any license. Truth is, the purchase of a license does far more than allow you to fish or hunt. It supports the ability of all of us to conserve this invaluable natural resource — our one escape into freedom in these ultra-busy times — for future generations.

SEE THE FULL REPORT

Q & A


Q: (From the Arizona Game & Fish Facebook page) Rick B., a first-time angler, asked what he needed to get started fishing at Community Fishing Program water.

  • A: Rick: You can try fishing your nearest CFP lake/water for the stocked rainbow trout. Make sure to fish during the week the trout are stocked — it’s much harder after the first three days the fish are stocked. I’d suggest simply fishing with a bobber and hook, with PowerBait, salmon eggs (two Pautzke eggs on a small hook work great) or a worm a couple feet under the bobber (trout tend to stay near the top of the water right after they’re stocked.) Also try just using sinkers to put the bait on the bottom. It’s always a good idea to target different areas of the water column to see where the fish are biting. Check out this “Fishing Basics” page from our new EasyAZ Fishing For Kids blog for some diagrams and tips to get started. Hope that helps! — Nick

Eight ponds to receive first Community Fishing Program stockings

PHOENIX — From Phoenix to Maricopa, eight ponds will receive their first Community Fishing Program fish stockings during one day between Feb. 10 and 15.

Already since Jan. 1, the expansion of the program formerly known as the Urban Fishing Program has included the first catchable stockings at Pioneer Lake in Peoria and Riverview Lake in Mesa.

The expansion continues with the first of scheduled stockings that will take place every two months. A total of 815 pounds of trout will be delivered to the eight ponds in these following cities:

  • Gilbert

Discovery Ponds (Discovery Park, 2214 East Pecos Rd.) and McQueen Pond (McQueen Park, 510 N. Home St.).

  • Glendale

Bonsall Pond (Bonsall Park, 5840 W. Bethany Home Rd.)

  • Phoenix

Granada Ponds (Granada Park, 6505 N. 20th St.) and Roadrunner Pond (Roadrunner Park, 3502 E. Cactus Rd.)

  • Scottsdale

Eldorado Pond (Eldorado Park, 2311 N. Miller Rd.), McKellips Pond (Vista Del Camino Park, 7700 E. Roosevelt St.)

  • Maricopa

Pacana Pond (Pacana Park, 19000 N. Porter Rd.).

These waters had been stocked by their respective city. Be sure to keep up with the Community Fishing Program by signing up for the Community Fishing Bulletin.

“The more opportunities for friends and families to get outdoors and enjoy the heritage-rich tradition of fishing, the better,” said interim Community Fishing Program Manager Joann Hill. “It’s just an exciting time to be an angler in Arizona.

Fish stockings are yet to come in March at Maricopa’s Copper Sky Lake. Also, in April, lakes and ponds in Yuma (West Wetlands Pond, Fortuna Lake and Redondo Lake) and Somerton (Council Avenue Pond.) will receive catfish from the CFP. Trout stockings for Yuma area lakes will continue as scheduled in past years.

For more information on the CFP, including maps, fish stocking schedules, regulations and fishing tips, pick up a new and expanded 2014 Community Fishing Guidebook that is available at more than 300 license dealer locations and Game and Fish offices. The guidebooks are free.

Also see full information on the entire 15-water expansion.

All fishing, all the time

FishAZblog

All fishing, all the time

Wawang Lake Resort

FISH: Walleye, Northern Pike, Perch, White Fish

The Fisheries Blog

Five fish scientists discuss fun and interesting topics about fish.