March 2006

AZGFD Reports On The Lakes

A significant number of high mountain lakes were ice-free at press time, or at least have open, fishable water. Go now while you can.

This is a rare late-winter opportunity, and if we donít get some precipitation soon, there may be some access issues later in the season. Please be careful out there; the forests are tinder dry.

One high-country hot spot has been Lower Lake Mary near Flagstaff where the trout are averaging 1.5 to 2 pounds. The U.S. Forest Service is kindly opening the parking lot there on the weekends (typically it is closed all winter).

So, be sure to keep the area nice and clean. A good idea is to carry a trash bag just in case you run across litter left by others.

There are still great reports from trout anglers at Deadhorse Lake State Park. Jeff Williams, who recently wrote us about how handicapped-friendly these fishing lagoons are, recently took his 80-year-old mother there to fish.

"She also marveled at the facilities. The stocking truck was just leaving and the fish were not acclimated yet, but we managed to catch-and-release 18 trout. Again, great fun and great access for the physically challenged," said Jeff.

Deadhorse State Park is located in Cottonwood right next to the Verde River. The Game and Fish Department also stocks trout in the Verde River from Cottonwood to Camp Verde.

This is a super area for a family outing. There are also lots of hiking trails, Indian ruins, and other attractions in the area (such as the town of Jerome).

Another good choice for trout fishing right now is Willow Springs Lake on Highway 260 just above the Mogollon Rim near Payson. This 150-surface-acre lake is currently ice-free. We are not hearing much from anglers fishing it, but it can be a superb early-season producer.

Crescent Lake in the White Mountains has open water and plenty of brook trout (no winter kill).  Big Lake still had ice in mid-February.

However, Becker Lake near Springerville can be good this time of year and Luna Lake near Alpine has open, fishable water. Nelson Reservoir between Springerville and Alpine might also be worth a try.

Alamo Lake is a hot spot for bass and crappie. This is a great place for an over-night campout.

The angler fishing reports out of Roosevelt are just phenomenal: 70- to 100-bass days (catch-and-release of course). Crappie anglers are also loading up with slabbers, with the best bite occurring in the Tonto end.

The reports out of Lake Pleasant are also consistent: Itís time to fish for whites and stripers, with some anglers hooking into good-sized crappies in the northern coves. Two anglers caught bass in the shallows inside the northern coves, which could mean some early staging activity (or just bass enjoying the warm afternoon sun).

Most bucket-mouths are deep, but donít ignore the shallow shelves, extended primary points, and the secondary points just inside the coves. You might start checking the backs of the more shallow coves for possible early spawners: it has happened in other unseasonably warm winters.

What we hear from anglers at Bartlett Lake is good for largemouth bass (fair for crappies), but it hasnít really busted loose yet like Alamo and Roosevelt. Itís due. Bartlett has had good spawns five out of the last six years, so it should be primed and ready to explode like it did last year or possibly be even better.

We now have some pretty good reports from anglers at Canyon Lake, who say the fishing for lunkers this year rivals any previous ones. Try using the giant trout-imitating swim baits in the Boulder Recreation Area (boats are excluded). This lake-like cove is perfect for float tubes.

Another early season favorite to try is Martinez Lake along the Colorado River near Yuma. Once again, we arenít hearing much from anglers, but typically during mild winters, this lake turns on early.

Itís a hoot to fish. This area has sometimes been referred to as Arizonaís Everglades.

This mild winter is providing us with lots of great fishing opportunities. Donít miss out. Also, start planning now for fishing vacations to places like Powell, Mead, and Mohave this spring: the Rocky Mountains did get lots of snow this year; runoff will be very good, which means good fishing opportunities.

In fact, Powell should be exceptional.

Good luck and good fishing. Maybe Iíll see you out there.