Fishing Outlook Great for Southern Arizona

January 25, 2005

Regional fisheries biologists are once again predicting some great fishing opportunities based on last year's survey results and some increased water levels this year.

Here are a few for your "must fish" list in 2005:

An early hot spot should be Cluff Pond #3 for black crappie. Fishing light jigs off the dam face and south of the boat ramp should produce plenty of action from black crappie.

"While you're in the Safford area, don't forget about Roper Lake State Park and the newest fishery in the area located at the Graham County Fairgrounds. This little lake is stocked with channel catfish and should provide some great opportunities for the junior anglers in the family," says Don Mitchell, a Game and Fish Department fisheries biologist based in Tucson.

Pena Blanca Lake continues to hide some quality largemouth bass that remain underfished. "Aquatic vegetation remains a problem at this lake during the warmer spring and summer months, but relief is on the way," Mitchell says.

The Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service are working together to reduce the overall amount of vegetation in the lake in key areas that should provide greater angler access in the near future. "Boat access is in great condition, and anglers should have no problem launching their boats this year," Mitchell advises.

Patagonia Lake continues to produce some of the biggest surprises for those addicted to sunfish. Surveys show strong numbers of large redears and bluegills, and plenty of bass up to 8 pounds.

"Die-hard catfish enthusiasts should definitely plan on spending their summer nights fishing for monster flatheads on Patagonia Lake," Mitchell says.

Flatheads in the 50-pound range were again reported last year. "Using 4 to 6 inch sunfish as live bait suspended near deep-water shelves along rocky shorelines can produce a violent tug of war that tests an angler and his equipment. Angler access at this lake should not be a problem," Mitchell says.

Parker Canyon Lake still harbors good numbers of northern pike as long as your arm, and the population continues to expand in this lake. Bluegill and redear numbers remain depressed, although anglers occasionally get lucky and find the occasional sunfish. Also, trout can be caught occasionally at this lake well into the summer. Angler access is not a problem.

Arivaca Lake continues down the road of recovery. The lake badly needs runoff. Currently, launching boats is extremely difficult and nearly impossible without four-wheel drive. Anglers should be cautious at this lake. "Angler reports of 80 to 90 largemouth bass a day were again common last spring and summer. While the majority of bass being reported were in the 1 to 2 pound range, reports of 5 and 6 pound fish are increasing," Mitchell says.

Anglers are reminded that all largemouth bass caught at Arivaca must be released immediately.

"As always, please check local conditions at these lakes prior to planning your trip. Summer rains or the lack of summer rains can cause these conditions to change rapidly," Mitchell says.

Those anglers who prefer the solitude of river fishing should plan a trip to the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area northeast of Safford. Plenty of fishing action can be found for the channel and flathead catfish that inhabit the rocky pools along the canyon walls.

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