THE REEL DEAL
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.
(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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.