Central Arizona

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March 11th, 2008
Central Arizona

Put on some new fishing line and buy your annual supply of sunscreen – this is the leading edge of the great fishing. It’s time to go catch some fun in the sun at our desert lakes. By the way, we are expecting the best fishing in 25 years. No kidding!

This is the second week of warm weather, although chilly winds may have delayed the warming trend at some lakes. That’s March. This is what I call a “tweener” month. Bass and crappie can stage for the spawn or enter the spawn, but periodic weather events can change things on a daily basis and send them deep again.

But don’t worry, the first day of spring is just a couple of weeks away (March 19), and the largemouth bass especially will find the spawning urge almost irresistible.

Right now, some bass should be staging for the spawn at places like Pleasant, Roosevelt, Bartlett, Alamo, Saguaro, Canyon, Apache, Havasu and Martinez.

Keep in mind that the entire bass population does not spawn at once. It’s a trickle effect right now, which will reach a giant crescendo by April, then trickle off through late spring or even early summer. The bass spawn is s-p-r-e-a-d out. I once found a bass on a bed at Powell in August.

Here’s what to look for. Pre-spawn bass will stage at the major lake points in front of coves, and those secondary points just inside coves, plus along the edges of huge flats, and sometimes along the submerged creek channels winding up the larger coves. These fish are often hungry, but are just becoming more active and might still be a little lethargic (kind of like us older anglers battling arthritis).

There are different philosophies for fishing bass right now. Some like to down-size and go slow. Drop shots can be great for this technique. By the way, at many of the lakes, staging bass will often feed more heavily on crayfish than shad, but they are opportunistic and will take both if available.

For those of us with less patience (especially in the more turbid lakes or coves), try for a reaction bite with something moving a little faster, such as a spinnerbait, topwater lure (especially a chugger), buzzbait or crankbait. But don’t necessarily expect to hook the bass with these lures. Think of them as active bass locaters. Once the bass strikes (and mostly misses), toss in flutter-down bait like a Senko, curly tail jig, lizard, curly-tail worm or even a soft plastic jerk bait.

We are on the leading edge of a lot of spring fishing fun.

If you don’t find bass actively staging for the spawn, go of the main lake points, islands and reefs in 15 to 35 feet of water and use bottom fishing techniques from drop shots to Texas- and Carolina-rigged worms, jigs, spoons or whatever.

Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some bass already in the backs of the more sheltered coves, either spawning, or just sunning themselves. Sometimes you can go for an hour or so of actively looking without finding a thing, and then come across a 3- to 10-pound surprise that can make your whole day.

Okay, on to crappie. It should turn on: Anytime. Alamo might be the first. Roosevelt and Bartlett could get going any time. Pleasant is the dark horse, but some anglers did well there last year for big ones.

Trout? Try mid elevations like the Verde River, West Clear Creek, Beaver Creek, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Lynx, Oak Creek or Goldwater. For other stream adventures, try Christopher Creek, Tonto Creek, Haigler or Canyon Creek; even though we haven’t stocked these locations since last fall, they still have plenty of trout and these hold-over fish are larger and a ball to catch (they fight).

Get in practice on the lower elevation trout because the high country action is going to be terrific this year.

By the way, come see us this weekend at the International Sportsmen’s Exposition at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. We will have a kids fishing tank set up, live raptors (hawks and owls mostly), archery, our air gun trailer and all the venomous reptiles of Arizona. I’ll be providing a fishing talk (best in 25 years) at 11:30 a.m. Friday (fish and quail) and on 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Come on over and say howdy and pick up a Fish AZ sticker and one of our new Raptors of Arizona posters – they are stunning.

By the way, despite all the dramatic play on TV and elsewhere about the experimental flows from Glen Canyon Dam this week through the Grand Canyon, we are not expecting a negative impact on the fabled Lees Ferry wild trout fishery. Trout are river and stream fish, they adapt well to such flows. However, anglers may not find them in traditional locations and may have to play detective to find the new location and bite pattern – that’s what good fishing is all about anyway.

2 Responses to “Central Arizona”

  1. Why can’t at least 10% of water be kept in Horseshoe at all times? It was a great fishing lake in the 90’s but has been drained down to 1% each year for the past 8 or 9 years.

  2. Salt River Project manages the water levels those two reservoirs. It is my understanding that they use Horseshoe as a flood-retention reservoir. In the past, they have used the water out of Horseshoe Lake, which is very shallow, to keep Bartlett Lake as full as possible, for as long as possible.

    For anglers, that can work out well. In 2005, for instance, both lakes filled. Horseshoe pretty much held lots of water throughout the sport-fish and bait- fish spawns. Gradually, all the water and fish were released into Bartlett. That meant Horseshoe acted as a huge nursery for Bartlett, with anglers reaping the results.


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