PHOENIX — Nearly one-third of Arizona’s boaters say fishing is their favorite activity to do while boating, and for many, fall is an ideal time of year to go out in search of that state record bass (or trout or catfish or …). But as the weather cools down, so does the water temperature.
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that cold water immersion and hypothermia can occur in water as cool as 70 degrees. Even in a healthy person, cold-water immersion can impact muscle movement, breathing and heart rate. Prolonged exposure to the water can lead to hypothermia, cardiac arrest and death.
Whether fishing from a kayak, canoe or boat, life jackets are an important part of angling safety. They’ll keep a person’s head above water and body on the surface. While life jackets are required for those 12 years old and younger, wearing a life jacket is a simple step that could be lifesaving.
“Arizona’s lakes provide great fishing opportunities year-round and are another reason people love the fall and winter months here,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). “Set an example for young boaters and fellow anglers by wearing a life jacket. Should someone fall out of a boat or be thrown overboard, a life jacket — regardless of the water temperature — could save your life.”
If you do fall overboard, stay calm, move slowly and don’t try to take off clothing while in the water. And if the boat has capsized, it most likely will not sink and can be used as a platform. It’s advised that boaters stay on top of the capsized vessel as much as possible in order to stay out of the water.
With safety as the No. 1 priority, now it’s a matter of catching that keeper. AZGFD has a stocking schedule that includes lakes throughout the state that receive catchable-sized trout from hatcheries, and a weekly fishing report provides updated information on where people are catching fish and some secrets of their success.
AZGFD PIO Nick Walter tracks all things fishing related in the state and offered these tips for catching fish during the winter months:
Consider heading to Lake Havasu. This giant, shallow, solunar bowl on the “west coast of AZ” heats up quickly during a warm winter sun and has a large variety of sport-fish. There are also some monster redear sunfish here (and at Topock Gorge) to be had.
Put the Lower Salt River on your to-fish list. Located in the Tonto National Forest, anglers get the unique experience of stream fishing for trout in the desert. The Lower Salt is stocked with trout through the winter months, is just minutes from some of the Valley of the Sun’s population centers, and offers good shoreline fishing options as well. A Tonto Pass is required.
Fish breathtaking Lees Ferry. Winter is traditionally the spawning period for this world-class wild rainbow trout fishery in northern Arizona that provides the awe-inspiring gateway to the Grand Canyon.
And, of course, make sure to wear a life jacket.