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Fishing Report: Feb. 23, 2018

Posted February 23, 2018

See “The Reel Deal” statewide summary

 

Updated Editor’s Note: Great news for anglers: We’re developing a complete fishing forecast for each season of the year, including primary water bodies by region. It will replace this entire news post and is coming soon. Look for it in the “Fishing” section of our website.

Also, we plan to soon release a new-and-improved Fish and Boat Arizona map! 

For even more up-to-date information, we’ll continue the e-news weekly fishing report and fishing blog. We also suggest calling/visiting a local bait-and-tackle shop, fishing marina or guide service.

The AZGFD fishing report is a free resource meant to inform anglers, and remember that nothing beats spending time on the water to figure out what’s biting.

Help us keep these reports fresh for your fellow anglers by sending your reports and photos to BFishing @AZGFD.gov – one will be selected for Catch of the Week.

Finally, reports from guides, tackle shops or angler groups are not endorsements.

OK, on to the  full report.

The National Fish Habitat Partnership has unveiled its list of seven U.S. “Waters to Watch” for 2017. One of them is our very own Tonto National Forest gem, Roosevelt Lake.

Central Waters

(Updated Feb. 23; Editor Nick Walter, 623-236-7214)

ROOSEVELT LAKE — (2,112 feet, 58-percent full).

Feb. 22 report from Jim Goughnour of Rim Country Custom Rods:

Roosevelt Lake is currently 58 percent full with the Salt River and Tonto Creek flowing at about 25% of their normal rates for this time of year. The lower than normal flows into the lake allows much of the debris to settle making the water clarity crystal clear. In many parts of the lake, the bottom can be easily seen in depths as deep as 20 feet. If the water remains clear, it will be an advantage to sight fishermen in a couple of weeks. The recent storms and moisture throughout the watershed will ensure the continuation of water flows and nutrients into the lake for the next several weeks.

When the February bass fishing tournaments start on Roosevelt Lake, it means the spawn is not far behind. The Wild West Bass Trail Team Tournament is returning to Roosevelt Lake, Saturday, Feb. 24. This tournament is very popular among local anglers and throughout the State. The take off will be at safe light from the Cholla Recreational Site. If you have never seen a bass tournament, it is an exciting event. The weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at the Cholla Site. The teams will weigh in their best seven fish and several local anglers are anticipating weights nearing 20 pounds. This event is free to the public, so don’t miss the chance to see some great anglers showing off some huge bass and one of the best executed bass fishing tournaments in the West.

One factor that will play a big part in the strategy of the tournament anglers is the upcoming spawn. The water temperature is in the mid to high 50s and the bass are beginning to stage or prepare for the spawn. Typically, a 60 degree water temperature is the key for the spawn to officially get started. However, some bass are already search the shallow waters in coves for that perfect place to make a bed, while others are in 15-20 foot depths waiting for the water temperature to rise just a few more degrees. The full moon on March 1st will have a large effect on the spawn cycle. Tournament anglers know that when bass are in this “pre-spawn” phase that they feed heavily. Reaction baits, spinner baits, drop-shot technique have all been reported successful recently.

Even if you are not a tournament angler, it’s time to get ready. Excellent bass fishing conditions are only weeks away. Don’t wait to get to the lake for the first time of the season to start your boat and check your rods, reels and tackle. Too many anglers are disappointed when they get to the lake and the boat won’t start or they realize that their rod or reel needed to be repaired. Also check your personal floatation devices (PFD), fire extinguisher, trailer and other safety equipment before you head to your favorite lake.

APACHE LAKE – Lake elevation is 1,908 feet (94-percent full).

An angler recently caught a 14-inch yellow bass (pictured).

The ticket is jigging spoons deep for bass. This is an excellent winter tactic here and at Saguaro Lake, especially for yellow bass. Schools typically have been in 30-50 feet of water and this cold, windy weather should keep them drive them even deeper.  Also for yellow bass, try using dropshot rigs with nightcrawlers and slip bobbers to put the bait at a certain depth.

The lake is scheduled to be stocked next week. Fishing has been somewhat slow during the past few weeks for bass as water levels had increased.

 

CANYON LAKE – Lake level is 1,658 feet (97-percent full.)

Scooter Griffith of The Arizona Fishing Guides reported Jan. 23: “Canyon has slowed up a little bit due to the cold front but we are still able to catch them on small ring tail swimbaits from Arizona custom baits on a 1/4-ounce jighead, along with Senkos on the steep walls for those real lethargic fish that don’t know if they want to be deep or shallow.

Also, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has been working with the Tonto National Forest on maintaining the pavement in and around the Palo Verde boat ramp. This will involve milling, crack-sealing, re-paving, seal-coating, etc. as necessary, and is scheduled for March 1 -17. The entire area from the main highway down will be closed to the public during that time, and signs will transfer public traffic to the Laguna boat ramp down the road. Funding for the project comes from both Tonto Pass user fees, and a federal Boating Access grant awarded to Arizona Game and Fish. Both types of funds originate from boaters and anglers, and are now being reinvested back into this boating facility.

A fishing pier is now open to the public at the Boulder recreation site of Canyon Lake. Trout were stocked last week in this area.

Located in the Tonto National Forest’s Canyon Lake, the Boulder recreation site is 15 miles northeast of Apache Junction on State Route 88.

The pier is the culmination of a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Canyon Lake Marina to remove the original, 20-plus-year-old pier damaged by storms during the summer of 2015 and replace it with a modern pier.

Funding for the pier came from Forest Service fees collected at developed recreation sites, such as picnic areas, campgrounds and boat launch areas.

SAGUARO LAKE – The lake is 1,524 feet (92-percent full).

Scooter Griffith of The Arizona Fishing Guides  reported Jan. 23: “Saguaro has been doing pretty well over the last week and hopefully this cooling trend will push fish back down into their winter depths. We have been catching them anywhere from 30 to 50 feet deep on spoons — chrome and gold seem to be the best somewhere between a half ounce or 3/4 ounce.”

Try vertically-jigging spoons over schools of baitfish in 30-40 feet of water — there can be a good yellow bass bite. Also try nightcrawlers on dropshot rigs or jigs. On Jan. 25, during the afternoon, yellow bass were feeding actively in 30-40 feet of water. The lake was stocked with rainbow trout Dec. 19.

Note: The Arizona Catfish Conservation Association, a 501c3 non-profit club based in Arizona, is asking anyone who catches a tagged flathead or channel catfish at Lake Pleasant or Bartlett Lake to note the number of the tag, along with any other information such as weight, length or girth, GPS coordinates (if available) and then visit www.catfishaz.com.

BARTLETT LAKE – Lake elevation is 1,756 feet, feet, 48 % full.

The lake has dropped 3 feet during the past week. Water temperature has been in the low- to mid-50s.

Gary Senft, Arizona’s Bass Pro, recently fished the lake and said that the morning bite for largemouth bass had been difficult but as the day progressed and the water temperature warmed, the bite picked up. Fish moved into as close as 5 feet of water. As the water dropped a couple inches during the day, burrowing crawdads that were exposed would move back into water, where bass would be waiting. Best artificial baits were Texas rigged, and Carolina rigged brush hogs, and dropshot-rigged Roboworms. The crankbait and spinnnerbait bite turned on more during the afternoon  as well. Crappie anglers have been fairing pretty well too.

Scooter Griffith of The Arizona Fishing Guides  reported Jan. 23: “Bartlett is another good lake to catch plenty of numbers: You can catch these fish shallow on my Livingston lure crankbait and jerkbaits or catch them deep with a dropshot or a jig. The best drop shot bait we have used is a slim shot by Arizona Custom Baits and scooter special.

Don’t forget the Bartlett Lake Marina is now open. See www.bartlettlake.com or contact 480-221-0503 for more information.

Note: The Arizona Catfish Conservation Association, a 501c3 non-profit club based in Arizona, is asking anyone who catches a tagged flathead or channel catfish at Lake Pleasant or Bartlett Lake to note the number of the tag, along with any other information such as weight, length or girth, GPS coordinates (if available) and then visit www.catfishaz.com.

LAKE PLEASANT – (Lake elevation 1,687 feet, 83 % full).

Water temperature have been topping out around 59 degrees by late afternoons. Despite the recent “cold” front, largemouth bass are in a pre-spawn mode before the March 1 full moon. John New from the Hook Up Outfitters said Feb. 15 that for largemouth bass, fishing during the afternoons has been the best bet. If you look for birds, you’ll find the bait. Go-to baits he recommends are jerkbaits, particularly a clear Ito Vision 110. Ricos have been good during the late evenings and anglers are still having success throwing Whopper Ploppers. For anglers who don’t throw hard jerkbaits, try soft plastic flukes. Vertically jigging spoons also has been productive in 20-35 feet of water.

For striped bass, many anglers are having success in 30-35 feet of water in northern coves on anchovies and spoons. During late afternoons when striper have been corralling shad in shallow water, try throwing those jerkbaits.

 

COMMUNITY FISHING WATERS — There are only two stockings of winter trout left (this week and next week) in the Community Fishing Program waters in the Tucson and Phoenix areas. That means catfish stockings are just around the corner.   Catfish stockings are scheduled to begin the week of March 19-24.

Community trout fishing has good with recent rainfall. Reports are rainbow trout are biting right off the stocking trucks.

A surprise stocking into Community Fishing Program waters took place about 10 days ago. We stocked some big largemouth bass weighing between 2-4 pounds into select Community waters in Phoenix and Tucson.

We didn’t announce the stocking in hopes there would be less fishing pressure and the largemouth would have a successful spawn this spring.  Largemouth bass already were present in waters that were stocked; this was a supplemental stocking to the natural populations.

Stocking bass is expensive and so is not done often. Anglers can help maintain bass fishing in Community waters by practicing catch-and-release, but if you choose to harvest, remember there are minimum length limits of 13 inches (smaller bass must be released unharmed) and bag limits of either 2 or 1 bass, depending on the water. Water Ranch in Gilbert is catch-and-release only (single barbless hooks).

A reminder to anglers to keep fishing Community waters because you never know what’s going to bite. This time of the year, Community waters can provide some of the best trout fishing in the state.

Also,  check out the stocking schedule of which waters are getting trout.

 

HORSESHOE LAKE – Lake elevation is 1,975 feet (12-percent full).

When the lake is full, there are a lot of spawning fish. No new reports.

LOWER SALT RIVER – Thursday afternoon, there were releases of 8 cfs out of Stewart Mountain and 493 cfs out of Bartlett Lake. Try Phon D. Sutton or Granite Reef, which are being stocked with rainbow trout and were stocked this week. On sunny days, gold and silver-colored spinner lures tend to work best. Anglers can try fly fishing with copper johns, prince nymphs, and egg patterns can work well for sub-surface flies, and for dry fly anglers can try stimulators and elk hair caddis. If you are spin fishing try small Rooster Tails with a gold blade in the slower moving water.

You might be able to catch some bass or sunfish in the deeper holes.

Creeks below the Mogollon Rim

Jim Goughnour of Rim Country Custom Rods reported: “… the trout streams throughout Rim Country are running crystal clear. Experienced anglers enjoy the challenge of catching wild trout during the winter months. Wild trout survive because they are wary and are always alert for approaching danger. Even the shadow from an angler on a bright day will send wild trout to the safety of cover. Anglers talk about “stalking” the trout and developing the skills to land that nymph fly upstream in hopes of aggressive strike from an unsuspecting wild Arizona trout.”


 

Mogollon Rim and White Mountains

(Updated Feb. 20; Editor Mike Lopez, 928-532-3692)

 

Recommended Waters to Fish

Recent storms have brought much needed snow to higher elevations, however, it is now impeding access to some lakes. The following roads are now closed/gated:  Highway 273 to Crescent, Big, and Lee Valley Lakes; Rim Road (FR 300) from Highway 260 west to the Coconino Forest boundary; Forest Road 105 to Woods Canyon Lake; Forest Road 149 to Willow Springs Lake; Forest Road 169 south of FR 169B; Forest Road 34 south of Chevelon Work Center.  Other Forest Roads may be snowpack and/or muddy.  Fishing is good or fair-good at Patterson Ponds, Luna Lake, Silver Creek, and Becker Lake.


MOGOLLON RIM LAKES

BEAR CANYON LAKE – No access. The Rim Road/Forest Road 300 is closed because of deep snow.

BLACK CANYON LAKE – Fishing is fair.  Roads are open and the lake is entirely ice free. The lake level is 8.4 feet below spill and the new boat ramp is fully functional.

CHEVELON LAKE – Fishing is fair for rainbows and wild brown trout.  The lake is ice free but is only accessible from the north.  Forest Roads 300 and 169 (south of 169B) are closed due to deep snow.  The lake level is still down about 6 feet. Chevelon Lake is a hike-in lake with a two trout limit and artificial fly/lure only regulations.

WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE – No access. The Rim Road/Forest Road 300 is closed because of deep snow.

WOODS CANYON LAKE – No access. The Rim Road/Forest Road 300 is closed because of deep snow.

 

PINETOP/SHOW LOW LAKES

FOOL HOLLOW LAKE – Fishing is fair.  The lake is ice free.

RAINBOW LAKE – Fishing is poor.  The lake is ice free. The lake level is down about 3 feet and filling slowly.

SCOTT RESERVOIR – Fishing is poor. The lake is ice free, but the lake level is extremely low and turbid due to irrigation releases. Can’t launch boats from the boat ramp.

SHOW LOW LAKE – Fishing is fair for holdover rainbow trout.  The lake is ice free.

WOODLAND LAKE – Fishing is poor.  The lake is ice free, but also low and weedy.

PATTERSON PONDS – Fishing is fair for trout. Rainbow trout were last stocked in early December in the upper pond.  A regular fishing license or a community fishing license is required to fish here.  The pond daily bag limits in community fishing waters (2 trout; 2 catfish; 5 sunfish) apply.

 

WHITE MOUNTAIN LAKES

BECKER LAKE – Fishing is fair to good. The lake is ice free. Becker Lake is open to catch-and-release only for trout, artificial fly and lure only; single barbless hooks only. No bait. No trout may be kept.

BIG LAKE – The lake is ice covered with thin ice. Highways 273 and 261 are closed for the winter.

CARNERO LAKE – Roads are open but may be blocked by snow drifts. The lake is ice covered with thin ice.

CLEAR CREEK RESERVOIR – Fishing is poor for trout, but fair for sunfish and bullheads.

CONCHO LAKE – Fishing is poor.  The lake is ice free.

CRESCENT LAKE – The lake is ice covered with thin ice.  Highways 273 and 261 are closed for the winter.

GREER LAKES (River; Tunnel; Bunch) – Bunch Reservoir is full, while Tunnel and River are still filling slowly. All three lakes are ice free.

HULSEY LAKE – The road is open and the lake is free of ice.

LEE VALLEY LAKE – No Access.  Highways 273 and 261 are closed for the winter.

LUNA LAKE – Fishing is good.  The lake is ice free and anglers are catching lots of rainbows and cutthroats.

LYMAN LAKE – Lyman Lake State Park is open. Fishing is fair for carp and catfish. Use corn or night crawlers for carp and chicken liver for catfish.

NELSON RESERVOIR – Fishing is fair for holdover rainbows. The lake is full and ice free.

 

WHITE MOUNTAIN STREAMS

EAST FORK of the BLACK RIVER – Fishing is fair to poor. Roads from Alpine are still open but are snow packed and/or muddy.

LITTLE COLORADO RIVER in GREER – Fishing is fair to poor.

SHOW LOW CREEK TAILWATER – Fishing is poor.

SHOW LOW CREEK MEADOWS (COMMUNITY FISHING WATER) – Fishing is fair at this new Community Fishing Water located at the Show Low Bluff trailhead in Show Low.  The stream is ice free and anglers are still catching a few trout that were stocked in early December. Bait can be used, but daily bag limits are 2 trout, 2 catfish, 1 bass (minimum size 13”) and 5 sunfish.

SILVER CREEK – Fishing is fair to good.  Seasonal Catch-and-Release regulations (with artificial lure and fly only with single barbless hooks) are in effect and will continue through March 31.  All trout must be released immediately and please use proper catch-and-release techniques to ensure the trout survive after swimming away.  The upper section is open.

SHEEPS CROSSING/West Fork LCR – No access. Highway 273 is closed for the winter.

WEST FORK of the BLACK RIVER – Fishing is fair to poor. Roads from Alpine are still open but are snow packed and/or muddy.


Central Mountains

Angler Reports:

(New reports; Editor Chuck Benedict, 928-214-1244)

(These are recommended fishing waters. Those not listed either are considered poor or there have been no reports. Send your reports to BFishing@azgfd.gov.)

Trout stockings resume in March. Lakes are completely or mostly frozen. We consider all ice unsafe.

See more fishing spots


Colorado River/Prescott area Waters

Editor Gregg Cummins, 928-263-8868

(These are recommended fishing waters. Those not listed either are considered poor or there have been no reports.)

Been fishing? Please sense your reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov.)

Angler Reports:

Dead Horse lagoons

Feb. 8. Awesome Day Of Fishing At Dead Horse Ranch Lagoons!  In 6 hours, I caught & released 91 Rainbow Trout, 2 Sunfish and 1 beautiful 14″ Black Crappie which really made my day…  Most fish caught on split-tail grubs.  My friend ‘Pistol Pete’ caught & release 40 Rainbow Trout.  Weather Conditions: Sunny, clear & with some light breezes.  Water Conditions: From slightly stained to heavily stained.

See more lake-specific information


Lake Powell and Lees Ferry

LAKE POWELL —

“Warming and moving”

Warm weather makes it seem like Spring is upon us. Yesterday the water temperature was 50F when we started and over 53 degrees on the return trip. Air temperature was in the mid 60s. Surprisingly stripers responded unexpectedly to that warming.

See the details in the full Jan. 18 report from Wayne Gustaveson (www.wayneswords.com).

LEES FERRY – AZGFD plans to stock rainbow trout this spring into the lower 3 mile walk-in section of Lees Ferry.

A public meeting on the proposed stocking and the current status of the Lees Ferry fishery will be held 5-7 p.m. on Monday, March 5, at the old lodge across from Marble Canyon Lodge on U.S. Hwy 89 A in Marble Canyon.

Read more.

 

Angler Report

John U. Caught this 21-inch rainbow trout drifting flies.

 

Latest report from Lees Ferry Anglers:

As 2017 comes to an end and we welcome in a New Year, I would like to discuss where the Lees Ferry fishery has been in the past few years … and where it’s headed.

In the fall of 2013, there was a decline in the trout population due to much lower- than-normal water flows and warmer-than-normal water temperatures from Glen Canyon Dam. The lower water flows were part of the Experimental High Flow Event and the warmer water was a result of Lake Powell water levels being low due to drought. This was the first fishery decline that we had seen since 2007 and the fifth decline witnessed in my 35 years here at Lees Ferry.

The good news is every time we have seen a decline in the fish population, Lees Ferry is back in a boom phase within 3 to 4 years and that’s where we are today.

See the full report.


Southwestern Waters

Send your reports to BFishing@azgfd.gov.

New reports:

ALAMO LAKE – (Elevation 1,1110.29 feet – 1,101.83 this time last year.)

Angler Report (Feb. 1):

Dick K.: My wife’ cousin, John Pierce from Central Point, Oregon, was a first time visitor to Arizona, I introduced him to crappie fishing at Alamo Lake on Jan 28 and 29 We boated 34 fish that averaged 2 pounds each: John caught the largest fish that was a whopping 2 pounds, 12 ounces. All fish were were caught trolling small crankbaits behind Off Shore side planers over 15-20 feet of water.

Jan. 10 public notice from the U.S. Army Cops of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District (Corps) announces availability of the draft Environmental Assessment for the Alamo Dam Flushing Flow Release. The Corps proposes to release water from Alamo Dam outside of the normal non-flood release schedule in order to facilitate required maintenance activities. The proposed flushing flow release would occur as a flood pulse hydrograph designed to mimic a typical rain event in the downstream watershed released with appropriate seasonal timing. While the exact details of the release are subject to variation based on conditions at the time of release, such as water surface elevation and weather, the release will conform to the following general parameters:

1) Maximum release will not exceed 5,000 cfs. 2) Total release time, including ascending and descending limbs, would not exceed 20 days. 3) Ascending limb of the hydrograph will be moderate. 4) Descending limb of the hydrograph will initially drop steeply, followed by a gradual return to base flow. 5) The peak of the hydrograph will be completed prior to March 15th.

See the full notice.

 

Read more about how reservoir filling seems to have rejuvinated this fishery.

LAKE HAVASU — Lake Level 445.72

Feb. 15 report: Smallmouth and largemouth bass tend to spawn earlier at western impoundments such as Lake Havasu than the rest of the state because these solunar bowls warm up quick and early. An unseasonably warm winter nearly made for some early pre-spawning bass but recent rainy, windy weather has prevented many bass from moving in shallow to stick around and build spawning beds. Look for the full moon on March 1 to produce a big wave of pre-spawners, especially for smallmouth bass.

John Galbraith of BassTackleMaster.com reported the average daytime water temp has been running around 54-58 degrees. The daytime striper bite is good for 2-pound class fish using cut anchovies. Those wanting to get “bit” by the bigger stripers must fish during twilight or dark hours. Vast majority of stripers have been coming from the mouth of the river south to Black Rock Cove. Best artificial baits this week have been green-tailed Bass Assassins and 3/4 or 1-ounce White Rat-L-Traps.

Look for evenings or mornings with foul weather windy conditions as the larger stripers will usually  be “on the bite” during this time. Artificial scent is important during tough fishing times as the stripers and bass need a little extra incentive to draw an aggressive strike.

Smallmouth bass bite has been fair to good during late morning through afternoon hours. Try using 8-15 foot diving crankbaits, deadsticking dropshotted Roboworms, Lv500/Rat-L-Trap style lipless cranks cast around primary and secondary points where schooling smallies move up to chase shad or feed on crawdads.

It’s a cover water game as smallies move frequently and you may have to cover several miles of shoreline to find them. We have a great population of smallmouth so don’t give up.

 

PARKER STRIP – This may be the as good a bass fishing spot as anywhere. Our survey was unbelievable this year because we averaged around 80 bass/ 15 minute electrofishing site.  Though most were very small young-of-year and “age 1” fish, we did get a ton of 2- to 4-pound largemouth and smallmouth bass.  We also got a decent number of redear sunfish in our surveys — 17 percent of them were over 11 inches long with the biggest being over 3 pounds.  While a world record is now likely to be in the Parker Strip, the average size is really good and is probably very competitive with Havasu.

YUMA AREA PONDS – Trout stockings returned Nov. 16! See the stocking schedule.

COLORADO RIVER (between Picacho State Park and Imperial Dam, including backwaters and Martinez Lake) –

Our Region 4 IV Fisheries Program conducted an annual electrofishing survey of the backwaters of the Imperial Division of the Colorado River on Nov. 14-16.  These annual surveys are performed to gather data on relative abundance, size, growth of fish, and to detect any large scale changes in the fish population.   A total of 2,323 fish were sampled at 16 survey stations including 242 largemouth bass.   Other species collected included bluegill sunfish, redear sunfish, black crappie, warmouth sunfish, threadfin shad, gizzard shad, blue tilapia, common carp, striped bass, flathead catfish, and channel catfish.  All of the fish were collected, weighed, measured, and released unharmed.

The largemouth bass population in the Imperial Division backwaters appears to be stable and doing well!  The largest bass sampled during the survey was 23.4 inches and 8.2 pounds.

Over 24 percent of the largemouth bass captured during the survey were 15 inches or larger, so there should be plenty of large fish to catch!  We also sampled a large number of young of year largemouth bass for the second year in a row, which may point to a bright future for the bass population of the backwaters of the Imperial Division of the Colorado River. Overall, based on the result of this survey, the Imperial Division of the Colorado River should continue to provide good fishing anglers have experienced the last several years.

 

MARTINEZ LAKE — No report.


Southern Waters

(These are recommended fishing waters. Those not listed either are considered poor or there have been no reports. Send your reports to BFishing@azgfd.gov. Please send your fishing reports from Southern Arizona to bfishing@azgfd.gov.)

Parker Canyon Lake

Angler Report (Feb. 20):

 

 

Lakeside Lake (Tucson)

 

David H.: Caught on Valentines Day, Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the Community Lakeside Lake in Tucson: 19 inches long, 2 pounds, 9 ounces.

 

See more lake-specific information

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