First I want to point out that the tentative trout stocking schedule has been posted on our Web site at www.azgfd.gov. Keep in mind that road conditions, especially snow drifts, may result in some of the waters not being stocked as scheduled, so check the weekly reports.
However, down in the lower elevations the Palo Verde trees are starting to bloom, which is a seasonal signpost the post-spawn topwater action is under way for largemouth bass in the central Arizona lakes. Or in this case, the spawn, post-spawn and pre-spawn period all wrapped up in one. It’s time to chuck a stick bait and walk-the-dog.
Right now, it is possible to find some aggressive post-spawn bass, spawning bass, pre-spawn bass and bass still holding deep in their winter pattern. If you can’t catch one cadre of bass, switch techniques and try for one or more of the others.
Windy weather has blown away the success of many anglers, but there are those who make the wind work for them, especially when the barometer is dipping and bass appetites are rising.
Yes, weather disturbances can drive bass off beds and out of the shallows. But pre-spawn and post-spawn bass (some spawners as well) can be aggressively feeding the wind-borne or really currently-borne smorgasbord. But don’t expect them to necessarily be shallow. Try the 15-foot range but be prepared to fish down to 30 or 40 feet if necessary (one angler said he hit the jackpot at 45 feet).
Major outside points, and those secondary points just inside the coves can be the spots, although the edge of the large flats or the submerged creek and river channels (fish highways) might be worth a try as well.
The fish will orient to ambush prey in the current, but the fish may not necessarily be in the current themselves. They will likely be sitting on the lee side of a bush, tree, rock or other structure. They might be sitting on the lee side of a windy point, island or reef. Cast upwind/up-current from a likely holding spot and let your offering float and flutter down to the bass.
Also, when it is windy you might break out the trusty spinnerbaits and pluck on a trailer to help slow them down and get them down. Slow-rolling a spinnerbait along the bottom while your bass boat is bucking waves on a windy point might be a back-aching idea, but it could pay off with some nice fish.
By the way, if any of you have some other wind-savvy fishing tips, send them to me and I’ll share them. It’s that time of year. We all need a little extra help.
But don’t necessarily expect the fish to bite well once we return to those nice warm sunny days following a weather disturbance blasting through the state. On many of those bluebird days, it may seem like the fish have lockjaw this time of year. So slow down your presentation, but possibly use a bait with a little more built-in action, such as a curly tail jig or worm, or a nice flutter-down bait like a Senko.
Now let’s talk crappie. I got a report from one of our retired biologists who noted that the crappie he caught at Alamo had empty egg sacs. That’s a pretty good indication that the spawn is either over, or about over, at Alamo. Alamo is typically an early spawning lake, but I suspect that Roosevelt, Bartlett and the other crappie domains will be close on its heels.
With a partial waxing moon this week, this might be the time to break out the submersible crappie lights and start holding some nighttime hook-and-line vigils for the speckled beauties.
For the trout scene, some of the high country lakes are starting to become accessible but some of our highest ones, such as Big Lake, Crescent Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Knoll Lake and Bear Canyon Lake, are still inaccessible. Once again this year, we had that almost foreign term called snowpack. It’s great to be able to say that term in a positive sense two years in a row.
But Blue Ridge, Willow Springs, Kaibab, Dogtown, Black Canyon, Chevelon (via Winslow or Heber), Kaibab, Greer lakes and Long Lake are all accessible now. The trout fishing hot spot is Lower Lake Mary near Flagstaff. The long-shot for larger trout is Long Lake. Willow Springs might just fill your creel with smiles. An outside bet is Luna Lake near the New Mexico border. The Greer lakes might also be a gamble, but a pretty one this time of year.
As a side note, it was great meeting so many of you at the fish demo tank at our expo last weekend. It was amazing — the bass in the demo tank hit the whole weekend. We had superb presenters providing terrific information for Arizona anglers to catch more fish. Kudos to Fisherman’s Choice and the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation for helping out. In fact, it was so successful that we are talking about doing a monthly bass fishing workshop at our Game and Fish HQ.
The idea is to provide workshops for those who already have the basic skill sets so that they can continue to evolve as anglers and move to the next level. We’ll tap the pros, the knowledgeable tournament anglers and our biologists for their words of wisdom and coaching. And as most teaching situations go, we’ll all learn from each other as well. So stay tuned. I would like to do these the first Thursday of every month.
How about this — the Kids Fishing Pond at our expo drew about 2,200 kids, which set a record for the folks who provide this marvelous fishing tank to various outdoor shows across the nation — pretty remarkable. It was a ball (now we are all trying to recover).
Also, we are doing an artificial habitat project this weekend at Pena Blanca, which was drained this winter for an extensive sediment removal project. If all goes well, I’ll try to get down there for it and then share some pictures with you this coming week.
Go catch some memories, maybe I’ll see you out there.
More than 100,000 people take the fishing pledge
The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) Anglers’ Legacy program reached a historic milestone this month — 100,000 pledges!
The program, which is approaching its three-year anniversary mark, asks Ambassadors to promise to introduce at least one newcomer to boating and fishing.
According to an RBFF online survey conducted in October 2008, Ambassadors said they purchase approximately $140 in fishing tackle and equipment, $153 in boating supplies and accessories, and more than three fishing licenses which support critical fish and wildlife management efforts.
At 100,000 pledges, this means the program may have already generated $25 million for the boating and fishing industries and 170,000 new fishing licenses for states.
“This accomplishment marks a significant milestone for Anglers’ Legacy,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “We’ve made great strides to engage our Ambassadors and keep boating and fishing top of mind, including new partnerships and promotions and a quarterly newsletter.”
Today, more than 300 program partners such as state fish and wildlife agencies, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, clubs and organizations, sports media and outdoor retailers and manufacturers help promote Anglers’ Legacy.
Fishing is excellent for both channel catfish and sunfish at urban waters in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. Spring catfish stockings are under way with loads of 14,000 pounds being delivered every other week.
Top baits for catfish are dough/stink baits, shrimp, hot dogs and shrimp fished off the bottom. Evenings are best, but patient anglers are finding success throughout the day. Some of the cats are in the 4- to 6-pound range.
Action for the recently stocked bluegill and hybrid sunfish is good for anglers fishing with worms and meal worms 3 to 4 feet below a small bobber. Afternoons and evenings are best for the sunfish. Some nice largemouth bass in the 2- to 5-pound range are being reported by anglers working the morning bite with small plastics, grubs or swim baits. Please exercise catch-and-release for spawning bass.
At Green Valley lakes (Payson) fishing is excellent for trout and getting better every week for crappie, bluegill and bass. Extra trout were stocked at Green Valley for some recent fishing clinics and the action is hot. Try Power Bait in orange color, worms or streamer flies such as Wooly Buggers and Simi Seal leaches.
LAKE PLEASANT: Water elevation is 1,692 feet, which is 88-percent full. When the wind isn’t blowing, the fishing is pretty good. When the wind is blowing, those who use the wind to their advantage are doing well catching bass. During the windy times, shift and fish a little deeper along the wind line at the points — bass will often wait in the lee of the wind to ambush shad be pushed by the wind. Bass are spawning in the shallows in the backs of coves throughout the lake. There are also post-spawn bass to be had off major points, islands and reefs throughout the lake, but don’t expect great numbers — yet.
Striped bass and white bass have mostly spawned out and the action for post-spawn stripers is starting to pick up throughout the lake. Some anglers are encountering boils at first light. Use anything white from topwater lures and jerkbaits to crankbaits and spinners. By the way, there is not limit on stripers at Pleasant — catch and keep all you can to help the resource.
A lot of small bass and a few large ones are reported by anglers. Swim baits are enticing the bite and spawning bass are hanging in the northern coves.
One novice angler fished from about 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. and caught two largemouth bass using drop shots.
ROOSEVELT LAKE: Lake elevation is 2151 feet (100-percent full). Tonto Creek runoff is at 64 cfs while inflow from the Salt River is at 1,300 cfs.
This is some of the best fishing in Arizona, if not the entire West. The lake is full. The amount of recently submerged vegetation — including large trees — is phenomenal. It is possible to not just rack up large numbers of fish, but to catch lunkers as well.
This is probably the tail-end of the crappie spawn. This is the time to start fishing for crappie at night using submersible lights.
A couple anglers caught a lot of bass and a few catfish using live shad at the Salt end of the lake. Most were in the slot, but a few were over. Two were over 22 inches long.
One angler fished from about 6 a.m. to noon and picked up a few bass early on cranks, then he moved to the points and fished 15 to 20 feet deep with c-rigged robos. Most of his 20 fish were caught at the points.
Another couple of anglers fished Friday and Saturday and caught 28 bass, mostly in the slot, although there were some unders and three overs. The largest fish was 4 pounds. They fished the north side of the lake at the Salt end. Most of the fish were found in the backs of coves in shallow water. Productive techniques included drop-shotting Robo worms and Senkos. Spinnerbait was productive for the bigger ones.
One angler fished all day and caught 12 with a 3-pounder being the largest and he was teased by a 10-pounder swimming just below the surface. The next day this angler caught 22 fish and most were slot fish. The largest was almost 5 pounds on the second day and he fished the Tonto end. White spinnerbaits and Senkos enticed the bite.
A couple of fishermen caught a few bass with one over 17 inches on a Rapala rip bait. Senkos and Robo worms were enticing as well. The Salt end was where these guys were fishing.
APACHE: Lake elevation is 1913 feet (99-percent full). The inflows from Roosevelt and the outflows to Canyon are creating a dynamic situation at this lake (and its sister lakes). Predatory fish will orient to the current to ambush prey.
This lake should be good for largemouth bass, yellow bass, catfish and carp. We haven’t seen a resurgence of smallmouth bass — yet.