March 13, 2003 report

The first warm weather of spring has arrived which will bring improved fishing conditions. We are still waiting for day length to increase and that will herald improved fishing. Warming will really begin in April and fishing will heat up.

For now fishing is slow. On March 11th coolest water temperature was 49. Warmest temperature in clear or green water was 53 in early afternoon. The water warmed to 55 in the chocolate-colored shallow water in the back of Navajo Canyon.

Temperature needed to jump start fishing is 57-62 in the green to brown water in the back of the canyon. Main channel clear-water temperature may be 54 but colored water warms quicker and there may be an eight-degree temperature break between clear and dirty water. Find that warm water pocket and the fish will be there.

The first fish to respond to warming will be largemouth bass. Male bass will move shallow to select nest sites. Walleye begin spawning with the first warming in March and angler-catch actually declines as male walleye quit feeding during the spawning cycle. Smallmouth and stripers respond to warming but it takes 60 degree temperatures to get them moving.

A current pattern is emerging on striped bass. Striper and shad schools are found in the back of major canyons where green water color meets brown. Bottom depth is near 25-35. Over the weekend some very good winter anglers, Roger Martig and Richard Phillips from Phoenix, were in Rock Creek fishing for walleye. They were trolling #5 and #7 countdown Rapalas in a bright chartreuse or fire tiger colors in the brown/green water in the backs of all three arms of Rock Creek and found stripers hitting. These fat 2-4 pound stripers would hit the "trolled minnow" as a reaction as it swam by in the shallow colored water in the back of the canyon. I suspect they are feeding occasionally on shad and can't pass up a chance to eat a fish that swims right past their face.

Then Tom Hartford reported catching a striper in the same area - back of Trachyte Canyon, colored water on a trolled rattletrap.

I think we have them located. Just go to the back of any main canyon that has a flood plain and muddy water in the back. Find schools of fish on the graph and then really concentrate on that area. Troll or cast shad imitating cranks. The fish I saw were suspended, so cranks may work better than spoons. Once fish are found on the graph it may be a matter of changing lures, varying speeds and trying a few different options but the stripers seem to be catchable. It may be that a long thin lure like a Rapala is taken better than a short fat rattletrap. That is for you to find out once you get there.

Avoid clear water and anchovies. Instead use reaction baits at the brown and green water interface where bottom depth is 35 feet for the starting point.