You knew I'd have to try it, didn't you? I mean, what's a winter warm weather vacation without a day of fishing! So, as my wife and I and our two friends Bill and Diane Elling enjoyed our 10 days at Lake Havasu City in northwest Arizona, Bill and I worked with Tyler Jacobson, Public Relations Manager of the Lake Havasu Convention and Visitors Bureau to line up a day of fishing with a local guide.
In our research, we found that there are several free public access fishing docks including Site Six, Havasu Springs, Take-Off Point, and Mesquite Cove. Although these do produce fish, it is with a boat that you can really go out and search for the fish.
Probably the most targeted fish is the striper or striped bass, followed by the largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are also catfish, and then the fish that I was really looking toward catching, the redear. Sometimes referred to as shellcrackers or bream, the redear resembles our bluegill except for coloration differences and size. On Lake Havasu, anglers will catch redear over three pounds.
Definitely bigger than just a keeper!
Photo by Steve Weisman
Now that's a fighting dinner plate! Unlike the bluegill that will feed on insects and microscopic organisms, the redear is more of a bottom feeder and targets snails and crayfish.
So, with this background, Tyler's choice was Capt. "Jim" Ocker, who has been guiding on Lake Havasu since 1993. That was the year he and his wife moved from get this Clinton, IA. Yep, another Midwesterner that left for a warmer climate.
When I asked, "So, do you miss Iowa," he smiled, that's all just smiled. Disregarding that he has fished over 200 lakes and rivers from Appalachia to the Rockies, he did say he loved fishing the Mississippi River lock and dam system around Clinton. However, being able to comfortably fish open water up to 300 days a year makes Lake Havasu well worth it.
"Some people ask me 'how can you stand the heat in the summer," said Ocker, "and it did take my body about a year to become accustomed to the climate, but I'll take 100+ degrees with very little humidity any day over an 80 to 90 degree day with 70 percent humidity!"
Lake Havasu itself actually became an impoundment when the Parker Dam was built in the late 1930s to dam up the Colorado River and to provide a drinking water for cities in both California and Arizona. Now a 25-mile long lake with an average depth of 30 feet, Ocker noted that the fishery is constantly changing. As we began our fishing day, Ocker noted that we would be fishing during one of the toughest times of the year. Water temperature was about 56 degrees and fishing had been spotty. Of course, if we could be there in April or in September into October the action is tremendous.
We did catch several smaller largemouth bass, but our search for stripers came up empty. "Nobody can really seem to find them right now," noted Ocker. "The numbers are down some, and we've all been having a tough time catching them."
After a couple of hours, Ocker suggested we head to the river and some bull rush areas in search of redear. "Yes," I thought to myself. After about a 12-mile run north, Ocker maneuvered his boat into an area of bull rushes that was definitely panfish and largemouth bass territory. We used a dropshot plain-hook rig tipped with a nightcrawler.
"The redear feed on mollusks and insects, but they have a hard time resisting a nice juicy nightcrawler."
Talk about neutral. It was a painstakingly slow presentation. Jiggle, jiggle, jigglesit, sit, sitjiggle, jiggle, jiggle. After a while, we would feel a slight tick, tick. Sure enough it was a redear. We never caught any of the bruisers, but we did catch fish over a pound and one was probably 13-14 inches in length.
No, fishing was not fast, but that's why they call it fishing, not catching. Bill and I enjoyed our day with Ocker, and if we get a chance to go back, we'd love to fish with him in April and May when the redear are in the spawning mode. That would be dynamite.
If you get in the Lake Havasu area and are looking for a guide, contact Capt. James "Jim" Ocker" at (928-680-1873 or check out his web page at www.citlink.net/~jimocker.