Smallmouth Bass Pat Fogarty contributed

Pat Fogarty with a 5-plus-pound smallmouth bass.

Arizona is noted for sunshine and warm temperatures, which is a magnet for winter visitors as well as folks moving from the snowbelt of the north.

On the average, there are approximately 300 sunny days a year in the Valley of the Sun and a few less in other areas of the state of Arizona. Rain and snow are critical to the water storage capacity for the state, so those cloudy days are essential in the form of precipitation.

As I sit behind this keyboard, I am watching it rain and am thrilled to know Roosevelt Lake will benefit. From the late fall precipitation in the months of November and December, the lake level is on the move upward. With every new front that produces rain or snow this translates to a healthier body of water, to date 73% and rising.

A few years back a group of anglers got together to raise an alarm to the Arizona Game and Fish Department about the declining fishery in Roosevelt Lake.

These roundtable discussions drew standing room only crowds in Tonto Basin sounding the alarm about the declining bass and crappie fishing in this once famous destination for winter visitors from the northern states.

These sport fish once brought thousands of anglers to this reservoir in the springtime, sharing stories of how great the fishery was.

Well, the good news is the lake is on a definite rebound from a decade ago. The fishery division of the AZGFD has stocked Florida strain bass numerous times during this past 3 years in addition to multiple stockings of fingerling crappies. The results are, healthier bass are being caught which can be described as football shaped fighting machines much to an angler’s delight.

The spawns over the last 2 years have also produced large numbers of 8- to 12-inch fish being caught regularly by sport anglers. In addition, more crappies are showing in daily creels, which is more good news for Roosevelt Lake on the rebound. Another good spawning season is critical for this once famous fishing mecca of the Southwest.

Rising and stable water conditions are essential for spawning bass and crappies. As more brush enters the water more habitat is available for spawning fish and the protection of fry as they try to make it to the fingerling stage of the growth cycle.

Snow pack on the Rim and in the White Mountains is essential for this to happen. Rain at 5,000 feet in elevation usually means snow at 7,000 feet and above. The snowpack is steadily improving and hopefully more winter storms will add to the measure.

On a recent trip to Roosevelt Lake after 3 successive days of warm, sunny conditions, the fishing was very good. The bass and crappies were deeper in 20 feet of water or more in close proximity to structure whether it was a rocky point or submerged trees.

Local resident, Pat Fogarty hooked into a healthy smallmouth that was over five pounds, which is extremely unusual for any lake. There have been reports of other smallies that size and larger being caught this winter.

Likewise, there have also been numerous largemouths caught that tipped the scale well over five pounds. These are all indications that the lake is on the rebound and this spring could be the breakout year for Roosevelt Lake for the 2020 decade.

Get your fishing gear ready, March is not far away to try Roosevelt Lake in the springtime, a special season in God’s creation.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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