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:
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.
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.
Justin M. fly-fished the Lower Salt River on Friday. The river is scheduled to be stocked with trout next week and was flowing at 13 cfs below Saguaro Mountain Dam on Tuesday.
Try the Phon D. Sutton, Water Users or Granite Reef Recreation Areas.
Justin M. said, “I have been fishing the Salt River the past six weeks or so on every Friday. Most of the time I’m fishing at Water Users and have had success every outing. All I do is fly fish anymore and have caught quite a few bass and lots of bluegill
For the bass, my most productive flies have been AZ simi seal leeches in canadian black, halloween, blood red and olive. Another productive fly pattern has been cheechs low fat minnow. Its a bluegill imitation.
For the bluegill, on warmer days I’ve done fairly well getting them on the surface with a beetle imitation. Other productive flies i’ve had great success with is a hares ear soft hackle pattern I tied up. The only time I tried for trout was a couple of weeks ago when it was raining and cooler.
Fished below the bridge using the hares ear soft hackle and caught and released 14 trout in a matter of a couple of hours. I have talked to other anglers on my outings and have been told that they were having luck with nightcrawlers, small spinners, and one fella was doing well for bass on dropshot with a green Roboworm.”
Brian S.: Temps are warming up and in a few areas the bass are moving up, however most are still caught deep. This beauty was caught in 35 feet with a hinged spinnerbait with a zoom fluke trailer.
Utilizing sonar electronics is critical for deep water fishing. Find them, mark a way point and slowly work your baits into the strike zone. Pay attention to your sonar through the entire process because once you entice one to bite, have your angling buddy be ready with a flutter spoon or Kastmaster as you may find you just ignited a school of them. Hopefully your angling buddy is ready with the net as well.
Now’s the time make a strategic plan to set that state record. See where we think the next AZ state record might come from.
Snow melt is still finding its way into lakes such as Bartlett Lake, where on Wednesday surface water temperatures ranged from 49-51 degrees — too cold even for crappie to move in shallow.
But we are on the cusp of some great fishing. Lakes such as Alamo and Bartlett remain stained and muddied, but with a week or two of sunny, calm weather, rods will be bending.
Crappie anglers might have to wait a couple more weeks until action picks up for these panfish delights – they remain deep at most lakes and mostly inactive. Similar deal with bass.
Meanwhile, it’s still trout time in Community waters. Some big trout have been hooked (and hopefully cooked) the past few weeks. Hot spots seem to be Desert Breeze Lake in Chandler, Tempe Kiwanis and Surprise Lake.
Silver Creek in the White Mountains is fishing great for big trout if you can stand the beard-frosting cold and can find the right holes:
(Send your Angler Reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov – one will be featured as Catch of the Week)
Karrie R. caught this 22-pound flathead catfish from shore at Lake Pleasant on Thursday, Jan. 26 using a dropshot rig with a worm. “It was definitely cold,” she said, “but worth the catch! Also caught an 8-pound carp and 3-pound channel catfish.”
At free fishing clinics, loaner rods are provided, bait is free, and no license is required to those who register during event hours.
Saturday, Feb. 4 — Youth Family Fishing Day, 9 a.m. – noon, Anthem Community Park (41703, N. Gavilan Peak Pkwy.) See the full schedule
Nets and waders: Working for you
This new section will periodically show what our fisheries biologists have been doing in the field to improve fishing in Arizona.
Our fish biologists conserve wildlife, provide sport-fish opportunities — and sometimes snowmobile! This video shows Jan. 25 surveys to Big, Crescent and Lee Valley lakes in the White Mountains.
Biologists checked dissolved oxygen levels under the ice at Lee Valley and Crescent to predict a fish die-off due to low oxygen. Ice conditions were checked on all lakes, and ice was unsafe, especially at Big Lake.
Rainbow trout Thursday, Jan. 26 and Friday, Jan. 27 — Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, all “core” waters except Rio Vista, as well as Patterson Ponds, and Green Valley lakes. Tuesday, Jan. 24 — Pena Blanca Lake, Council Ave. Pond, Yuma West Wetlands Pond. Monday, Jan. 23 — Lower Salt River, Verde River (middle).
Next week: We’re scheduled to stock Deadhorse Lakes, Goldwater Lake, Canyon Lake, Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Pena Blanca Lake, Fortuna Pond and Redondo Pond.
Looks like a fairly calm stretch of sunny weather is ahead for our desert regions. Another week or so of it and the bassin’ activity could pick up.
The top early bird lakes for bass that can have rapidly warming water temperatures are Alamo, Havasu, and Martinez. At Havasu this time of the year, there tends to be some short-lived, pre-spawn activity.
A top pick for bucketmouths is Saguaro. Although it is a little deeper than Alamo Lake and not quite the solar bowl, Saguaro can heat up as well — in more ways than one. Trout and yellow bass are options if the largemouth bass are finicky. It’s also the early bird for channel catfish that like to feed on shad. Plus, Saguaro is just downright gorgeous and was No. 10 last year on Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes in the western region:
Considering Canyon? If you want decent catch rates, avoid it. If you want one or two wall-hangers, you might want to go exercise your swim baits.
Some anglers’ favorite fishing-camping spot is Apache Lake (No. 24 on the same list). The largemouth bass and yellow bass populations are superb. You might even catch a delectable walleye or two.
We have a new moon this weekend, so using submersible lights at night for striped bass can be effective. For winter fishing, Lake Mohave (No. 16) has been pretty good day and night.
Also notable, Rio Vista Pond was not stocked as scheduled this week since the pond is being lowered for maintenance.
Don’t forget that Youth Combo Hunt/Fish Licenses (required for those age 10-17) are just $5, and good for 365 days. Youth under the age of 10 and blind residents do not need to purchase a state fishing license to fish in Arizona. Check the Arizona Fishing Regulations for additional information.
Catch of the Week
(Send your Angler Reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov — one will be featured as Catch of the Week)
Bryce Marco Permuy had a blast landing this “incentive” rainbow trout with just after a double rainbow appeared in the sky at Desert Breeze Lake.
The Yellow Cliffs boat launch is once again open at Bartlett Lake. As of Thursday there was 17 feet of water depth at the launch.
Rainbow trout from the Willow Beach National Fish Hatcheryhave been stocked into Colorado River waters downstream of Las Vegas after a 3-year hiatus. Read more from our Fish AZ blog.
Catch of the Week
Send your Angler Reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov –one will be featured as Catch of the Week
This young man caught this 4-pound brown trout Jan. 9 out of Tunnel Reservoir. This time of year, bunny leeches, simi seal leeches and woolly buggers work well in all of the Greer lakes when there is open water. We consider all ice unsafe.
Cinda Howard of Fly Fish Arizona … and Beyond (www.flyfisharizona.com) had this Thursday, Jan. 12 report from the Greer lakes and Becker Lake:
Currently the Greer Lakes are ice-free and they are finally full again. On Jan. 9, there was a young man who caught a 21″, 4 lb brown out of Tunnel (pictured above). This time of year, bunny leeches, simi seal leeches and woolly buggers work well in all of the Greer Lakes. For bait, try worms.
Becker Lake is also ice-free and has been fishing very well. I have done well fishing from the pier but if you have a boat, casting to the banks has been very productive. Fish seem to be sitting really close to the bank. My best flies are bunny leeches in white, black and tan.
Public fishing events
Free fishing clinics, loaner rods are provided, bait is free, and no license is required to those who registerduring event hours.
Saturday, Jan. 14 — City of Maricopa Youth Fishing Day, 8 a.m. — noon, Copper Sky Lake (45345 W. Martin Luther King Blvd., Maricopa).
The lake will be stocked prior to the event with 420 pounds of trout.
This new section will periodically show what our fisheries biologists have been doing in the field to improve fishing in Arizona.
In December, another 80 Juniper trees were sunk in Dogtown Lake as part of the Dogtown Fish Habitat Project. Since the project started in 2014, more than an acre of fish habitat made of Juniper trees has been added to the 80-year-old reservoir. This project is a cooperative effort between the AZGFD, Kaibab National Forest, Northern Arizona Flycasters and Trout Unlimited.
Thursday, Jan. 12 — Colorado River (Willow Beach). Read more.Wednesday, Jan. 11 and Thursday, Jan. 12 — All Community waters scheduled to be stocked with trout this week (marked with a “T” on the schedule) were stocked with larger-than-average trout. Thursday, Jan. 5 — Dankworth Ponds, Roper Lake, Cluff Reservoir # 3. Wednesday, Jan. 4 — Parker Canyon Lake.
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:
John S.: Winter bass fishing at Canyon Lake! Caught late afternoon using Roboworm dropshot at about 15 feet.
Brandon R. of Surprise: Fished Lynx on Sunday, Jan 8. Lake level is high. Excess water has been running over the spillway for the last 5 days.
Fishing off the bank is limited due to water level. Found a nice point to fish from. Water clarity is medium to low visibility. Used PowerBait Nuggets in chartreuse glitter and rainbow on about a 3 foot leader.
Have to cast toward the center, as the trout are in deeper water.
Caught 10 rainbows in a 6-hour period, with an average length of 12-16 inches. Very surprised, as change in water levels tend to throw off the bite there. Will wait until levels recede a bit to have more options of where to fish. All in all, a very good day of fishing!
Riverview Lake (Mesa)
“Tul” Tuileva: This fish (rainbow trout) was caught on Friday, Jan. 6, and weighed 2.1 pounds and was 18 inches long.
Water temperatures across the state have dropped to their winter standards, and snow and ice has slowed or stalled driving in the high country — but no precipitation is predicted for the high country this weekend.
Be sure to check the Arizona Department of Transportation website for the latest road conditions. Also, some new fishing regulations are in effect.
First, anglers can pick species to target, grab a license 24/7 online (if needed) then figure out where you’ll go and how you’ll fish ’em.
Here are some updates and a few popular species to target:
Rainbow trout: some incentive
Trout is probably the best winter option for putting dinner on the table or bragging to buddies about high catch rates.. Next week we’re going to stock “incentive” trout into many Community Fishing Program waters — see the “core” waters for the week of Jan. 9-14 for a list where they’re being stocked.
Some will be as heavy as 5 pounds.
Know your winter tactics — it’s not an easy time to catch bass. With typical wintertime water temperatures (surface temperatures at desert impoundments tend to be in the low-50s this time of year) a largemouth bass becomes lethargic and may feed once at first light and be satisfied for a couple days.
This isn’t to say avoid bass fishing. Just be prepared. And fish slowly.
Creep a dropshot-rigged Roboworm (bass are eating a lot of orange and red colors, such as Salt River craw) along the bottom. Wait for a possible, subtle bite as the bait is falling. This is where bite-feeling techniques such as holding or thumbing your line as the bait is falling can be critical to catching a bass.
Use better gear such as fluorocarbon line and sensitive rod tips. Check online about the advantages of having tungsten weights.
Consider that about 10 percent of largemouth bass in our lakes will be staying shallow, or within the first 10 feet of the bank, throughout the day. As the sun comes up, many will travel deep where they might settle into a comfortable 66 degrees (say, 25 feet down.) This also is where the shad has been. The deeper the water, the more plentiful the bait.
Target points, humps, reefs and islands.
Crappie are heading deep and grouping into larger schools near large pods of baitfish, as they tend to do during the winter.
Thursday, Dec. 29 — Community waters: Green Valley Lake (No. 1, 2 and 3), Alvord Lake, Desert West Lake, Pioneer Lake, Surprise Lake, Rio Vista Pond, Cortez Lake, Encanto Lake, Steele Indian School, Papago Ponds, Evelyn Hallman Pond, Red Mountain Lake, Chaparral Lake, Riverview Lake, Kiwanis Lake, Desert Breeze Lake, Veterans Oasis Lake, Copper Sky Lake, Lakeside Lake, Sahuarita Lake, Kennedy Lake, Silverbell Lake.
Arizona fishing opportunities wouldn’t be possible without the Sport Fish Restoration Program. It was created through the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 (Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act) and the Wallop-Breaux amendments of 1984. Through a federal excise tax paid by manufacturers on fishing gear and motorboat fuels, it provides funds for fishery conservation, boating access, and aquatic education.
Before you head to the White Mountains region (or are you already there? ), take a look at some pictures of the lake conditions.
Fishing is fair at Show Low Lake, Fool Hollow Lake, Willow Springs Lake, and Nelson Reservoir. Silver Creek is in the catch and release season, which had a parasite outbreak in October, but fishing is now good. Patterson Ponds in St. Johns were stocked in mid-December with catchable rainbow trout.
Access to Woods Canyon Lake and Bear Canyon Lake is closed as of Jan. 5 via Forest Road 300. Access to Big Lake is closed as of Dec. 23 via roads 261 and 273. Other roads are icy and snow packed.
Many anglers have reported spotting huge schools of black crappie on fish-finders at lakes such as Roosevelt and Canyon. Other good lakes to try are Apache and Bartlett. (Crappie fishing at Alamo Lake reportedly is poor.)
With some stable winter weather, this can be an excellent time to fish for crappie and they head into deeper waters of our desert impoundments and form large schools.
But some anglers will troll jigs with grubs, roadrunner jigs, small crankbaits, and vertically jig with 2-inch grubs and Rapala Jigging raps — without any bites.
The recent fronts moving through the area have been impacting the bite. So my first thought is to advise anglers to make sure they’re fishing during the right day. … large schools of crappie are relatively easy to find right now. Actively feeding crappie are in 20-25 feet depths.
If fishing deeper depths that lack cover such as trees, stumps or rock piles, an angler could be trying to catch inactive fish.
The best bait for Roosevelt at any time of year is a Lit’l Fishy bait. It’s a shad imitation bait in a pearl color with a blue stripe on the back (they are available at the Hwy 188 Tackle store in Tonto Basin). Fish this bait vertically and slowly over the school using a 1/16-ounce jig head hook.
During the winter, the bite is far less aggressive. The equipment should include an ultralight 5-foot, 6-inch spinning rod and PowerPro braided 4-pound line (I prefer the yellow color). The braided line is needed due to the extremely light bite. If the angler is not using this equipment, they may not be feeling the bite.
The bite feels like the rod is slightly bending due to pressure. I typically mark my line at 30 feet, and when I reach that depth, I slowly raise the entire rod — not the tip — about 2 feet. If I feel anything … I set the hook. Using this technique, 99.9% of the crappie will be hooked in the roof of the mouth. Unlike a trolling technique where the crappie may be hooked in the lip, using this technique you can set the hook. If after lifting the rod a few times, I don’t get a bite, reel up about two turns on the reel and repeat the rod lifting process.”
New Year “slab” from Canyon Lake
There is hope. Jon A. caught this 14 1/2-inch crappie on Jan. 1 at Canyon Lake. Jon said, “The crappie were in full winter mode holding deep and completely gorging themselves on shad in the morning. It was caught on a minnow jig and released soon after the photo was taken.”
So go get some winter crappie! Need a license? Get ’em 24/7 online and help conserve wildlife for future generations.