Roosevelt Lake Is Expected To Be The Spring Fishing Hot Spot

Roosevelt Lake is expected to be the central Arizona fishing hot spot this spring for crappie and largemouth bass, Lake Pleasant should be good for largemouth, and Bartlett will likely turn on as well, advised Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists.

But don’t ignore the plentiful fishing opportunities at Apache, Canyon and Saguaro – on any given day, any of those lakes can provide some of the best fishing in the state if conditions are right.

Lake Pleasant

Springtime is spawning time. 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 with the bigger females in deeper water adjacent to the beds, many times in the mouths of coves.

The upper portion of the lake is usually the best area to fish during this time. Anglers should be aware of the eagle closure area in the Aqua Fria arm that is off limits. Bass may be difficult to catch as the spawn gets in full swing at times. As the spawn winds down, bass will begin feeding more actively to replenish their body reserves used during spawning activities.

In early mornings and evenings look for bass to be shallower, spinnerbaits in white or yellow, jerkbaits and plastics are all effective. During the day, the bass will typically move deeper where watermelon colored Carolina-rigged lizards are the best bet.

The white bass have already started staging for the spawn in the upper Aqua Fria Arm of the lake (cannot access from the main lake, but can from Table Mesa Road off I-17). Spinners, small cranks, minnows and live shad are all white bass producers.

The channel catfish also become more active as water temperatures increase. Bottom fishing with water dogs, chicken livers and mackerel are typically some the more effective baits.

Roosevelt Lake

This should be central Arizona's "Hot Spot" especially for crappie.

The increased lake level has resulted in a lot of new habitat near the shore. Crappies will start moving into the shallows where there are ""stick-ups" and wooded areas to spawn in early March and will continue to be found there into April.

Fishing small pearl-white or yellow jigs 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 fisherman should benefit from the increased lake levels as well. Largemouth will start staging for the spawn in late March, the smallmouth bass a few weeks sooner than that (like any time now).

Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs and plastic worms are all good spring time baits. The catfish action should heat up in late March too, as both flathead and channel catfish become more active with the warmer water temperatures. 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.

Note: Anglers are reminded of the slot bass size limit that remains in effect at Roosevelt where bass between 13 to 16 inches must be released immediately and not kept. Also those bass that are kept below 13 inches and above 16 inches can only be gutted and head and tail remain attached so the legal length can be determined. All other fish such as crappie, catfish and bluegill harvested from the lake must have a piece of skin attached to the fillets so species can be determined.

Apache Lake

Spring is a time of feast or famine at this lake. With the right conditions, Apache Lake can rival any water in terms of bass action. At other times, the fishing can be very slow.

Smallmouth bass spawn has started. Try lures in crayfish patterns, especially along rocky shelf areas. The largemouth bass spawn should follow not long after that.

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 – there are some big flatheads in this lake. Yellow bass also can be caught easily on shad caught at the lake or on shiny spoons or spinners, primarily along rocky ledges.

Canyon Lake

There will still be some time for big bass to be taken on trout imitation baits. The last trout stocking 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 angling can be slow. Crawdad colored crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics are the baits to try.

Walleye fishing should improve in the evenings and early mornings. Recent fisheries surveys have found good numbers of 2-3 pound walleye throughout the lake. Look for the catfish bite to improve in March and April.

Saguaro Lake

Like Canyon, there is still a little time left to throw the big trout baits for bass. Trout stockings are scheduled through the end of February.

Unlike Canyon, the outlook is very bright for bass anglers. Bass fishing has already begun to pick up and should continue through May. Crankbaits, soft plastics and topwater baits are all good bets. Sight fishing for largemouths with live night crawlers is very effective when the spawn gets in full swing.

Look for the walleye fishing to be very good. A recent fisheries survey netted more than 140 walleye in one evening with most of the fish in the 2-3 pound class.

The best time to fish for walleye is an hour before sundown to a couple hours after dark when they are most active and will often move in shallow water to feed. Shad pattern crankbaits, minnows, jigs and back-trolled night crawler harnesses are all proven walleye catchers.

The channel catfish should start to bite on shrimp, mackerel and chicken liver from the shore, fishing piers and off boats anchored on the flats.

Lower Salt River

Rainbow trout will be stocked at Phon D. Sutton and Granite Reef Picnic area through March. When Salt River Project switches over to the Salt River for water deliveries in late April or early May, trout will be stocked at Blue Point Bridge and the Water Users Recreation Area.

Trout stockings will continue through June until stockings are ceased due to high water temperatures. Standard trout baits such as salmon eggs, Power Bait and various spinners are good bets.

Horseshoe Lake

Fishing outlook is poor. Lake will remain at minimum level, as water will be released to fill Bartlett Lake after the spring run-off.

Bartlett Lake

The fishing has been pretty slow for a while but look for that to change during April and May as water levels rise.

The crappie action here may be as good as Roosevelt’s once the water warms up. Again, increased lake levels have vastly improved fish habitat. Plus the large population of crappie that used to reside in Horseshoe Lake are presumably now residents of Bartlett since the draining of Horseshoe. Look for the crappie to start spawning in mid-March in the shallows. Night fishing with crappie lights is usually very effective this time of year. Minnows and small 1/16-ounce jigs are the way to go.

The bass will start moving shallower as things warm up to spawn. During the post-spawn period bass will feed more actively and with that spinnerbaits, jigs and crankbaits will start producing more strikes.

The catfish will also start to move and feed more actively after the slow winter season. Bartlett is home to some very large flathead catfish.

Verde River above Horseshoe Lake

The bass fishing should be fair to good for both largemouth and smallmouth immediately above the lake. Look for the largemouth in stretches where there is little current. The smallmouth are usually found below rapids in backwaters and side currents. Three-inch pumpkinseed Power Grubs are a great bait for both species..

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.

Upper Salt River above Roosevelt Lake

Channel and flathead catfish become active in mid-April and actually spawn in mid-May. Live baits caught in the area like small carp, sunfish or even crawfish are excellent bait choices.

Arizona Game & Fish Department.

EDITOR: Rory Aikens, (602) 789-3214, e-mail raikens@gf.state.az.us

or Frosty Taylor, (602) 789-3223, e-mail ftaylor@gf.state.az.us