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<b>Spring Fishing Outlook for Central Arizona</b>
Roosevelt should be the hot spot for crappies in central Arizona, Apache Lake should be the smallmouth king and Bartlett is the best place for good catch rates on largemouth bass this spring, say Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists, but if you want lunker bass, head for Saguaro or Canyon lakes.
Here is the lake-by-lake outlook.
<b>Tempe Town Lake</b> – Rainbow trout fishing will continue to be good through March and into April. Power Bait, corn and salmon eggs are the baits of choice.
Largemouth bass fishing has been fair this winter and should improve in March and April. Many fish will be in the 2- to 4-pound range. Plastic worms drop shotted Texas or Carolina style should produce for you. Robo worms and Senko’s can also be effective. Once bass start chasing shad in late spring, try topwater baits or crankbaits.

Remember, the minimum size limit is 13 inches and the possession limit is four for largemouth bass at this fishery.
Yellow bass (often called stripies in the Midwest) are numerous and can be caught from the shore using worms. Carp fishing should be excellent for mirror (Israeli) and common carp starting in March. Try using corn and dough bait.
Crappie and catfish numbers are not abundant yet but may be caught occasionally. The outlook for these two species is improving with recent habitat additions in the lake. Try live minnows to entice crappie to bite.
<b>Lake Pleasant</b> – The earliest good action will likely be white bass in the Agua Fria arm of the lake (above the eagle closure), which can be accessed from Table Mesa Road off I-17. There are already reports of some anglers catching decent numbers of whites under crappie lights at night (moonless nights are best).
White bass typically start staging for the spawn in the upper Aqua Fria in the next month or so. If the Agua Fria gets flowing from the rains this week, it could prompt some spawning activity. Anglers may even hook into a striped bass or two running with their cousins, the white bass. Spinners, small crankbaits, minnows and live shad are all white and striped bass producers. White bass anglers in the Agua Fria area can expect some big crappie surprises as well, especially if they use live minnows or small jigs (white is a good color for both species).
Largemouth bass will begin staging for the spawn in early March and continue through April. Early on, males will be up in the shallows on the nests, and the bigger females in deeper water adjacent to the beds, often in the mouths of coves.
The upper portion of the lake is usually the best area to fish during the early spawn. For the late spawn (May), down lake is best. Bass may be found staging for the spawn any time following three or four days of mild weather. Storm fronts will drive them deep again. Bass may be difficult to catch at times as the spawn gets into full swing. As the spawn winds down, bass will begin feeding more actively to replenish body reserves depleted during spawning activities.
In early mornings and evenings look for bass to be shallower; spinnerbaits in white or yellow, jerkbaits and plastics should be effective. During the day, the bass will typically move deeper where watermelon-colored Carolina-rigged lizards or drop shots will be good bets.
Channel catfish are plentiful here, and they are not experiencing much fishing pressure. They will become more active as water temperatures increase. Try bottom fishing using water dogs, hot dogs, chicken livers and mackerel.
<b>Roosevelt Lake</b> – This should be the spring hot spot for crappie in Arizona. Winter Crappie fishing has been good and should only get better. Trolling 2-inch grubs, Stumpjumpers and small crankbaits off Windy Hill has been producing some great catches. Storms tend to shut down the bite, but three or four days of mild weather should get them going again. Anglers are already reporting that the female crappies are full of eggs.
In the coming weeks, crappie will start to move up into shallows that have “stick-ups” and wooded areas where they will spawn in mid to late March. They will remain there into April. Large submerged flats full of cockleburs can be great spawning areas.
Many fish will weigh more than a pound. Fishing small black/blue/chartreuse Kalin grubs and live minnows in these areas should yield some fantastic results. In mid-March, anglers should start fishing under crappie lights at night with jigs and minnows. The mouths of coves in 30 feet of water are good places to start. This bite should continue through April.
Bass fishermen can expect a good year in terms of bass numbers. Largemouth will start staging for the spawn in late March. Smallmouth bass could start spawning any time in the next few weeks. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs and plastic worms are all good springtime baits.
The department is encouraging anglers to take home a few “under the slot” size bass (less than 13 inches) to allow more food resources for larger fish.
The catfish action should heat up in late March when the warmer water temperatures will activate both flathead and channel catfish. Try outside points in the upper portions of the Salt and Tonto arms of the lake.
For channel cats, try night crawlers and shrimp. The best baits for the flatheads are live sunfish or carp. Flatheads commonly exceed 30 pounds and have reached over 70 pounds in Roosevelt; therefore, anglers should be prepared to use heavier gear.
Keep in mind that there is a bass slot limit here: bass between 13 to 16 inches must be released immediately and not kept. Bass below 13 inches and above 16 inches that are kept can only be gutted; head and tail must remain attached so the length can be determined. All other fish species harvested from the lake must have a piece of skin attached to the fillets so species can be determined.
<b>Apache Lake</b> – With the right conditions, this fishery can rival any water for great bass action. It is often the March hot spot in the state for smallmouth bass. At other times, the fishing can be slow. Smallmouth bass should be spawning any time (or staging for the spawn).
The key in March is crayfish-type baits. A good one-two punch is using small crayfish-colored crankbaits for smallies, then following up with spider jigs or even split-shot lizards.
Walleye fishing should pick up, as fish will move shallow in the evenings to feed. Good spots to start are off major points and shallow flats.
Look for the catfish to become active as spring progresses. Yellow bass also can be caught easily on shad caught at the lake or on shiny spoons or spinners, primarily along rocky ledges.
<b>Canyon Lake</b> – Monster largemouth bass have been taking the large imitation trout baits, such as “Castaics” or “Optimum” swim baits. Trout fishing has been very good and will continue through the last trout stocking, which is scheduled for the second week in March. As we get farther away from the trout season, the trout baits usually become less effective.
The outlook for bass is bigger fish but fewer numbers. Canyon usually produces more big bass than any other lake in the region but catch rates can be slow. Look for smallmouth bass action throughout the spring season. Split shotting live night crawlers off canyon walls can work well to catch bronze backs. Crawdad-colored crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics are the baits to try. Walleye fishing should improve in the evenings and early mornings.
<b>Saguaro Lake</b> – Like Canyon, there is still time left to throw the big trout baits for bass. Trout stockings are scheduled through the end of February. This fishery has lots of lunkers.
Jigging spoons and cicadas can produce largemouth, yellow bass and walleye in the upper lake during the next few months. Crankbaits, soft plastics and topwater baits are all good bets when water temperatures begin to rise.
There are some nice walleye in Saguaro. Shad-like crankbaits, minnows, jigs and back-trolled night crawler harnesses are all proven walleye catchers. Last year’s fish survey produced good numbers of channel catfish, many in the 5- to 8-pound range. The channel catfish should start to bite on shrimp, mackerel and chicken liver fished from the shore and off fishing piers and boats anchored on the flats.
<b>Lower Salt River</b> – Rainbow trout will be stocked at Phon D. Sutton and Granite Reef Picnic areas through March. Salt River Project is expected to switch over to the Salt River for water deliveries in early May. At that time, trout will be stocked at Blue Point Bridge and the Water Users Recreation Area. Trout stockings will continue through June until ceased due to high water temperatures. Standard trout baits such as salmon eggs, Power Bait and various spinners are good bets.
<b>Horseshoe Lake</b> – The fishing outlook is poor. The lake is currently 20-percent full, but is scheduled to be emptied later this month with the water being released into Bartlett Lake. The deep pool below the dam can be good for channel and flathead catfish.
<b>Bartlett Lake</b> – This should be the hot spot for good catch rates on 1- to 2-pound bass and should also provide decent crappie fishing as well.
The fishing has been good this winter, with lots of bass being caught in the 1- to 3-pound range. Before the recent storm fronts marched through the state, some anglers were having 20- to 30-bass days (catch and release). The fishery should remain good through April and May as water levels rise. As with most bass fisheries during the early season, crayfish-type lures can be the key but don’t ignore shad-like lures as well.
The bass will start moving shallower to spawn as things warm up. During the post-spawn period bass will feed more actively and spinnerbaits, jigs and crankbaits will start producing more strikes.
For post-spawn bass in late May and June, try the main lake points, islands and reefs using crankbaits, topwater baits or spinnerbaits, depending on conditions.
Crappie fishing has been good around the Yellow Cliffs area. Look for crappie fishing to really pick up in February. They should start spawning in the shallows in mid-March. Night fishing with crappie lights is usually very effective during that time of year. Minnows and small 1/16-ounce jigs are the way to go.
The catfish will also start to move and feed more actively after the slow winter season, but crappie fishermen using live minnows can sometimes have big flathead catfish surprises on their hooks.
<b>Verde River above Horseshoe Lake</b> – The bass fishing should be fair to good for both largemouth and smallmouth immediately above the lake.
Look for largemouth in stretches with little current. The smallmouth are usually found below rapids in backwaters and side currents. Three-inch pumpkinseed Power Grubs and tube baits are great bets for both species. Also try mini-crayfish lures on ultra-light rods. Access is the issue here; the best fishing will usually be in the most remote stretches of the river above Sheep Bridge, at Red Creek and below Childs. Catfishing can be good at times in deeper holes with any traditional catfish bait.
<b>Upper Salt River above Roosevelt Lake</b> – Flathead catfish become active in mid-April and actually spawn in mid-May. Anglers commonly catch monsters of more than 50 pounds at this time of year. Concentrate on the stretch of river from the diversion dam down. Live bait fish caught in the area, such as small carp, sunfish or even crawfish, are excellent bait choices.
<b>Big Fish Note:</b> The department has enlisted bait shops and marinas to carry state certified scales for officially weighing big fish for the statewide fish-of-the-year and all-time state record fish entries. Check the current fishing regulation booklet for fish weighing scales at a location near to you and record entry forms.
<b>This Will Be a Year to Remember at Lake Powell</b>
Arizona and Utah fisheries biologists say this will be a year to remember at Lake Powell for stripers, smallmouth bass and walleye.
A second successive year of good shad forage in 2003 has left both striped bass and smallmouth bass big, fat and sassy. This should be a good year for walleye as well.
Arizona anglers: remember to get a Lake Powell stamp. They are available at any of the seven Arizona Game and Fish Department offices. Some of the tackle stores in the Page area also carry the stamps. You might want to get yours now rather than waiting.
" I’m pumped—my fishing license already has a Powell stamp on it for this year. It’s tough to beat big stripers, hard-fighting smallies and great tasting walleye all packaged in 2,200 miles of breath-taking shoreline,” says Rory Aikens, who compiles the weekly fishing report for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
According to Wayne Gustaveson with the Utah Division of Wildlife, the fishing experience this year will be exciting. “This will be a year to remember. Plan on fishing in 2004. Ramps are being extended and launching conditions will be great as soon as the lake starts to rise in May.”
Gustaveson, who compiles the weekly Powell fishing report, explains that last year striped bass boiled vigorously from July through October until cooling water forced shad deep. Stripers grew to an average of 4 pounds with 7-pound fish common. Stripers have continued to feed on shad during winter and have not lost weight. “Expect husky 4-pound stripers in the spring with some bigger ones possible in the creel,” says Gustaveson.
The outlook is also superb for big smallmouth bass this year. Smallmouth bass took advantage of the abundance of forage. “Last year, smallies waited along shorelines for stripers to drive shad to rocky ambush points, then the bronze backs made quick work of fleeing shad. The daily food express worked wonders. The little bass that had been so abundant at Powell for years grew up,” he says.
Before 2003 it was hard to catch a one-pound smallmouth. Gustaveson predicts that in 2004 the majority of bass caught will weigh more than a pound and 2-pound bass will be common.
Here is the expected fishing timetable:
February: Walleye move shallower as they prepare for spawning. Bass can be caught but only on perfect plastic presentations fished close to the bottom of submerged rocky creek channels. Stripers are dormant.
March: Water warms slightly causing largemouth to move shallow in search of nest sites. Warm afternoons in March may be the very best time to catch largemouth in Powell. Smallmouth fishing still slow. Stripers are dormant. Walleye are spawning, so males don’t eat and females are not especially interested in food.
April: Bass spawning begins and peaks in the third week, weather permitting. Best smallmouth fishing will be during the peak of the spawn April 15–May 15. The fishing pinnacle will be reached just before the runoff starts while the lake is still stable. The pattern is dictated by weather. On warm calm days bass will be on spawning flats near the deep-water edge. On cold days bass will drop over the edge to the rocky creek bottom. Walleye and striped bass begin to feed as water warms. Stripers do not leave the backs of the canyons where shad forage persists. Anglers waiting at the dam are disappointed. Trolling catches stripers on long minnow-shaped lures in the backs of canyons and bays.
May: Bass fishing is still great. Walleye fishing peaks. Striped bass fishing is good for trollers but poor for bait fishermen.
June: Bass fishing success declines. Catfish and bluegill are very active and provide fast fishing. A few stripers begin to hit anchovies as warming water forces them to go deep. Trolling for stripers is till good.
July–September: The stripers begin to boil and interest in all other fishing dies. Stripers are chased on the surface from dawn to 8 a.m. and then again in the evening.
"With this line up anglers have some great choices. There will be some incredible fishing days in 2004. The actual results are dependent on the shad spawn,” Gustaveson says.
A third year of high shad numbers will cause a repeat of 2003 with quality fish being caught at a slower pace. “A shad spawning failure will mean all fish will get hungry. Hungry fish will be very easy to catch. Their frame will not lose weight until late summer so even hungry fish will be larger than normal,” he says.
<b>Trout Antoinette Will Brings Smiles at the Dinner Table</b>
Trout anglers, here is a recipe for your winter-caught trout that will bring smiles at the dinner table: try trout Antoinette.
"Trout Antoinette is a refreshing alternative to fried, boiled or grilled trout,” says Scott Reger, a fisheries biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The recipe can be found in “Almost All Things Edible,” a cookbook compiled by the Arizona Game and Fish Department that has wild game and fish recipes, and more. The 125-page cookbook can be purchased at any Game and Fish office or online at for $7 (plus shipping and handling if purchased online).
The recipe calls for placing the trout in a large frying pan. Salt to your taste. Add boiling water to cover and simmer six minutes. Remove the fish and drain the water. In a saucepan melt better; add paprika and allspice. Skin and bone the fish. Lay it on a warm platter. Pour butter sauce over and serve.
<b>Shopping List: </b>
· 4 medium (11- to 15-inch) trout, gutted and gilled, heads on
· 1/4 tsp. salt
· boiling water
· 6 tbs. Butter
· ¼ tsp. paprika
· 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
<b>Arizona Outdoors Calendar </b>
<b>Feb. 28, 5 p.m.</b>
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Annual Banquet. 9th annual dinner; auctioning off one bull buffalo tag. Mesa Hilton, 1011 W. Holmes, Mesa. Call (480) 988-4262.
<b>Feb. 28, 6 p.m.</b>
Safari Club International, Phoenix Chapter's annual banquet-auction: Chaparral Suites Resort, 5001 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. Call (480) 854-8950.
<b>March 6, starting at 8 a.m.</b>
Alamo Lake Clean Up. Meet at the Cholla Campground. Bring work gloves. Call (928) 684-3763.
<b>March 6, 8 a.m. </b>
Adopt-a-Ranch Project. Clean up litter in Game Management Units 36A, 36B and 36C on the Santa Margarita Ranch near Highway 286 and Arivaca Road. E-mail [email protected] or call (602) 789-3492 or (520) 891-7676.
<b>March 6–7, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. </b>
Wildlife Center at Adobe Mountain Open House. Annual event allows the public to get a close-up view of native animals being rehabilitated at this facility operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. See raptors, reptiles, educational displays and more. Visit or call (623) 582-9806.
<b>March 13, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.</b>
Game and Fish Commission meeting, Tucson. Call (602) 942-3000 or (520) 628-5376.
<b>March 19-April 18 </b>
Archery-only spring bear season in Unit 22.
<b>March 19-April 27 </b>
General spring bear season opens in selected units.
<b>March 27-28, 8 a.m.</b>
Adopt-a-Ranch Project. Modify fences and improve antelope habitat on Horseshoe Ranch. E-mail [email protected], [email protected] or call (602) 789-3492 or (602) 944-5566 ext. 6190.
<b>AZGFD </b>
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