They are manmade homes for fish, some made of concrete, others of PVC, and like building a neighborhood, provide the architecture for sustainable life. The first step in placing fish habitat into the central Arizona reservoirs took place on Thursday, April 20 at Roosevelt Lake with Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists dropping High-rise structures made of environmentally-safe PVC to the bottom of Roosevelt Lake. These recycled items, 8 feet tall and excellent habitat for crappie, became the first fish homes. AZGFD plans to expand them into fish cities. For anglers, this Tonto National Forest Lakes Habitat Improvement Project will result in better fishing for generations to come in the region’s most popular fishing lakes.
Also in April, Roosevelt Lake was stocked with 12,000 crappie fingerlings, as well as 25,000 5-inch Florida-strain largemouth bass for the third consecutive year. Roosevelt Lake also is above 70-percent full for the first time since October of 2011. The higher water level has flooded shoreline brush that provides more cover and habitat for spawning fish. The fish habitat improvement project includes placing multiple types of fish habitat around the lake at varied depths to ensure there is plenty of fish habitat available for when water level fluctuates. Similar work is planned for other lakes along the Salt River chain and Bartlett Lake. The next planned step involves AZGFD biologists using a 36-foot pontoon boat to transport and lower heavier concrete fish habitat structures — critical to anglers’ fishing opportunities — into Roosevelt Lake.
This fish habitat project is a cooperative effort with numerous anglers, as well as volunteers from organizations such as Gila Basin Angler Roundtable and Midweek Bass Anglers. Supporting agency partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, Tonto National Forest, and the National Fish Habitat Partnership-Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership. Volunteers have been helping build concrete fish balls and Georgia cubes for two years and have donated hundreds of hours to the project.
Fishiding HighRise structures are made of environmentally-safe PVC and are excellent habitat for crappie. Natural and artificial habitat are critical for fish spawning, recruitment, and growth. The reservoirs of central Arizona lack sufficient hiding and ambush cover and habitat for growth and survival of young fish. The artificial structures provide a surface for microscopic animals to grow, which attracts bait fish and in turn the predatory fish for anglers to target.
Fishing is one of Arizona’s most popular outdoor activities. Providing good places for anglers to fish is one of AZGFD’s primary goals. Five of the biggest and most popular lakes to fish are located in central Arizona and are managed by Salt River Project for the valley’s water supply: Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, and Bartlett Lake.
In 2014 the Department embarked on a program to improve fisheries habitat in the reservoirs of central Arizona and restore the fisheries to their former glory days. All five of these lakes are more than 70 years old, and Roosevelt Lake is more than 100 years old. Over time, reservoirs lose quality fish habitat through decomposition of the natural vegetation that was flooded, particularly where water levels fluctuate wildly, such as at Roosevelt.
Similarly, one of the largest and most successful fish habitat projects in the nation, the Lake Havasu Fishery Improvement Program, has been ongoing since 1993 and is credited with improving sport fish habitat in this Colorado River reservoir.
The Tonto National Forest is the land management agency for five of the biggest and busiest fishing lakes in Arizona. In 2013, the economic value to the state of Arizona associated with these five lakes was estimated to be more than $318 million.
Here is a quick peek at the latest Florida strain Largemouth Bass being held at Bubbling Ponds Hatchery. These fish arrived from Florida several months ago and are averaging about 5-inches. They are trained to eat commercial feeds which will be critical in moving forward with our brood stock development. The goal is to have millions of Florida strain bass available for stocking from Arizona hatcheries in the near future.
I recently read an article about casting reels that are very noisy during the cast, here is an interesting summary of what I found. This noise is one of the most common reasons for repairs. The cause, we ask? Bearings, of course, we say. But I was surprised to find the real culprit is likely the plastic centrifugal braking system. When a dry plastic tab rubs a dry brake ring, the friction is a lot more than when it's oiled, so much more in fact that the ends of the tabs will often melt and have fringe hanging off of them. Most new reels come with a thin to thick layer of grease on the brake ring. Grease will lube the brake ring and keep it from making noise, but it also cause inconsistent braking. Therefore, after a reel has been serviced, the brake ring and tabs will be oiled, but not greased. The braking is much more consistent with oiled brake parts, but oil doesn't last as long as grease. If you have a reel with centrifugal brakes, you need to wipe a drop or two of reel oil around the inside of the brake ring at least once a month. A few drops on a Q-tip makes it easy to do. It's also just a heck of a good practice to get into of opening the side cover to oil your brakes frequently as this will give you the chance to wipe a little grease on the side cover locking tabs or threads. You would be amazed at how many people spend $200 on a pro-quality reel, and then never service it. If you don't know how to open your side cover to access the brakes or to oil the parts, either review the owner’s manual that came with your reel, search for the instructions on google, or ask another club member. It's a good idea to keep a small bottle of reel oil and a tube of grease along with some Q-tips as an emergency service kit. So remember, a little oil on the brake ring so the plastic brakes can function properly, and a little grease on the locking tab to keep corrosion from occurring.
So I have one bad battery in my boat. The other three batteries are good, so I thought I would just try and replace the bad one, especially since I use AGM (glass mat) batteries that cost around $230 each. I use AGM batteries because (1) they are completely sealed and maintenance free and (2) AGM batteries are constructed differently than typical car batteries and can therefore withstand the heavy jolts and vibrations from a boat on the water.
So I called a buddy of mine who runs a battery shop to see what he had available. I run Deka batteries, he does not sell Deka. He said since I only need one battery, I should absolutely stick with Deka. Apparently each battery has internal resistance particular to its manufacturer, and mixing brands on a series circuit of 36 volts can create problems. He said I will either damage the new one, or damage the remaining two. Voltage takes the path of least resistance, so whichever battery has the lower resistance will end up getting overcharged while the remaining batteries are charging. So I guess I will get another Deka.
Moral of the story: Do not mix battery brands in a series circuit.
If you are a boater, you likely have at least 3 batteries on your boat, maybe 4. Unfortunately, battery issues usually do not happen in your garage, they occur at the lake while fishing, and probably during a tournament. It is possible to have a battery that charges fully to 13 volts, but no longer has the stamina to hold that charge sufficiently. Here is a way to test that battery. This is a carbon-pile load tester that I got on Amazon for $20. I tested all 4 of my batteries and found one that was not holding a charge, no wonder my trolling motor was acting sluggish. You can also use this to test the charging system. I discovered the alternator on my truck was not working properly. This is a must have for any boater.
Al's Electric Boat Service
Bass Fishermen and the new Tonto National Forest Fees
Changes are coming to the fees at the Tonto National Forest Lakes, and here are some FAQ that relate to bass fishermen, the Tonto National Forest provided these answers. I should probably qualify the following information as my best attempt to provide accurate information, I do not work for TNF, but am a simple fisherman trying to get good information for my fishing club, Midweek Bass Anglers, and thought I would share it with others who likely have similar questions.
When will the new fee machines be in place and operational? This year. Hopefully before summer.
How will the fee machines work? Credit / Debit Card only. You will be able to purchase Day-Use ($12), Watercraft Launching ($18), or Campground Camping (variable). We expect them to be similar to the machines currently in operation on the Red Rock District / Sedona.
Will I still be able to purchase passes through local vendors or at a TNF Office? Yes, and they will be less expensive than onsite through the machines. However, Tonto passes will no longer be valid for camping once the fee machines are installed.
Daily Use Passes
Daily passes will be sold through the Fee Machines and will cost $12 and Water Craft Upgrade will be $6, so if you pay onsite to launch your boat it will be $18. These machines are expensive to operate but requested by the public. These machines are intended for the occasional user, so if you are a frequent user, you are better off purchasing an annual pass, which is now called the Discovery Pass.
I still have leftover Tonto Daily Passes (Blue and Red ones), how long are they good for? These passes will be valid for day use privileges until June 30, 2016. However, for improved campgrounds and overnight camping, these passes will only be good until the fee machines are installed (April or May). Please note that refunds will not be issued for the older passes once the new system is fully operational.
The new annual pass is called the Discovery Pass. This pass covers day use and launching at all TNF lakes. You will no longer have to purchase a separate watercraft sticker, it is now included in the Discovery Pass.
I purchased an annual pass in 2015; will it be valid until its expiration in 2016? Yes
How much does the Discovery Pass cost?
The Discovery Pass price is $80 for people under 62 and $60 if you're 62 or older. This is a day use only pass, so overnight camping at improved campgrounds will still require an additional pass. However, boat launching in is now included in the camping fees. So, if you’re camping at BC, Schoolhouse, Windy Hill, you can launch on your camping fees. You’ll end up with a receipt to hang at your campsite and a receipt to put in your truck.
Where can I purchase the Discovery Pass? Tonto Supervisor Office and District offices only.
Sometimes I use different vehicles when travelling to TNF lakes, will I need a different Discovery Pass for each vehicle or is the pass portable so I can simply use it on whichever vehicle I am driving? The Discovery pass is a card, so it is portable, you can use the provided sleeve to hang it from the rearview mirror.
Overnight Camping Passes
What will it cost to camp at Burnt Corral and Cholla Campground and other Improved Campgrounds?
Once the Automated Fee Machines are installed on site (April - May), overnight camping fees at Burnt Coral will be $12/night until 2018. In 2018, they will go to $20/night. 50% discounts will be given to those who are 62 years or older who also possess a “Senior America the Beautiful Interagency Pass.” Until the fee machines are installed the campgrounds will continue to accept the Tonto Daily Pass. Fees will vary for the different campgrounds, for example: Burnt Corral $12, Windy Hill $20. Keep checking www.fs.usda.gov/tonto for updated information. There may be campsites that are considered “double” and the rates for these sites are also “double.”
For local bass anglers, which are the Improved Campgrounds requiring the use of the fee machine or online reservation?
Roosevelt Lake – Cholla, Schoolhouse, Windy Hill Campgrounds
Apache Lake – Lower Burnt Corral Campground
Bartlett Lake – no Improved Campgrounds at Bartlett Lake, the Discovery Pass is all that is needed.
Saguaro Lake – no Improved Campgrounds at Bartlett Lake, the Discovery Pass is all that is needed.
Canyon Lake – no Improved Campgrounds at Bartlett Lake, the Discovery Pass is all that is needed.
Horseshoe Lake - no Improved Campgrounds at Bartlett Lake, the Discovery Pass is all that is needed.
Will I be able to purchase the overnight camping pass at local stores or at TNF offices? No, because the new system reserves individual campsites, these passes will only be available through the machines located on site or online through recreation.gov.
How do I purchase the pass to camp at Burnt Corral and Cholla or other improved campgrounds?
Once the machines are installed, passes can be purchased one of two ways, either through the onsite fee machine or through a reservation website at www.recreation.gov. One major advantage of either option is that the Fee Machine receipts will print the campsite number on the receipt, which will secure your campsite for your use. If you use the reservation service, your site will be reserved in advance, but there is an additional $6 fee to use recreation.gov. Until the machines are operational, you will need the old blue or red passes.
In 2015 everyone who camped at an improved site like Burnt Corral needed to hang a blue or red pass. Once the new fee machines are installed, how many vehicles will be allowed per campsite? Essentially, you can have a maximum of three (3) wheeled units within your campsite AND all of them must fit within the designated parking area of the individual campsite. So that means you can have two trucks and a trailer. Other examples of 3 wheeled unit combos would be (1) a motorhome, a runaround ATV, and trailer, (2) a motorhome, boat trailer, and another vehicle, (3) A 5th Wheel, tow vehicle, and trailer or other vehicle. Additional vehicles will need to be parked somewhere else such as a boat ramp lot and displaying a Tonto pass or at another “paid for” campsite.
Are the overnight camping passes valid from 24 hours of purchase or is there a daily schedule? Check-in at 12-noon and Checkout at 10am. If you have reserved your site through recreation.gov the campground host will take care of marking the site reservation for you. All of this will roll out with the Fee Machine installations.
When do I not need to purchase on overnight camping pass? You do not need to purchase an overnight camping pass if you are simply fishing and parking your vehicle at the ramp. If you camp at an Improved Campground, see list above, you need an overnight camping pass.
If you’re wondering about how the Arizona Game and Fish Department project of stocking Florida-strain largemouth bass into Roosevelt Lake is going, well, it is far too early to make any conclusions. That said, early indications give a shred of hope for a robust population of catchable (8-10-inch bass) by next fall, and, in 4-5 years, the hope that trophy bass will be available at this rejuvenating fishery. These Florida-strain stockings, coupled with increased rainfall and an upcoming habitat improvement project, has the lake on its way back as a premier bass fishing lake in Arizona.
Time to geek out with some data.
Results from October 2015 Game and Fish surveys at Roosevelt Lake show spikes in populations from two distinct size classes.
The two far-left spikes of blue lines represent October 2015 results from 5.7 hours of electrofishing, compared to similar fall surveys in 2013 (red lines) and 2011 (green). All the rows measure frequency, or percent, of the total bass catch as they relate to size in inches.
This first row of blue lines (lengths of 2- to 3 1/2 inches) also indicated a healthy population of 5-6 month old largemouth bass, which possibly were boosted by spring 2015 stockings of
Florida-strain largemouth bass fry.
The next, highest row of spikes (6- to 8-inch bass) represents 1 1/2-year-old bass, possibly aided by stockings of Florida-strain fingerlings from this past spring, and/or the spring 2014 stockings of fry.
Note the green lines representing 2011 surveys and red lines from 2013 surveys showing a significant drop in frequency of young bass.
Again, this was only one survey, and at least two more surveys will be needed to make reliable conclusions.
OK, geek-out session over.
What we mean is: the “Rebound at Rosy” seems to be in progress.
Fishing Wednesdays, not weekends.