Crappie Fishing Strategies Need Rethinking

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Although game and fish officials are projecting Roosevelt Lake will soon be one of the best bass and crappie fisheries in the country, veteran anglers have found catching crappie tough at Roosevelt Lake this spring.

Dennis Pirch, who has been fishing at the lake for the past three decades, said he knows the reasons why the fish have been so elusive.

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A Roosevelt Lake angler steers his boat close to shore where he hopes lunkers are swimming.

"People have to rethink their old crappie fishing tactics," the Payson High School teacher and former wrestling coach said.

His advice is not to troll slowly for the fish, as most anglers have done in past years.

Rather, Pirch said, it's best now to use mini-jigs, minnows and crappie bobbers in areas of heavy vegetation. His advice is to also fish in depths of 18 inches to 2 feet.

The change in strategy from trolling to angling in brush is necessary because of the rising lake waters from the runoff from a series of winter and spring storms. In just 55 days last winter, the lake doubled in size.

In the midst of a record nine-year drought that began in 1996, trolling in open waters was an often successful fishing strategy.

Because the lake was less than 15 percent full, the fish could be found in open waters.

Now that the lake has risen to about 98 percent of capacity, waters have enveloped previously exposed vegetation giving the fish perfect habitats in which to spawn.

Simply put, the fish can now be found in shallow brush areas rather than open waters.

Once anglers find new ways to successfully fish the rapidly expanding lake, angling at Roosevelt is expected to be phenomenal for both crappie and bass fishing.

"It's going to be one of the best lakes in the country," Arizona Game and Fish officer Rory Aikens said. "It'll be a whole new era of fishing for Roosevelt Lake.

Tackle Box leaders

Judy Fox, Art Chamberlain and Russell Hatfield are anglers who have been successful in bringing in live wells of nice-sized crappie this spring.

In the crappie fishing contest sponsored by The Tackle Box in Tonto Basin, Fox is in first place with a 1.87 pound fish. Chamberlain, a veteran Roosevelt fishing guide, is in second with 1.71 pounds. Hatfield has a 1.62 pound fish and is in third place.

The winner of the two-month long contest will be announced April 30 and will receive the grand prize of a spin-cast combination rod and reel.

Although the contest was originally scheduled to end this month, Dennis Pirch -- a co-owner of the Tackle Box --as opted to extend it for two additional two-week periods.

The extension, he said, was done because Roosevelt fishing conditions are just now heating up.

The first contest is May 1 to 15 and the second May 16 to 31.

At the conclusion of each two-week contest, prizes for the three heaviest crappie will be awarded. A grand prize winner for the entire month will also be named.

Registration and weigh-ins may be done at the Tackle Box located a half-mile south of Punkin Center. For more information, call (928) 978-3500 or (928) 479-2108.

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