Fishing Report: Roosevelt Lake and Mogollon Rim lakes and streams
March 8 report from Jim Goughnour of Rim Country Custom Rods:
Roosevelt Lake is currently 58 percent full with the Salt River flowing at 11% or 150 cubic feet per second (CFPS) and Tonto Creek flowing at less than 8% of its normal rate for this time of year. Typically, during March, there is a large run-off into the lake and flows are well over 1,000 CFPS from winter storms and snow melt from the Rim. The impact of very little precipitation this winter, resulting in these extremely low water flows into the lake, will be significant this summer and dangerous to the fishery. Manmade impounds, such as the Salt River chain lakes, require water moving into and out of the lake. The new water coming in brings nutrients to support aquatic growth and a healthy fish population while outgoing water prevents standing water resulting in algae blooms that can literally suffocate a large portion of the fish population. Late last spring, Apache Lake experienced significant algae growth which killed thousands of fish. Many anglers reported dead shad along the shoreline. It wasn’t until months later when bag limits during tournaments were far below prior years, did everyone realize the impact of the algae bloom kill months earlier. Apache is still struggling to recover. The Aquatics Branch of the AZGFD is doing a fantastic job of supporting our fisheries, but without water, the future is very concerning.
In spite of the water issues, fishing conditions on Roosevelt Lake are excellent. The water temperature is reaching 60 degrees in the afternoon and the pre-spawn and spawning phases are underway. The timing of the recent full moon contributed to the beginning of spawning activities and the next full moon on March 31st will keep the spawn in high gear. Many anglers are reporting an excellent reaction bite using crank-baits, spinner-baits and jerk-baits. A paddle-tail swim-bait, rattle-trap and Roboworms or Senkos on a drop-shot technique are all reported successful. The water is very clear, so lighter baits in a green or white color will appear more natural to the fish. The pre-spawn and spawn activities bring large numbers of fishing into the shallow portions of the lake. Most fish are being caught in 25 foot depths or less. Some fish have already spawned and moved to a post-spawn stage, but still remain in relatively shallow water. March until late May is when the majority of the spawning activities will take place. For many anglers, this is a great time of year to enjoy great fishing while the weather is pleasant.
Crappie anglers are reporting fair to poor activity lately. Several crappie anglers are trolling in 20-30 foot depths using curly tailed grubs or live minnows. Crappie will become more committed to the spawn when the water temperature peaks at 65 degrees. Recent reports from San Carlos Lake near Globe, which typically precedes Roosevelt Lake crappie fishing conditions by 2-3 weeks, are being reported as “slow.” Look for crappie fishing conditions to improve over the next month. Especially, when the males, distinguishable by the gloss and emerald green color, move to the shallows to begin the spawning activities.
During the winter months, Rim Country lakes and streams are not stocked with trout due to temperatures and access issues. Typically, the winter trout stocking program ends in early April and summer stockings of rainbow trout will again fill our lakes and streams. If you can’t wait for the stream stockings, Green Valley Lake in Payson is providing excellent fishing conditions due to the AZGFD Community Fishing Program. Trout will be stocked into the lake every other week at least through the end of March and perhaps into April if weather conditions and funding are available. Flies of all kinds are being reported successful, Powerbait in the green and yellow color and salmon eggs will catch a limit of trout at Green Valley Lake.