Fall Fishing Forecast: Colorado River waters
Editor’s note: This is the fourth of five regional Fall Fishing Forecasts. Check back tomorrow for a forecasts from the Central region.
Alamo Lake — Rating: HOT
As anyone who has visited Alamo Lake during the past 6 months can likely tell you, fishing has been on fire! Throughout this entire year, Alamo Lake has probably had some of the best bass fishing in the entire state and this fall should be no different. There were several reports from the spring of five-fish bag limits with more than 20 pounds of bass and this likely won’t change much during the summer.
The October, 2017 survey was dominated by bass of less than 10 inches but there should be plenty of larger bass available to catch. The toughest part of catching the bigger bass in Alamo may be getting your bait away from the smaller bass or “wolf pack” as anglers have begun to call them. Water temperatures should fall from high-80s in early September to 70s by the end of November, which means that throughout the fall water temps should be ideal for bass fishing. As the water will still be warm in September, the top-water fishing should continue to be good and provide some of the most exciting action of the year. The best strategy for fishing bass would be to start fishing at the crack of dawn with top-water lures, then move to reaction baits, like crankbaits or spinnerbaits, then fish deeper and slower with plastics such as drop shot rigs as the morning progresses. Fishing in or around cover is going to be a winning strategy for bass on Alamo Lake.
Black crappie fishing should be continue to be good this fall, though it may not be as fast and furious as anglers experienced most of the spring. All spring there were numerous reports of 30 to 40 fish days of crappies ranging in size from 9 to 16 inches with the possibility of even larger fish. Trolling jigs tipped with minnows or small crankbaits in 10-25 feet of water, especially near cover, should produce during the morning and late in the day. For something different, try anchoring in deeper water during the night, deploying underwater lights, which attract bait and crappies, and then using jigs tipped with bait to catch crappies.
Channel catfish will be good to excellent throughout the fall. Just anchor near cover and use any of the prepared catfish baits as well as chicken livers or stink bait, or other baits like hot dogs or shrimp.
There are other fish present such as bluegill, redear sunfish, tilapia and common carp that are a lot of fun to catch. Many types of baits should work for these species.
Lake Havasu — Report: HOT
Lake Havasu continues to be ranked as one of the top-25 places to fish for bass in the country! The largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing should continue to be great. In fact, smallmouth bass fishing should get even better as the fish will move shallower as the water cools. Fishing was has been pretty good all year: Tournament anglers have needed five-fish bags weighing around 20 pounds to win a tournament and it was not uncommon to catch bass of more than 5 pounds and some even approaching 10 pounds.
Last year’s electrofishing survey conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife showed abundant bass with an adult population that should provide great fishing now and a juvenile fish population that anglers will be able to catch for several years to come. Fishing should continue to be great as the water temperatures warm up from the upper lower 70s in early June to the upper 80s later in the summer. Fishing during the early morning or even night may be the best way to avoid the 100-plus degrees days of September.
To catch largemouth bass, use top-water lures such as frogs or walk-the-dog type of baits, or reaction baits like spinnerbaits or crankbaits in the early morning and then switch to jigs, crankbaits, or swimbaits as the day progresses. Some of the best plastic baits for Havasu are weightless Texas-rigged Ikas, Roboworms on a dropshot rig, or weightless Texas-rigged seinkos. For largemouths, it is generally best to fish around structure such as weedbeds, emergent vegetation, boat docks, or artificial habitat.
As the fall progresses, smallmouths will generally move shallower, but will still require anglers to fish different locations than largemouths. For smallmouth bass it is usually best to fish rocky points, ridges, shorelines, or canyons. Most people use top-water lures, lipless crankbaits or jigs in the mornings and evenings. During the day try crankbaits, plastic worms or “creature” baits such as fake crawdads. Many of the same baits work for both large and smallmouth bass.
Striper fishing was fairly tough throughout most of the winter and early spring, but seemed to get better throughout most of the summer. We have been getting a few more reports of limits of stripers, though the limits have been tending to consist mostly of 12 to 16 inch fish. There is still a chance of catching a 15-plus pound fish, but not as good as in years past. Using live shad for bait is a good bet any time of the year. As the fall progresses, stripers will probably be moving to shallower water, as their temperature tolerances are not going to limit where they can hang out nearly as much as during the summer. As always, fishing on the bottom or trolling with live shad or cut anchovies should be a good bet. Especially during September, when fishing early in the morning, always keep an eye out for “boils” or where birds are actively feeding is going to be your best bet for some exciting action for some fast and furious action. Use top-water lures, spoons, or swimbaits that resemble shad to take advantage of these boils. A good strategy to escape the heat during the day during the early fall would be to night fish with dead bait for stripers. When doing this, anchor on a point near a drop off and fish with cut anchovies or threadfin shad. To increase your chances of success, bring some underwater lights to attract both bait and stripers.
The redear sunfish fishing in Lake Havasu should continue to be world class, and the fall should provide some great fishing! Lake Havasu continues to host the state and world record for redear sunfish with a monster of 5 pounds and 12.8 ounces caught back in 2014. Redear sunfish in the 2-pound range and larger are regularly caught: During our 2017 fall survey we captured several fish of more than 3 pounds. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, night crawlers, flies or small crappie jigs.
Channel catfishing is a great fishery in Lake Havasu that is generally underutilized by anglers. Lake Havasu has the potential to produce some very large fish; and in fact, a Colorado River catch-and-release record channel catfish was caught in Lake Havasu in early May. Several fish of similar size were harvested during the creel survey of Lake Havasu from July 2017 to June 2018, which means this possible new record could be broken relatively quickly. Channel catfish are widespread in the lake and can be caught using nightcrawlers, live bait, hot dogs, anchovies, chicken liver, stinkbait or about anything that “stinks.” Fishing for channel catfish will stay pretty good until the water cools toward the end of November.
Flathead catfish are relatively uncommon in the upper part of the lake, but are relatively abundant in the lower half, especially in the vicinity of the Bill Williams River arm of the reservoir. Flatheads can be caught any time of the year but your best bet will be at night during September. Fishing for flathead catfish will really slow down when waters temps fall to the low 70s or even 60s by the end of November or early December. For flathead catfish, it is best to use live bait such as bluegill or small common carp.
Large carp are abundant in the lake and can provide some exciting fishing. Twenty to 25-pound carp are not uncommon. Most people use canned corn or dough balls.
Colorado River (Parker Strip area) — Report: GOOD
Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing should be better in the Parker Strip than it has been for several years. Results from several spring bass tournaments showed 5-fish bag weights near 20 pounds, which is very good for the Parker Strip. Our Region 4 aquatic wildlife program caught abundant bass in the 2 to 4 pound range in November of 2017 electrofishing survey. As a general rule, smallmouth bass are more common in upstream stretch of river towards Parker Dam and decrease in abundance as you progress down the river, whereas largemouth are the opposite in that they are more common in the lower sections of river near Headgate Rock Dam and decrease in abundance as you progress upstream. The middle stretches should offer a multi-species fishing opportunity that few places in Arizona can match. Fishing for both species should be good all fall long as water temps should stay relatively consistent due to the bottom release nature of Parker Dam.
Largemouth bass fishing should be best in slackwater areas with aquatic vegetation such as bulrush or around boat docks. There are many different techniques used for largemouth bass. As a general rule, most people will use top-water lures such as frogs, buzzbaits, or walk-the-dog type of baits or reaction type baits like crankbaits or spinnerbaits in the early morning and then switch to jigs, crankbaits, or swimbaits as the day progresses. Using plastic baits that resemble worms, crawdads, frogs, or lizards often work well.
Smallmouth bass fishing should be best near slackwater areas, rocky points or docks. Many of the same baits and techniques used for largemouth bass will be effective for smallmouth bass as well.
Redear sunfish are also widespread but are most likely to be found around aquatic vegetation in slackwater areas. In the November 2017 electrofishing survey we captured numerous redear to in the 1 to 2 pound range with a few close to 3 pounds. This underutilized fishery could provide lots of fun for anglers willing to try something different. Redear will bite on meal worms, nightcrawlers, flies or small crappie jigs.
Colorado River (Imperial Divisions and Associated Backwaters) — Report: GOOD
Largemouth bass fishing should continue to be very good in the Imperial Division of the Colorado River. During the fall of 2017, the Arizona Game and Fish Department surveyed the backwaters of the Imperial Division, where we found abundant medium sized bass and several over 5 pounds, including a very nice bass that measured at 23.4 inches and 8.2 pounds! The general rule for electrofishing catch was the bigger and deeper the backwater, the more fish we would catch. This healthy population has the ability to produce 5-fish tournament bag limit of more than 20 pounds all fall long.
To target largemouth bass in the Imperial Division of the Colorado River, focus in the backwaters or near the mouth of the backwaters around structure such as weedbeds, emergent vegetation, tree stumps, brush, or boat docks. There are many different techniques used for largemouth bass. As a general rule, most people will use topwater lures such as frogs, buzzbaits or in the early morning and then switch to jigs, crankbaits, or swimbaits as the day progresses. Using plastic baits that resemble worms, crawdads, frogs, or lizards often work well. Fishing should continue to be good all fall long, even as water temps fall to the 70s by the end of November.
The early fall is still prime time for flatheads! The flathead catfish population of the Imperial Division continues to be very healthy and fishing should continue to be some of the best in the entire state. During the 2018 spring electrofishing survey abundant “eater” sized fish under 10 pounds and though we did not catch any monsters like in previous we know they are there from all the pictures we are seeing from local anglers. Throughout the duration of our survey it was hard to find a stretch of river that didn’t hold a flathead or two, but flathead fishing will generally be best in slack water areas, deep holes, or near overhanging vegetation along the main channel of the river and the fishing will generally be best at night. Flatheads prefer live bait such as sunfish or small common carp. Be sure to bring some heavy tackle with you: an 89.2-pound river monster was sampled by electrofishing and released back into the lower Imperial Division of the Colorado River back in 2008. Fishing for flathead catfish will really slow down when waters temps fall to the low 70s or even 60s by the end of November or early December.
Channel catfish are widespread in the main river channel and backwaters and will bite on nightcrawlers, hotdogs, chicken liver, stinkbait, or about any other “smelly” bait. They can be caught year-round but probably bite best at night.
Bluegill and redear sunfish are also widespread but are most likely to be found around structure in the backwaters or slackwater areas. Bluegill and redear will bite on meal worms, night crawlers, flies, or small crappie jigs.
Mittry Lake — Fishing Report: GOOD
Mittry Lake can be a bit frustrating at times, especially for bass fishermen; the bass are sometimes finicky, and it can be challenging to bring any in on some days. Other days, the bite can be wide open. Changing weather, including wind, often brings on the bite. There are plenty of bass in the lake, with a few in the eight to 10-pound range, and occasionally larger. The department’s 2017 fall survey caught good numbers of bass of all sizes, indicating there should be plenty of bass for anglers to catch. Smaller bass should provide good fishing for anglers in the future. Bass should be active and in shallow water during this period. The most successful anglers will start fishing at the crack of dawn with top-water lures, then move to reaction baits, like crankbaits or spinnerbaits, then fish deeper and slower with plastics such as drop shot rigs as the morning progresses.
There is also a very healthy population of catfish in Mittry Lake. Channel catfish are the most numerous, but there are also a number of flathead catfish, which can reach weights of 30 to 40 pounds here, perhaps even larger. Flatheads prefer live bait such as sunfish or small common carp and fishing is best at night when the water temperature is more than 70 degrees. Channel catfish are widespread throughout the lake, and will bite on nightcrawlers, hotdogs, chicken liver or prepared stinkbaits. They are occasionally caught by bass fishermen on plastics, spinners and even crankbaits. They can be caught year-round, but nighttime fishing during the summer is probably the most effective.
Sunfish species are abundant in Mittry Lake. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs.
* Yuma Ponds (Fortuna, Council Ave., West Wetlands, Redondo, PAAC Pond) — Report: GOOD
One exciting development for the Yuma area fishing waters is the addition of the PAAC (Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex) Pond to our Community Fishing Program. The pond is located at 1700 E. 8th St, Yuma, Ariz., 85365, and will add another great and easily accessible spot for anglers to fish in Yuma. The pond will have fish starting at the end of September, the pond will be stocked at the same time as all of the other Yuma area Community Fishing Waters with channel catfish, rainbow trout, sunfish, and possibly largemouth bass at different times over the course of the year.
The fishing in all Yuma-area community fishing waters should be somewhat slow during early September until channel catfish are stocked during late September. After the stocking, try nightcrawlers, anchovies, hot dogs, chicken liver or prepared stinkbaits fished on the bottom to catch channel catfish. Cheap hot dogs were the best bait for channel catfish in the spring — they tended to outfish nightcrawlers, stink bait, or cut bait at least five to one. Bluegill sunfish were stocked during April and based on the small number of fish we’ve have been seeing harvested down here from April to September, there should at least be a few sunfish for anglers to catch throughout the fall. For bluegill, use mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs under a bobber. Rainbow trout will be stocked in all community waters in November, fly anglers should try a bead head prince nymph or wooly buggers. Angler can also throw lures such as spoons or spinners and bait anglers should use garlic PowerBait in a variety of colors or nightcrawlers fished on the bottom.
* Community Fishing Program waters
Colorado River (Davis Dam to I-40 Bridge) — Rating: GOOD
Flows fluctuate quickly in this stretch of the river. Many anglers prefer not to navigate the river when less than one unit is being released from Davis Dam. Check projected releases before your trip.
Trout are stocked weekly by the USFWS Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery from October through March. Additional trout will be stocked in September and April with funding from Bullhead Pest Abatement. With an abundance of blackfly and caddisfly larvae available for the trout to feed off of, not only can you catch the recently stocked fish, but older holdover trout should be growing quickly here. Trout are stocked at Davis Camp and Community Park and Rotary Park during the fall. Many anglers prefer to fish for the holdover trout away from the stocking locations.
Striped bass are also available. Anglers will have a great opportunity to catch stripers throwing big baits.
Lake Mead — Rating: GOOD
As of mid-August, the lake level was at 1,078 feet. This is about 3 feet lower than it was last year at this time. Fall often comes all at once on the Colorado River. One day it’s summer and 105 degrees and the next it’s 85 and windy. Look for the largemouth bass to stay in a summer type pattern until around Halloween. Between Halloween and Thanksgiving look for largemouth very shallow hitting anything moving. Often they are keying in on late hatching insects and will hit buzz baits, spinners, and poppers with reckless abandon! If that’s not working, try jigging with split-tail jigs, jig and pig, or Yamamoto jigs and grubs off lake contours at 20 to 30 feet. The lake is at historic low levels, so key in on inflow areas like Sandy Point and up the Overton Arm. Threadfin shad hold to areas that have muddy or stained water. The striped bass will be with them definitely feeding heavy throughout the fall. Try trolling anchovies over reefs and around main lake points until you locate a school. Then very often you can catch as many as you want to filet, within the limit of coarse (20 stripers over 20” and unlimited under 20” per person). This pattern can work all winter long, you just may have to go deeper. Channel Catfish will go through a high activity period also during the fall. Fresh cut baits (bluegill and carp) typically work well, along with shrimp, nightcrawlers, and minnows.
Lake Mohave — Rating: GOOD
The largemouth and smallmouth bass in Mohave are fewer and farther between than in Mead, however these fish can be quite a bit larger (3 to 5 pounds). Mohave largemouth will also be very shallow during a period during the fall, feeding on late hatching insects and spawning crayfish. Often bass will be clear in the back of coves in places boats have a hard time going. Brush up on your pitching and jigging techniques for some big largemouth bass action. Clear water means it’s important to be aware of boat noise and slow down your presentations. The hatchery at Willow Beach is still growing trout and stocking them year round at Willow Beach. PowerBait, nightcrawlers and spinners will catch these fish. Look for very large striped bass to be around the stocking area. These fish can be caught with large trout imitation lures as well as with anchovies and other fresh cut baits. Smaller stripers can be had in the main lake basin using similar techniques to Lake Mead. Remember, there is no limit on striped bass of less than 20 inches and anglers are encouraged to keep all they catch; this will help ensure the stripers that are left have enough to eat. Lake Mohave will be lowered around 12 feet in elevation from Oct. 1 to around Nov. 6, 2000 for maintenance of boat ramps at Willow Beach and Cottonwood Cove.
Lake Powell — Rating: GOOD
Lees Ferry — Rating: FAIR