8-year-old Mesa boy boats 3.8-pound largemouth bass

The cramps and spasms exploded in the 8 year old’s hands and arms. Mark McGrew, Jr. had hooked into a roughly 4-pound, 20-inch largemouth bass on Saturday, Dec. 8 at Saguaro Lake (Razorback Point).

The third fish of his life turned out to be a trophy for the kid from Mesa. Jigging a silver spoon on 6-pound test line, with an ultralight rod, McGrew tugged the bolting bass from 65 feet of water depth – hence, the piercing cramps.


The technique: McGrew, Jr. would drop the spoon to the bottom, let it sit, then jig it back in.


“The whole way in,” said McGrew Sr., “the pole was bent and I thought it was going to snap at any moment.”


The fish was caught at 2:30 p.m. “We had read the fishing report about yellow bass at Saguaro Lake and Mark Jr. started out fishing over Butcher Jones with no success,” McGrew Sr. said. “We then headed toward Shiprock and decided to stop and try Razorback Point.”


Fifteen minutes later, McGrew Jr. had a fishing moment he’ll likely replay his entire life. “He’s wanting to go again now – that’s for sure,” McGrew Sr. said.


Persistence is key when fishing with kids. McGrew Jr. had caught only a bluegill in his the first three fishing trips of his life. But the fourth yielded bass of 3.8 and 1.7 pounds that McGrew Sr. said were weighed on a Berkley digital hand scale.


“We just got a boat two months ago,” McGrew Sr. said, “and have been out fishing three other times with no success. Perseverance paid off.”

Q & A

Hello — I’m hoping you can provide some information about trout stocking on the Lower Salt River. Are the stocking locations only at Phon D. Sutton and Granite Reef this time of year? And are both locations usually stocked on the same day?


Thanks for your help, Steve B.

  • Hi, Steve. The stockings are also at Blue Point. If you look at our winter stocking schedule you can click on the Lower Salt River and it will show you the spots of the stockings (but we no longer stock Water Users). We do stock all three points on the same day.

    Like all of the fisheries on this schedule, you can see the stocking spots. Keep in mind, however, that not all of these spot will necessarily receive loads on a given stocking week – they are just potential spots.

    Thank you for your question, and good luck! — Nick

THE REEL DEAL

Here’s the latest notable road closures: As of Wednesday, vehicular access to Ashurst Lake (Ashurst Lake Road) and Kinnikinick Lake (Forest Road 82 at FR 125) is closed for the winter.

On the Mogollon Rim, notable closures are: FR 82 to Long Lake, FR 95 to East Clear Creek, FR 142 to West Clear Creek, FR 295E to Knoll Lake, and FR 751 to Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Check the entire winter stocking schedule.

At Lake Pleasant, Jon “Scooter” Griffiths of The Arizona Fishing Guides says this is the time of the year that the water is rising and all the fish like to eat shad in shallow water. Keep your eyes open for boils and always be looking for the birds.

Now for some ridiculously exciting news…

Those who fish Pioneer Lake in Peoria will be the first to benefit from the expanded Urban Fishing Program waters (to be renamed Community Fishing Program as of Jan. 1.) In addition to the current 21 waters, another 15 new waters will be added after the new year.

The CFP kickoff event at the lake in Pioneer Park will be held Jan. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon. Anglers will get the chance to participate in a free fishing clinic – 200 rods fishing rods, and bait, will be provided. Also, those who register will not need a license to fish for the trout that will have been stocked. Additionally, Pioneer Lake will be stocked a week later (Jan. 6-11) with incentive-sized trout. Pioneer will continue to be stocked every other week.


Those Urban Fishing Program lakes are stocked with trout throughout the winter. There may be times when the urban lakes are offering some of the best trout fishing in the state.

Need a license? Buy it online. Beat the crowds and get a gift. See more information about the new license structure.

Finally, out at Lake Havasu, beginning Dec. 8, the Bureau of Reclamation began lowering the water level of Lake Havasu to repair the trash racks at Parker Dam. The drawdown will last eight weeks and result in the lake reaching an elevation of 445 feet by mid-Dec. The lake will remain at this level until mid-Feb.

See the full fishing report

TIP OF THE WEEK

This week, we are stocking Dead Horse lakes, the Lower Salt River, Saguaro Lake, and, once again, Tempe Town Lake.

Try the Lower Salt River in the morning around the Phon D. Sutton or Granite Reef recreation areas, then switch to Saguaro Lake and try for trout and yellow bass using small spinners and gold KastMasters.

Don’t expect high catch rates at Tempe Town Lake — yet. Because it’s such a large lake, the rainbows could be spread out. For higher catch rates, try the Urban Fishing Program waters during stocking weeks.

Other rainbow trout loads are being dumped into Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Graham County Pond, Parker Canyon Lake and Roper Lake.

Anglers reports

fishing-lees-ferry-ga-azgfd-545.jpg

Charles S. reported on the Colorado River, from Picacho State Park to the Imperial Dam: Water temperatures during Thanksgiving had been in the high 50s, so that’s been slowing things down a bit, not to mention very low water levels.

Kevin C. said that Nelson Reservoir is mostly covered with ice: Haven’t been fishing the last couple weeks since it started blowing snow, but figured you would want to know that Nelson as of Wednesday, Dec. 11, it had ice thick enough to support small wildlife such as ducks and eagles (that were dining on fresh killed duck on the ice) over 98-99 percent of the lake. There was just a tiny little hole in the south end just big enough for a few ducks to paddle around. While I didn’t “test” the ice I’d guess it was around ½-1 inch thick with some patches thicker as all the little ponds and creeks are frozen over as well up here…

The Arizona Fishing Guides had the following report for central Arizona:

  • Saguaro Lake is still pumping out the big ones mostly on spoons and big reaction baits. You should remember it is not for the faint of heart and it can bring some of the most experienced fisherman to their knees but one big one and you forget it all.
  • Canyon Lake is doing well also seems to be best right after the stocking of the trout, but you can still coax the non-trout eaters into eating a jerk bait.
  • Bartlett Lake is starting to unload a few bigger-than-normal fish. You can catch these guys using a heavier spinner bait down in the channel bends up in the river end, or flipping jigs around shallow boulders.
  • Roosevelt Lake is not quite back to its normal fishing; it is still pretty good by any Arizona lake standards. Spoons and big jigs can be used to catch most of them. Just look for the bait balls on your fishing graph.
  • Apache Lake is always good this time of year — some really nice smallmouths can be caught on jerk baits and small shakey head worms and small jigs.
  • Lake Pleasant is also doing very well. This is the time of the year that the water is rising and all the fish like to eat shad shallow. Keep your eyes open for boils and always be looking for the birds. They are like me: always hungry…

Gravel enhancement project at Canyon Creek a breakthrough for wild brown trout

PHOENIX — A breakthrough gravel enhancement project at Canyon Creek, the prized wild trout fishery located on the Mogollon Rim near Heber, has led to about 30 wild brown trout spawning sites in the newly added gravel, which is more than 50 percent of the highest number ever counted over a 2.5-mile section from the reservation boundary to the O.W. Bridge.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages Canyon Creek primarily for wild brown trout. The department expects one result of the project to be a more resilient wild brown trout population and enhanced fishing opportunities.

In early October, volunteers from Desert Fly Casters, Arizona Fly Casters and the Zane Grey Chapter of Trout Unlimited, along with Arizona Game and Fish Department personnel, hauled 20 tons of gravel in four hours, passing buckets and dumping the gravel onto spots in a 100-foot portion of the creek with favorable spawning conditions (ideal water velocity and depth).

See post-project video of trout utilizing this gravel substrate for trout spawning sites (also called redds).

Curtis Gill, an Arizona Game and Fish fisheries program manager, said a particularly hot summer of 2012 stressed fish populations and led to a 50-percent reduction in wild brown trout populations during the following year.

Although conditions were conducive to spawning, there hadn’t been any spawning activity within 100 yards of the targeted spawning sites selected for enhancement.

“The take home,” Gill said, “is that if you build it, they will come.”

Fishing regulations at Canyon Creek are split in two at the O.W. Bridge. There is a four-trout limit in the upper reach. The lower reach is artificial fly and lure only, and catch-and-release only for trout. As of Jan. 1, single, barbless hooks will also be required in the lower reach.

The brown trout spawn is over statewide until next fall.

Willow Beach hatchery ends sport fish stockings

WILLOW BEACH, Ariz. — The Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery located along the Colorado River south of the Hoover Dam has ended its sport fish stocking efforts, possibly in perpetuity.

On Nov. 21, the hatchery, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conducted an emergency stocking of 11,000 rainbow trout when the low water level made it impossible to draw in water. The hatchery, however, lost 20,000 fish due to a lack of water movement through the system.

This change would effectively end all trout stockings from Willow Beach to the area south of Davis Dam in Bullhead City.

Although this particular event was initiated due to water availability, the cessation of stockings from the Willow Beach hatchery is one of several potential hatchery changes associated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery Review, where the Service is staging for major changes in many of the National Fish Hatcheries across the nation, including trout production cuts, conversions to native fish production, and even hatchery closures.

“There’s no question this is going to impact anglers from Willow Beach south to the Bullhead City area,” said Chris Cantrell, fisheries chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Of course other species remain in Lake Mohave and the Colorado River, but without stocking efforts, rainbow trout will not consistently be available long term.”

The native fish portion of the hatchery, which is supported by well water, remains operational. The hatchery currently has razorback suckers and will soon have relict leopard frogs.

“At this time, those wishing to fish for trout in these areas should get to the Willow Beach area soon,” Cantrell said. “There is currently no feasible contingency plan for getting trout to these areas.”

Arizona Game and Fish Department currently relies heavily on the National Fish Hatcheries for obtaining most of its trout eggs as well as all of its Apache trout for stocking the state’s public waters. Arizona has not received any further information on planned changes affecting other National Fish Hatcheries at this time.

Girl’s First Fish Highlights “Welcome Back the Trout” to Tempe Town Lake Fesitval

ImageTEMPE —  Three minutes after sliding a glob of Power Bait onto a tiny hook, 5-year-old Joy Moreno hauled in a 10-inch rainbow trout. The words that followed were those of a fanatic angler.

“Put more bait on my hook,” she said.

With that, an angler was born on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

And there was Moreno, jumping and smiling after catching the fish. It was her first.

The “Welcome Back the Trout” to Tempe Town Lake festival, hosted by the City of Tempe and the  Arizona Game and Fish Department, featured a Page Springs Hatchery stocking of 3,000 rainbow trout.

See video of fish being shot into the lake and hand-stocked by kids.

As the setting sun spread an orange crest over the Tempe skyline, carving dark silhouettes out of more than 100 anglers who laced the lake’s northern shoreline, families and friends gathered for the free fishing clinic. Even more, they celebrated the first of five monthly scheduled trout stockings.

Ivan Moreno, father of Joy Moreno, continued talking about the day that will be a lifelong memory. A nip of wind came with a few clouds and enough sun to drive warmth into knot-tying fingers.

“I take my kids fishing every year,” Ivan Moreno said. “Since I was a boy and my dad taught me to hunt and fish, there has just been this awesome peace I get with it that I just can’t explain.  This is a good way to share that with my family.”

Awesome peace found Carissa Steinborn. A mom of one daughter (age 10), and two boys (ages 7 and 5), Steinborn moved to Arizona four years ago. She left her fishing equipment in North Dakota. She wished she wouldn’t have. “It’s just a misconception that there aren’t good fishing opportunities here,” she said.

Department employees and volunteers doled out free bags of bait — corn, Power Bait and worms. Loaner rods were provided. No license was necessary to those who registered. Come and get it.

“So to be able to use this equipment is awesome,” Steinborn said. “This just helps us be outside more instead of in the classroom. This used to be a way of life for me. I grew up fishing and I want them to have this opportunity.”

Tempe Town Lake is considered a state water, but as of Jan. 1, it will be Community Fishing Program water (what is now called an Urban Fishing Program water.)

Tempe Town Lake also offers abundant bass, bluegill, catfish and carp.

See more information on obtaining a license for future use.

The Reel Deal

West Fork Black River Brown Trout-We’re getting into the prime time for winter trout in the mid and lower elevation lakes. There’s a cold front that’s forecast to come through the state on Friday (through northern Arizona) and Saturday (central Arizona as well). Some rain and heavy winds are expected — be sure to plan your trips around the weather. An ice chest full of fish isn’t worth boating in unstable weather.

In all Phoenix and Tucson Urban Program lakes, rainbow trout stockings begin Friday. The winter trout stockings continue every two weeks until March with 12,000 trout delivered each time. See the Urban Fishing Bulletin.  These management efforts are possible because of participants in hunting and fishing — your involvement is helping us conserve wildlife resources for future generations.

Also be sure to check out the entire winter trout stocking schedule. Beginning Monday, and for one week, we’ll be stocking Francis Short Pond, Dead Horse Lakes, the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), Saguaro Lake, Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Graham County Pond, and Pena Blanca Lake.

We haven’t fTempeTorgotten about you, Tempe. The “Welcome Back the Trout” to Tempe Town Lake event is Nov. 26 from 3-5:30 p.m. at the SRP Tempe Town Lake Marina. It includes a fishing clinic, and kids can even stock a fish. The event will kick off the first of five monthly stockings.

OK, let’s talk some bass. If you just want to catch some fish, Bartlett Lake is the spot to be.  The crankbait and top-water bite has been good in the morning. The crappie bite also has been decent by the yellow cliffs area. Try Roosevelt for crappie, too.

Lake Havasu has really come on the past few years as a bass fishery. Summer boating crowds have dissipated, and so it’s a great time of the year to target smallies, largemouth and striped bass.  The Parker Strip also is a great place for smallies. Try fishing just below the Parker Dam. Catching bass in a fast-moving river is a different world for Arizona anglers used to fishing in lakes. Adapt and have a blast.

At Lees Ferry, fishing should be incredible. The high-flow release began Nov. 11 and should return to normal by Nov. 16. The effect of this release is to loosen up some of the gravel beds and prepare them for an excellent trout spawn this spring. This loosening also knocks away more nutrients and food for the fish. That, of course, can equal a crazy-good bite.

We received a lot of great fishing reports that were sent to BFishing@AZGFD.gov. Keep ’em coming! One angler let everyone know there’s some top-notch trout action to be had at Ashurst Lake.  Check out it below.

Looking for some family fun? You’re invited to our Adobe Open House on Nov. 23 and 24! This short video will give you more information and a taste of what to expect.

It’s an exciting time to be hunter or fisher! If you haven’t heard our new hunting and fishing license structure and fees are going into effect Jan. 1.  See a rundown of some of the benefits. And please spread the word.

Until next week, get out and take advantage of the wonderful fall fishing weather.

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.