My top picks for Memorial Day weekend are Lake Powell and Lees Ferry. Lake Powell is absolutely a fishing dream this time of year for striped bass, smallmouth bass and walleye, with some nice largemouth thrown in just to keep things interesting.
By the way, thanks to excellent snow pack in the Rockies this year, Powell is expected to reach its highest water level in more than a decade. The cut around Antelope Island is underwater and viable.
Lees Ferry is providing lots of good sized wild trout dancing on the end of the lines right now, even though it is mostly drift fishing because of the consistent higher flows. Fishing for these huge, crimson-sided wild trout in the Marble Canyon Gorge is one of the top fishing experiences in North America.
With temperatures in the deserts soaring up into the high 90s, this is a great time for a high county adventure over Memorial Day weekend.
Because of the unusually cool weather recently, the trout fishing has remained extremely good. Big Lake has been tremendous and probably provides the best fishing for quality rainbows, and cuts. Woods Canyon and Willow Springs are very consistent producers. Bear Canyon is float-tube heaven. Chevelon will give you a work out (it's a steep hike in-and-out) and there is almost no shoreline to fish (it's steep sided), but for those in good shape using float tubes, it's a great place to escape the crowds and catch quality fish.
In the Williams area, Kaibab was the first high country lake to be stocked this season and has been a consistent producer ever since. Whitehorse Lake is another good choice for a camping-fishing outing.
Near Flagstaff, Ashurst is once again providing anglers some decent trout fishing opportunities and a few people are still catching some northern pike. Pike are also being caught from Upper Lake Mary. Upper Lake Mary also has some nice yellow perch -- try night crawlers or mealworms.
One of my favorite little lakes, especially for float tubes, canoes and kayaks, is Kinnikinick (go to Mormon Lake and watch for the sign). It is full of hard-fighting brown trout. This small spring-fed lake on Anderson Mesa is what I call "visually challenged," it doesn't have the tall pretty ponderosa pines surrounding it, but rather wind blown pinons and junipers. The camp sites are a little primitive as well.
In the deserts, this is a great time to go night fishing. With a waning quarter moon on May 24 and the new moon coming June 1, fishing at night under submersible lights is extremely viable (and a good way to avoid the hordes of water recreationists).
Frozen anchovies for striped bass might just fill your livewell with good eating at Lake Pleasant, Lake Havasu and Lake Mead. Cabela's has provided a little extra incentive to go out and fish some of these lakes (see the news story below on their contest).
Crappie at night under lights should be good at Alamo, Roosevelt and Bartlett.
This is also the prime catfish season. Catfish are plentiful and relatively easy to catch at all our desert impoundments. My top picks are Saguaro Lake (there are lots of fishing piers), Canyon Lake, Lake Pleasant, Alamo, and Bartlett.
You might also want to fish for our huge flatheads. Try Roosevelt, Bartlett and the Lower Colorado River near Yuma (Imperial Division). Live bluegill or small carp work best as bait. Be sure to use a stout pole and sturdy line (15-pound test or more). Some of these monsters exceed 40 pounds. Who knows, you might even catch a new state record.
This Memorial Day there is also something else on the fishing menu -- huge redear sunfish at Lake Havasu and the Topock Gorge. A new 5.5-pound state record (and possible world record) redear was caught this spring at Havasu. Who knows, that record could be broken again this summer. Redear feed on invasive quagga mussels.
By the way, I was privileged to participate in the first-ever high school bass tournament in Arizona at Roosevelt Lake this past weekend (see article below and the pictures in the tips) . What a great bunch of well-mannered teenagers. It's been years since I have been called "sir" so many times. It was an impressive group of young anglers. I was proud of them all and you can be as well.
My hat goes off to the Brian Chambers with Every Kid Counts who organized the event and pro angler Keith Espe who had the vision and spent so much time going around to all the high schools recruiting these fine young people.
The list of sponsors reads like the whos who of bass fishing in Arizona, and appropriately so. Sponsors include the Arizona Army National Guard, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, Fisherman's Choice, the Hookup, Conquistador Tackle, Sportsmans Warehouse, Crown Press, Student Bass Federation, Allstar Bass Tournaments, Roosevelt Lake Marina, Payson Chapter of EKC Bass Club, Gold Bar Ranch Bed and Breakfast, and Keith Espe/professional bass fisherman. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also came through with some neat prizes for the kids as well.
Anyway, we are blessed with some beautiful weather this weekend. Go out and catch lots of great memories. Maybe I'll see you out there.
Note: Picture on the right is all the high school tournament anglers who caught fish at Roosevelt Lake during this historic first-ever competition for Arizona. For more information on the local effort, visit http://azhighschoolbassfishing.org
By Rory Aikens, AZGFD
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