Rory’s Tip

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December 22nd, 2008

Lots of snow in the high country (and mid-elevation areas) and soil-saturating rain just about everywhere might make fishing right now a little challenging for most species except for trout (in places where there is little or no runoff), but I am excited (almost salivating) about the fishing outlook with the New Year approaching.

Last year’s bountiful winter and spring precipitation and associated runoff filled our lakes with water and nutrients. For the warmwater lakes, that led to terrific spawns for both forage fish and sport fish.

If you’ll think back, we also had tremendous runoff and associated spawns in 2005, so there was a strong age class of decent-sized 3-year-old fish (prime spawners) in the warmwater reservoirs going into this past season. Those fish fattened up considerably on the superb forage base last season (kind of like me starting at Thanksgiving).

Then came the good summer rains. In fact, in early September we had one storm that caused the Salt River to run at spring-like levels. Seldom do we see Roosevelt rise several feet in September – it did this year. On top of that, we had some okay autumn storms at decent intervals.

Now we are going into winter with saturated soils and the beginning of a decent snow pack. A few more moisture-packed storms and my vocabulary might run out of fishing superlatives.

For this spring, we are looking at lots of forage fish still being available, hordes of yearling sport fish, and a very strong 4-year-old class of sport fish that will be fat and healthy to tug on the end of the lines or produce progeny for future years.

We could indeed have back-to-back years of lakes filling and spilling, with forage fish and sport-fish production going gangbusters again. Just writing about it is getting me excited. Our economy might be at a low ebb, but the future is looking bright for our habitats – especially the aquatic ones. Yep, my advice is to invest in fishing futures.

By the way, by Thursday, Tonto Creek above Roosevelt was flowing at around 2,400 cfs, which is about five times the normal spring time flows. Gisela and Fish Creek near Globe both received around around six inches of precipitation during the series of storms. The Tonto Basin (a prime quail area) was drenched . Expect the Tonto end of Rosey to have lots of turbidity and debris (great for the wintering ducks and geese).

Also, the Agua Fria River into Pleasant increased to around 1,000 cfs, dumping a bunch of welcome nutrients and water into that robust fishery. The Santa Maria River and Burro Creek were also flowing pretty good, providing water and nutrients for Alamo Lake. Decent flows are also ramping down the Verde River toward Horseshoe and Bartlett.

For real-time and past stream flows, check out the USGS site at

This weather is a superb opening act for the First Day of Winter, which will grin and greet us on Dec. 21 (winter solstice). So if you are wondering what to get for the holidays, purchase new fishing line for all your rods and reels – there should be lots of line-breaking encounters this coming year.

If you don’t have multiple rods and reels (to set them up with different baits), this is probably the time to get some. Personally, I like having three lightweight rods, one or two medium action rods, and at least one heavyweight one (my preference is a flipping stick). Of course, I have to multiply that a little for the wife and youngest boy.

I think all Arizona’s anglers just received their first holiday gift, courtesy the jolly old storm elm. You’ll want to arm yourself for an invasion of good fishing times this coming year.

For right now, you might consider Patagonia Lake for crappie (see the picture above) in southern Arizona. Some nice slab-sided speckled beauties are being caught there.

This is also a good time to get out your trout gear and try the Lower Salt, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Tempe Town Lake, or Dead Horse Ranch State Park. By the way, Tempe Town Lake was stocked with trout last week and again this week. At Dead Horse, I actually had one angler complaining that it was way too easy to catch trout there – it has been stocked four weeks in a row.  So if you don’t like to catch lots of feisty fish, please avoid angling here by all means.

The Verde, Oak Creek, Beaver Creek and West Clear Creek all have runoff, so might be a little turbid for the stocked trout.

If you can’t get out to catch some memories, this isn’t a bad time to dream of things to come – especially on the end of the fishing line. If you have been a Scrooge about fishing past and present, there is still time to mend your ways.

Have a Merry one.

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