Roosevelt Lake Crappie Stocking 2019 By Curt Gill

Wyatt Massey, 10, helps stock fish with Kirk Russell.

In early March, Roosevelt Lake received another welcomed stocking of fingerling crappies to bolster the already existing population.

This popular game fish has been a major lure for thousands of winter visitors to the Arizona sunshine desert climate in years gone by.

For some reason the numbers of crappies in the lake made a significant decline more than 10 years ago, which likewise directed anglers to other lakes in Arizona and elsewhere.

During the months of April and May it was common to see upward to 100 boats in the Tonto or Salt arms slow trolling for crappies.

Famous anglers like Jimmy Houston or Al Lintner made Roosevelt one of their springtime stops because of its great crappie fishing.

Well, this began to change over a decade ago and the decline in crappie fishing has been steady in recent years.

About three years ago, concerned anglers and the Arizona Game and Fish Department met numerous times at roundtable discussions led by local angler Jim Goughnour, who is now currently on the commission, to devise a plan in hopes of bringing this great reservoir back as a crappie hotspot.

This plan was put into action by Curt Gill, aquatic wildlife program director of the department, and had actually three steps in improving the fishery.

Over the past three years 50 artificial submerged structures have been placed in strategic areas to improve habitat. A 15-fish limit on crappies was initiated a couple of years ago, which will also aid in crappie recovery on Roosevelt.

There was an initial stocking of 15,000 fingerling crappies two years ago and this number was recently bolstered with and additional 10,000 fish a couple of weeks ago.

Volunteer boat owners met the department at Cholla landing to distribute crappies at many of their old habitats throughout the lake.

These fish will be large enough to catch by next season and will be about a pound or larger, depending on the health of the lake and their food supply. Fish from the initial stocking of two years ago have shown in many creel limits.

Hopefully, with the abundant runoff and new habitat in the water a successful spring spawn will take place and crappies will again thrive in Roosevelt Lake.

If this happens the future of the popular reservoir is certainly rosy and this popular body of water will return as the crappie capital of the West.

There is also another planting of fingerling Florida-strain bass planned for May, which will further improve an already healthy population of bass in the lake.

Florida-strain bass have a tendency of putting on more weight quicker, which obviously will improve the fishing.

When a beginning angler catches fish, the desire to fish again and make fishing a recreational outing for the entire family becomes the norm.

This spring take a friend fishing on Roosevelt Lake and enjoy time on the water in God’s creation.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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