The Lure Of The Lake

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Clifford Pirch is a man who sports many monikers fishing guide, professional angler and Payson Roundup fishing columnist.

So, if you want to know fish, Pirch is a good one to talk to.

Pirch is the man to see if you're tired of drowning worms, feeding crawdads or landing fish that would make better bait than they would a meal.

Pirch guides fishermen to the best fishing spots at Roosevelt Lake northeast of Payson. Big- and small-mouth bass, crappie (as in floppy, not flappy) and jumbo catfish attract thousand of wide-eyed anglers to Roosevelt every year.

Pirch, a well-respected guide in the Tonto National Forest and a professional fishing tournament competitor, knows where the fish are and what they're biting.

Since fall and winter temperatures on Rim lakes such as Willow Springs and Woods Canyon get colder than a mother-in-law in divorce court, many fishing enthusiasts prefer to toss their lines in the warmer waters of Roosevelt and Apache lakes to the south.

But regardless of the type of fish you're looking for and the surroundings you prefer, this is an ideal time of year to catch your limit.

Pirch says weather changes in the fall can make it easier for people to reel in some good catches. "The upper couple of feet of water in our lakes start to cool off at night," he said, "and that starts to bring some of the fish that have been deep all summer into some of the shallows, giving you a lot more action even off the shores of the lake. (In) October and November, that upper layer cools a little more and it starts to mix because it's a little more dense than the warmer water below it, and that really starts to spread the fish out."

That's why you have a good chance of catching fish from the bottom to the top of the lakes, he said.

As the fish migrate to different depths to take advantage of the changing temperatures, anglers must change their lures for best results.

As the water cools off in the fall, Pirch uses a buzz bait.

"It's a top-water lure and it covers a lot of water quickly, which helps you locate the fish," he said.

Waterway highways

To understand how to locate fish, you must understand how fish travel.

An area where a point of land juts out into the water, for example, "(is) a good ambush point for a bass (during their feeding) and a good travel route as they move from deep to shallow water like a highway," Pirch said.

Fish also use channels like highways to move from shallows to deeper water, he said, and they move into coves when it starts to cool off.

So when Pirch talks about covering a lot of water, his intention is to try each area quickly as he trolls along the shallows to locate the fish at that particular time of day and month.

Delving the depths

Crank bait is another lure that Pirch finds handy this time of year. His best advice is to choose a crank bait that dives to depths the angler wants to target.

"When you buy a crank bait, it might say on the box that it is designed for 8- to 10-foot depths," Pirch said. "Throw it toward a point and then crank it down. When you get a bite, try to mentally picture what depth the lure had dropped to, and then continue to use a lure that will keep you in that strike-zone."

Another effective tool is a jigging spoon, which simulates the thread-fin shad the food of choice for bass.

"This is best when given a slight jerk," Pirch said. "Then let it fall, simulating a fish that's injured or dying. The bass like to stay under schools of shad, and when this lure comes down through a school, it can create some good results, as this is a very good late-fall pattern."

Catching cat

For those after giant, flathead catfish, live bait is the way to go, Pirch said. Although they're most active in spring, they also can be caught in the fall.

"All the fish in the lake have a metabolism that is tied to the temperature of the water," he said. "As the water cools, the fishing slows down because the fish don't have to eat as much, but you will be able to catch them because they do have to eat throughout the winter."

Bluegill, waterdogs and carp are all effective live baits for cat, and the best spots to try in Roosevelt can be found near the islands to the southeast "salt" end of the lake.

"As it cools off, the fishing just gets better" in the Rim country, Pirch says.

Here are a few tips to help you catch your limit:

Trout are cold-water fish, and as lake temperatures drop, shoreline fishing picks up.

Spinner lures and Z-rays work well in the fall.

Lures with gold and black coloring, which mimic the golden shiners native to local lakes, or crawdad coloring work best.

Use a wooly-worm fly in black, brown or green for fall fly fishing.

To book a guided fishing trip, call Pirch at (928) 978-3518.

Fishing licenses are available locally at several gas stations and the Wal-Mart Supercenter, and at the Butcher Hook in Tonto Basin.

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