Rory’s Tip

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January 31st, 2008
Rory’s Tip

These are exciting times for anglers thanks to exceptional runoff and superb snowpack for a change.

The torrential storm tearing through Arizona this past week not only dumped copious amounts of rainfall, the rain also melted some of the mid-elevation snow cover, with some dramatic results.

Arizona’s major interior rivers were roaring with nutrient-laden runoff earlier this week. The Salt River on Jan. 28 surged to around 80,000 cfs, which has only happened eight times during the last 100 years (three times the Salt has peaked over 100,000 cfs).

Roosevelt dramatically rose around 11 feet vertically in a handful of days. By Jan. 29, Roosevelt had risen to 72 percent. According to Charlie Ester at Salt River Project, Roosevelt has a decent chance to fill this year – for the first time ever. Roosevelt almost filled in 2005, but was three feet shy of max. “We’ve got a good shot at filling it up this year, we’ll just have to wait and see. Just one more good storm and we could be there,” Ester said.

Charley said that for runoff, it was the perfect storm. The rain melted all the mid-elevation snow — that typically doesn’t contribute to the spring runoff – and turned it into runoff this time.

Whether Rosey fills or just comes close to it, this highly productive top-of-the-line fishery on the Salt River is poised for greatness. It will absolutely rise back into all the dense vegetation that hasn’t seen water since 2005. Plus, all those sport-fish from the tremendous spawn in 2005 are now three years old, and are ready to be prime reproducers themselves. By the way, those fish should average around 3 pounds or more right now.

The Verde River also swelled to 37,700 cfs, filling both Horseshoe and Bartlett lakes to the brim and causing Salt River Project to dump water into the normally dry river bed below the diversion dam for the first time since the near-record spring runoff of 2005. Ester said that after 13 years of drought, he wants to hold as much water in these two reservoirs as possible.

These two sister reservoirs on the Verde also experienced tremendous nutrient inflows in 2005 and have sport-fish primed and ready for the spawn (or to be caught).

According to U.S. Geological Survey gauges, the Agua Fria River into Lake Pleasant also peaked at around 10,000 cfs for a brief period during the wee hours of Jan. 28, providing another blast of runoff and nutrients into this popular fishery on the outskirts of Phoenix. With two inches of rain saturating soils, all the creeks were probably running as well.

Alamo Lake west of Wickenburg rose around 10 vertical feet in a few days thanks to tumultuous runoff down the normally dry Santa Maria and Big Sandy rivers. Just like Roosevelt, Alamo Lake rose dramatically in 2005 and experienced phenomenal sport-fish spawns. The resulting age class of largemouth bass are now three years of age (around 3 pounds). Not only can anglers expect those fish to dominate the catch, those bass are also prime reproducers. This year’s spawn could be off the charts.

For the anglers, all this runoff, water and nutrients pouring into our desert reservoirs adds up to lots of angling fun this year and beyond. Be sure to get a 2008 fishing license. In fact, you might want to consider a combination license.

By the way, the terrific green-up in the desert areas, especially the upper Sonoran desert, bodes well for small game reproduction, especially Gambel’s quail. We have also had bumper crops of cottontail rabbits the past two years, so get ready for a possible rabbit explosion this year.

In the short term, fishing in the desert lakes could be a little challenging due to increased turbidity. In fact, at places like Roosevelt, Bartlett, Alamo and Pleasant, expect to navigate with caution through lots of floating debris.

However, catfish anglers might just find a bonus at places like Alamo and Bartlett. All those inflows can get the cats actively feeding. Use scent baits.

Other warm water anglers may want to adjust their fishing techniques accordingly. In turbid water, darker baits typically work better. For largemouth bass, think noise as well.

Spinnerbaits with trailers slow-rolled across the bottom, especially in newly-submerged brush along the shoreline, might be a terrific technique during the late afternoons once the water warms up. Quite often, bass will seek out warmer pockets of water tucked between vegetation and the shoreline during the afternoons. Some say it’s a gentleman’s bite – you don’t have to get out on the lake at O-dark-thirty.

Flippin’ and pitchin’ dark-colored rattling jigs, especially with trailers (jigs-n-pigs), into warmer water pockets along shorelines (especially those adjacent to deeper drop-offs) in the warm afternoon might get you some nice bass as well – maybe even some of those lunkers.

Sometimes following these high-flow events, the crappie bite seems to disappear. For crappie, try using darker-colored jigs, especially those with a little flash like Roadrunners, possible with a life minnow on the same line. You might even try small, dark-colored crankbaits.

If we can get a week of nice warm sunshine, the lakes and fishing could heat up rapidly. So get ready for a super fishing season. This is shaping up to be one of the best.

As a side note, this is also great year to take the Angler’s Legacy pledge to take someone else fishing. Remember your very first fishing trip and who took you? Odds are pretty good that positive first-time experience is why you’re still fishing today. That’s what Anglers’ Legacy is all about – simply giving back what you’ve been given, and making your promise to introduce somebody new to the activity you love.

Take someone fishing. Become part of Anglers’ Legacy. There’s no membership fee and no obligation. You’re just making a promise to do your part to share your knowledge and expertise with someone new. Take the pledge.

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