A couple of weeks ago I found myself with a little bit of extra time and a bad case of bass fever. This has been an extremely busy summer, and I haven't been able to get out as much as I would like. Being rather late in the spring, it was definitely way past time to go fishing. Pena Blanca Lake was the recipient of some much needed restoration by the Arizona Game and Fish department. They completely drained the lake and pulled all of the garbage and sunken boats out of the bottom and dug out a lot of the sediment that had built up since the lake was first built. About two years ago they let it fill back up and started to stock some bluegill, grass carp, bass and catfish. These fish formed the foundation of the populations that will survive the hot Arizona summers and naturally reproduce in this lake. I have heard good things about the recently re-opened Pena Blanca lake, so I decided to load the kayak into the truck and head south to check it out.
I got to the lake around 7:30 am and was quite surprised to see a teen-aged boy out on the boat ramp tossing a worm out around the posts of the adjacent dock. He pulled in several small bass in just the time it took me to get the kayak off the truck and loaded up for fishing. Once on the water it didn't take long to catch my first fish out of a little cove almost straight across from the ramp. I was tossing one of my favorite crank baits out to some stick ups in about two feet of water and he snapped it up like he was starving to death. He fought well for his size and I quickly released him back to his home so he could grow up a little bit.
Surprise Catch, Channel Catfish
I was fishing the same cove as the first and tossed my crank bait out around the edge of a large black piece of plastic sheeting, that somehow wound up in the water, when I felt a huge hit on my crank bait. I quickly pulled a huge arc into my fishing pole as I set the hook. The next thing I know this fish is slowly pulling my kayak into deeper water. This thing was so strong I started to worry about my drag being set too heavy, but after a couple of minutes I finally got this nice catfish into my net. He was the big fish of the day weighing around 3 lb, and being about 16 inches long. The surprising thing was how hard he hit the crank bait! I have caught catfish on cranks before, and they usually hit them like they are an irritant. This guy was no exception, he wanted my crank bait dead! a quick picture and he went back in the water as well.
My second bass came quickly on the heels of the catfish. I was working the same crank bait up around some low hanging tree branches near the shore when he clobbered it. Being just a little bit bigger than the first bass he just barely mad it into "keeper" size. Back in the water to grow a little more, and maybe one day he will be big enough for a meal for somebody.
The next fish I caught was the big bass for the day. He hit the same crank bait about a half hour after the last one. He surprised me when he hit it out in fairly open water. I was making some long casts out towards some stickups. I would work the bait until it cleared the cover and then burn it back to the boat for another cast. This bass hit during one of the quick retrievals as it was passing what looked like a metal fence post sticking up out of the water. I took his picture and released him back into the lake. upon my next cast I wound up catching my lure on the red rag tied to the front of the boat as a warning flag because it stuck out the back of the truck. I wound up breaking the lure of in the rag because I couldn't reach it.
For the next couple of hours I threw everything I had to every piece of cover I could find. Nothing else seemed to be consistently producing fish. I even broke out the fly rod and tried that for a while. I only caught one fish after losing that lure to the rag monster. (I am going to have to remember to take the rag off next time.) He came on a black rubber curly tailed worm I was working around a weed patch about two hours after I lost the crank bait. I finally gave up about noon, loaded up the kayak, went to Wendy's for lunch, and took the back roads home. This was my best day of fishing in well over a year, and the only day I have made it out this summer. With several more weekend trips with the family planned for the rest of the summer, I think this may be the entirety of my summer fishing this year. but Quail season starts up in October, and the winter trout stockings will also start up in the next month or two so there will be plenty opportunity to get outside this winter.