Recent fish surveys at Roosevelt Lake show that the fish are in good shape, which should translate into exceptional fishing this year.
Mesa Regional Fisheries Program Manager Jim Warnecke said 1999 is shaping up to be a low-water year with little runoff expected in the next couple of months. "The angling public has expressed concern over the low water conditions at Roosevelt Lake and its effect on fish populations. Although the lake is at 40 percent capacity, the recent fish sampling effort indicates fish populations are doing well and anglers should expect an exceptional fishing season this year," Warnecke said.
Game and Fish biologists used gill nets to look for native razorback suckers that had been stocked three years ago. Although no suckers were found, 407 fish were collected, including largemouth bass, black crappie, channel and flathead catfish and carp.
A majority of the 52 crappies sampled were in two size groups averaging 9 to 13 inches.
"These are the sizes anglers will continue catching the next couple months. Although the average weight of the larger class crappie was 1.75 pounds, there were several larger crappie caught that surpassed 2.5 pounds," Warnecke said.
The crappie sampled were in a pre-spawn condition and beginning to stage in the mouths of coves awaiting warmer temperatures. "Anglers can expect to see crappie in full-spawn condition and in the shallows by the end of the month. Crappie anglers have been making good catches of fish using 1/16-ounce peal white or pumpkin/chartreuse-colored plastic jigs," Warnecke said. "Live minnows fished under lights at night are also scoring well."
A total of 85 largemouth bass were sampled representing two dominant age classes; the young of the year at 9 inches and the fish in the protected slot at 15 inches (weighing close to 2 pounds). The largest bass sampled were two females weighing 4 pounds each. Both were released to complete their spawning duties that should take place in April.
"As bass start to invade the shallows looking for nesting sites, anglers using white or chartreuse spinnerbaits stand the best chance of catching good numbers of fish," Warnecke said.
As a reminder, bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) caught between 13 and 16 inches are in the protected slot and must be returned to the water immediately. Bass caught and kept outside the slot (below 13 or above 16 inches) must have the head and tail attached when transported home so size lengths can be determined.
The big fish of the survey were flathead catfish. The top three weighed 34, 26.5 and 20 pounds respectively. "These primitive-looking fish were caught in less than six feet of water and within 20 feet of the shoreline in the upper portion of the Salt arm of the lake. Live bait such as bluegills or small carp are good bait selections to take one of these behemoth catfish.