While local anglers are chomping at the bit to head to the largest of the Salt River reservoirs, Roosevelt Lake, the fish just aren’t cooperating. Springtime bass and crappie fishing has been slow to get started with the recent heavy runoff from the last late winter storm.
The lake has added 6 vertical feet of water with the Tonto and Salt running above normal for this time of year. In the last week, the northern half of the lake has turned to a chocolate brown and is scattered with heavy debris washed down from the upstream tributaries. Overall this should improve the fishing in a week or two when the water clears and settles down.
A shoreline will be created with new brush and trees submerged that will add habitat for spawning bass and crappies. When the water temperatures reach the ideal 60 to 64 degrees with a stable lake level the spawn should occur.
Currently the lake is at 51 percent of full capacity with the flow from the Tonto and the Salt gradually increasing the water level.
There is a concern among veteran anglers that other factors are also contributing to the very slow start and the decline of crappie fishing which has become evident over the past four years. Two icons of crappie fishing on Roosevelt Lake, Curt Rambo and Art Chamberlin, who are both on the water more than 100 days a year, have observed declining numbers in fish being taken during a day.
The number of anglers on the water for the winter crappie bite has been way down compared to the last two years and that in part is attributed to the dwindling number of winter visitors that are not making Tonto Basin and Roosevelt Lake their snowbird destination. These folks are traditionally crappie fishermen from the Midwest who are looking for a place to catch fish and vacation. If the fish aren’t biting or maybe not there, then they move to more favorable destinations in other southern tier states.
People journey to Roosevelt to catch fish and enjoy the warm weather. Spring break is often considered the destination for thousands of families who want to camp along the shoreline and catch fish. A quick trip down Highway 188 will show the casual observer that the number of campers is considerably down on the shoreline of Roosevelt Lake compared to previous years. If the fish aren’t biting, then they won’t come.
Let’s hope this changes over the next couple of weeks. When the fish bite, the word gets out and people show up. Everyone prospers with fishing licenses being sold and the local businesses supplying the needs of the weekend anglers as well as the winter visitor. Time will tell and maybe there is a need for a scientific study of what kind and how many fish are in Roosevelt Lake.
Let’s hope for a springtime crappie bite soon so take a friend fishing and enjoy God’s creation.