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
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
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
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.