Watson Lake near Prescott is being stocked with trout this week. It's been a few weeks since it was last stocked, so catch rates might or might not be good. But personally, I love fishing this picturesque lake near the Granite Dells on the northern edge of Prescott. It is a special fee area for the City of Prescott.

Last week we stocked both Dead Horse Ranch State Park lagoons near Cottonwood, and the Verde River between Cottonwood and Camp Verde. We will stock them again this coming week. These two fisheries make a great duo for a family adventure. If you have a loved one with mobility issues, I recommend Dead Horse Ranch State Park. They have some mini-fishing piers that you can almost drive right up to -- keeping in mind that it is first-come, first-served.

With this milder spat of sunny winter weather, we have two fairly shallow lakes that tend to heat up fast because they are like two big solar bowls in the desert. The first is Alamo Lake west of Wickenberg. The other is Lake Havasu. Havasu has a larger mass, but also a larger variety of sport-fish species as well. Alamo has something that draws a lot of winter visitors -- crappie.

From my last report (things might have changed by now), the crappie were not into their typical huge schools, possibly because the water temperature was hanging around 58, which is close to the lower end of the bass spawning temps. However, anglers have been pulling in some nice stringers of crappie regardless.

Keep in mind that Alamo can have an early bass spawn -- in 2004, we sight-fished bass on beds in late February before the International Sportsmen's Exposition. I can remember showing pictures of winter crappie during my presentation that year. It was awesome.

I have also sight-fished bass on beds at Lake Havasu in late February and early March, especially in the man-made channel for the London Bridge. In fact, one year we walked and fished the channel for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. I wouldn't be surprised to see a state record smallie come out of Havasu this year -- or even this spring!

They are also catching some plate-sized redear up to two pounds or so at Havasu, and just upriver in the picturesque Topock Gorge. For all you waterfowlers, the Topock Marsh is a great place to catch the tail end of the waterfowl season as well.

I guess this is turning into a Colorado River column, because my next tip is the big trout along Casino Row. You might only catch one of two a day, but inexpensive rooms (during the week), great food (buffets), and lots of affordable shows with top-name entertainment makes anything you catch from the water a bonus. It's been decades since I boated from Bullhead to Topock, but it is one of those really cool adventures to experience.

One last stop on the Colorado River hit parade is Willow Beach below Hoover Dam, or the upper end of Lake Mohave depending on your perspective. You might not see a desert bighorn standing next to the speed limit sign like in my photo on the left, but then again, you might. Trout are stocked by the feds every Friday. There are some really interesting fishing piers there -- sometimes you can sight-fish for stocked trout. There are also some HUGE stripers that come in to feed on the struggling stockers. Bring along your swim baits. My tops is a 38-pound striper I caught there in the late 90s on an AC Plug. And it was followed by two stripers that simply dwarfed it.

At Lake Pleasant, my friend Mike McFarland, a guide with Hook Up Outfitters, said the stripers have congregated into the northern coves, and there is even some topwater action at times. We've seen this pattern in past years with warm winters.

Storms can change the equation, but at any of our lakes you will likely find largemouth bass coming up into warmer pockets of water in the backs of shallow coves, or along sheltered shallow ledges with warmer water. At times, I'll even park my bass boat and walk back into very shallow areas of coves to scout for bass.

So get out, enjoy this great winter weather, and treat your family to an Arizona outdoor adventure. With any luck, maybe I'll see you out there.   back...
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