Feb 142018

We are still out here in the desert kayak fishing in southwest Arizona. We’ve been spending more and more time out in the desert and less time near town and good internet service, that’s why it’s been so long between blog posts. We always take photos, but we’ve been trying to get enough video footage for a good kayak fishing video. It takes a lot of raw footage to make a decent video, we’re working on it and hope to have a video ready soon.

Even though we’ve had a couple rainstorms, water is still the key to life here in the desert. Before we head out into the desert, we load up with fuel, food and water.

Filling up with water before heading out into the desert.

On the way to the kayak fishing spot, we had to camp overnight in the desert. There are no campgrounds, toilets or water. “Dry camping” in the desert means you have to take everything you need with you. Odds are pretty good you will not be totally alone, there are a lot of people spending the winter in the Arizona desert.

Camping in the desert with the watermanatwork.com kayak fishing crew.

There are a lot of “sunbirds”, squatters and homeless people, surprisingly few travelers who come here for a specific reason, like fishing or cycling. Most of the people are older and just want to sit in a giant RV and watch TV. Squatters are people who come here set up to live for the winter without paying on government land. They usually have a trailer so they can park it and drive into town to get supplies. Nothing wrong with that except it takes the spot away from people who just want to camp less than the limit of two weeks. We’ve seen squatters and homeless people living in the same campsite for two months or longer, that means a lot of people have to go somewhere else, not quite fair. By far, most people play by the rules and it works pretty well. As usual, it’s always a few assholes who ruin it for everybody. You can usually find a place to camp, it might just be further away from the place you would like. Sometimes you get lucky and can be walking distance to the water or boat launch.

Kayak camping at Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona.

We’ve been spending some time at Mittry Lake, just outside of Yuma, AZ. It’s a perfect lake for kayak fishing. The lake is fairly large, but there is not much open water, it’s mostly a series of narrow channels lined with reeds that are home to largemouth bass. The wind is usually fairly light, but the lake is shallow so it doesn’t take much wind to kick it up. Being blown around by the wind makes it tough to get in the spots you need to have any success fishing for largemouth bass. Because of the tall reeds, there is always some shelter from the wind on one side of the channel or the other. The tall reeds also mean there aren’t many places to land your kayak, so plan on spending the entire fishing day in your boat.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on Mittry Lake with watermanatwork.com.

Like most fishing spots, Mittry Lake has it’s good and bad days. We’ve had some days when we wouldn’t even get a nibble, the next day you might catch a half dozen or more nice bass. Most of the local fishermen I’ve met are catch and release guys, so there are some big largemouth bass in Mittry Lake.

Largemouth bass caught on Mittry Lake by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish.

Not all the fish in Mittry Lake are largemouth bass. There are a few sunfish and striped bass, some carp and a few kinds of catfish. The catfish are caught mostly at night, but I managed to get this flathead catfish just before dawn. It’s a pretty big fish, but actually relatively small for a flathead catfish. These flathead catfish can get very large, but due to the size and depth of Mittry Lake, I’m not sure how big they actually get here.

Flathead catfish caught on Mittry Lake by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish.

We here at watermanatwork.com are firm believers in being on the water early, usually before sunrise. We’ve had a lot of success here in Arizona early in the morning. One morning, as we were paddling to the spot on Mittry Lake we wanted to fish at, I saw a fish surface in the pitch black water just under the kayak as I was paddling by. Even though it was still dark, I cast out a black leadhead grub I had rigged up, got a hit immediately and landed this largemouth bass on the first cast. Catching a fish or two early in the day makes you feel a lot better because at least you won’t get skunked.

Early morning largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish.

The Colorado River watershed here in the southwest Arizona is full of wildlife. Water is life in the desert and all animals, including humans, need it to survive. Mittry Lake is home to many kinds of birds that spend the winter here. Part of the lake is closed part if the winter to protect nesting migratory birds. This part of the desert is much more than sand, rocks and tumbleweed.

Moonrise at sunset on Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona.

There are a few places to camp around Mittry Lake that give you access to fishing. Although this is not the most private campsite in the area, you can launch kayaks as well as fish from shore right at your campsite. We camped next a nice couple from British Columbia who were enjoying the kayaking on the lake.

Lakefront campsite at Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona.

There are largemouth bass everywhere in the lake and a kayak is the perfect vehicle for finding them. Plenty of great kayak fishing for largemouth bass here on Mittry Lake and in this region of the southwest United States.

Largemouth bass fishing on Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona with watermanatwork.com.

A fishing kayak can get you into places that even a bass boat can’t get to. Largemouth bass can be found just about anywhere, all you have to do is find them and get them to eat a piece of plastic with a hook in it. We’ve been using a few basic lures the entire time we’ve been here and had pretty good success. You can spend a lot on a tackle box full of gear, but I’m not sure that means you’ll catch more fish. Time on the water and getting everywhere you think a bass might be lurking probably mean more than spending tons of cash on lures. Everybody has their way of catching the bigger bass, you have to spend a little time and develop a plan that works for you. Kayak fishing is a little different than fishing from a boat. You have to work around a human powered craft limitations and play to it’s strengths of access, stealth and maneuverability.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass caught by watermanatwork.com kayak fisherman Ron Barbish.

We are going to start exploring the Colorado River as the water warms up and see if we can have more success catching largemouth bass and hoping to land a larger striped bass, which the Colorado River is known for. We’ll wrap up this blog post with yet another beautiful Mittry Lake sunrise and get ready to head back out into the desert.

Sunrise at Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona.

Check back for more kayak fishing adventures with watermanatwork.com here in southwest Arizona!

Jan 242018

We’ve been spending some quality time kayak fishing at Mittry Lake for largemouth bass and are beginning to catch a few fish as we figure the lake out. Like most of the lakes in the Colorado River system, the fishing can be very challenging during the winter months. When it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s not, it definitely is not. There are nice bass in Mittry Lake and you have to do a little work to get a nice one. We are out there every morning at sunrise, the only thing keeping us off the water is the wind.

Mittry Lake sunrise.

We’ve been able to catch fish throughout the day, but we’ve had our best overall success in the mornings. It’s nice to get a couple nice fish early in the day to keep you out on the water.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass caught kayak fishing.

As with all the bass we catch, we try to release them unharmed.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass catch and release.

We’ve had success fishing plastic grubs and worms on a Carolina rig, fishing in and around the tall reeds that surround nearly the entire lake.

Kayak fishing in the reeds for largemouth bass at Mittry Lake.

I even managed to catch this scrawny striped bass. You can find striped bass up and down the Colorado River system.

Mittry Lake striped bass caught kayak fishing.

We are waiting out a stretch of windy weather and hope to get back out on Mittry Lake as soon as possible because it seemed like the fishing was really starting to pick up. Any wind over 6-8 mph makes it really tough to fish because the shallow water kicks up quickly and it’s hard to make pinpoint casts in the reeds while you’re being blown across the lake.

Mittry Lake sunset.

We’ll have more fishing photos from kayak fishing at Mittry Lake shortly. I think we have enough video to crank out a Mittry Lake kayak fishing video, maybe we’ll work on that in the next few windy days. We’ll be checking out other fishing spots as well. Keep checking back, there’s a lot of kayak fishing adventures ahead!

Jan 242018

Fortuna Pond, outside of Yuma, Arizona is a small lake or large pond that has some nice size largemouth bass in it, especially given the relatively small size of the pond. It is Community Fishing Water and stocked with trout during the winter months.

Community Fishing Water Fortuna Pond near Yuma, AZ.

There is camping around the lake, campers range everywhere from people living in their cars to snowbirds in giant land yachts. The pond itself is heavily fished by locals and visitors. A lot of people fish here. Like other places in the Arizona desert, the sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular.

Fortuna Pond AZ sunrise.

But we are here to talk about largemouth bass. Like many of the other Colorado River system lakes in the winter, when it’s hot, it’s hot and when it’s not, you usually wind up with nothing. All of the local bass fishermen I’ve met here release the fish they catch. Take a photo, throw the fish back. That’s what we do as well. Hope the parade of selfies doesn’t look like I’m bragging too much, but it’s hard to catch fish here.

I fished Fortuna Pond at least a half dozen times without a bite before I caught this bass late in the afternoon. My first Fortuna Pond largemouth bass, I definitely had to work for it.

My first Fortuna Pond largemouth bass.

Thanks to the hapless stocked trout, the bass in Fortuna Pond seem very well fed for the middle of winter. Largemouth bass from other nearby lakes are not nearly as chunky as the Fortuna Pond fish.

This was my best day ever so far at Fortuna Pond. I caught this fish early in the morning just after crawling out of the sleeping bag.

Early morning Fortuna Pond largemouth bass.

I fished on and off during the day, and right before sunset, I caught another pretty nice bass. Two nice largemouth bass in one day; that’s my personal best so far at Fortuna Pond.

Fortuna Pond largemouth bass caught just before sunset.

The next day, I fished all day and managed to squeak one out right at sunset. It wasn’t a huge fish, but that’s four largemouth bass in three consecutive days, which doesn’t sound like much, but for Fortuna Pond, I would say that I was pretty darn lucky.

Fortuna Pond largemouth bass caught at sunset.

The following day, I was hoping my success would continue, but I didn’t have a nibble. Back to reality at Fortuna Pond.

The day after that, a lot of recently dead largemouth bass started to show up. It’s bad enough not catching any fish, then 8-10 lb. dead fish show up, not a good thing. Did not have any fishing success.

Dead Fortuna Pond largemouth bass.

The next day, when I started fishing in the morning, while the wind was calm, I noticed the sheen from an oil slick. I’m not sure if this is some kind of natural deal or external pollution, but I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with the dead bass.

Fortuna Pond oil slick 1-22-18.

We really enjoy Fortuna Pond. It is a perfect place for us to hang out while we wait out high wind or need to work on gear. I’m really stoked to catch the bass that I have so far, because, like I mentioned earlier, this is not an easy place to catch fish.

Cold winter morning at Fortuna Pond AZ.

We have just come from Fortuna Pond. Unfortunately, there is some kind of oil spill. AZ Game &s Fish was by earlier in the day to take a water sample. We haven’t been around long enough to know if it’s natural seepage, but it doesn’t seem likely. Have to wait and see.

Dec 282017

The kayak fishing for largemouth bass continues here in southwest Arizona near Yuma. We’ve been hanging around town waiting for some equipment to arrive and have been fishing at Mittry Lake, which is outside of town to the north along the Colorado River. When we first started fishing here, the fishing was not very good and we were having a hard time finding the fish. We moved to another spot on the lake and our luck has improved quite a bit. The new campsite was not quite as nice as the waterfront paddle up campsite we had before, but the lake is only about twenty yards away and there are way less mosquitoes.

Mittry Lake kayak fishing camp

Mittry Lake is an ideal kayak fishing spot. It doesn’t get windy too often and most parts of the lake are somewhat sheltered from the wind by the tall lakeside reeds. This lake looks like there are largemouth bass hiding everywhere and that’s probably pretty much the case. This is paradise for a largemouth bass fisherman in a kayak. While it is a great fishing spot, the fishing here is very challenging at times. While it looks like there are fish everywhere, don’t expect them to jump into the boat.

Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona

This area is very nice during the North American winter, with days in the low to mid seventies and a little chilly at night in the low forties. The sunrises and sunsets are beautiful.

Sunset over Mittry Lake in southwest Arizona

We have been catching a lot more fish, not sure if the conditions are improving or we are figuring out how the lake works. The water temperature has a lot to do with it. If the water temperature gets too cold, the fishing goes just about completely dead. When the temperature is good, you can catch largemouth bass morning, noon and night. We’ve been fishing with plastic worms and grubs as well as a real nightcrawler on a Carolina rig.

Kayak fishing for largemouth  bass at Mittry Lake on the Colorado River

We’ve managed to land some pretty nice largemouth bass. They are not pot belly big and fat like they are in the spring, but the bigger fish put up plenty of fight. One morning I caught four big bass in about forty five minutes, then caught almost nothing the rest of the day. That’s why we wake up before dawn and get out there.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass caught kayak fishing

We’ll be around town for a couple days while we get our gear squared away and then we will be back on the water. We are getting the hang of desert fishing and starting to land some nice fish so keep checking in. We should have videos on the watermanatwork.com YouTube channel soon.

Happy New to everyone! Good health and happiness to all!

Dec 202017

After spending a few days at Fortuna Pond, where the fishing was not that great, we’ve been camping and kayak fishing at Mittry Lake, another of the Colorado River lakes near Yuma, AZ.

Sunset near Fortuna Lake, AZ

We got lucky and scored a lakefront campsite. It’s pretty rare to have what’s known as a “paddle up” campsite where you can launch your kayak right from your campsite. Not having to lift the kayak on and off the roof racks of the truck every day is a welcome relief.

Paddle up campsite at Mittry Lake, AZ

The sunrises and sunsets in this area of southwest Arizona can be pretty spectacular. As a diehard fisherman, it seems like you get to see a lot of sunrises…

Mittry Lake AZ sunrise

We’ve been getting out on the water as early as possible because the wind tends to come up in the early afternoon. Mittry Lake is not very deep so the water kicks up pretty quickly when the wind starts blowing.

Kayak fishing dawn patrol at Mittry Lake AZ

Mittry Lake is a great kayak fishing spot. Largemouth bass can be found anywhere on the lake, some in the eight to ten pound range. During the winter, the fishing can be very challenging. Water temperature and wind conditions have a major influence on the fish biting. The lake is mostly surrounded by reeds and provides endless hiding spots for the big bass.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass fishing

Camping at Mittry Lake is free, but it can fill up pretty quickly, especially on weekends. Winter campers are mostly snowbirds but Mittry Lake is a popular destination for swimmers, boaters and fishermen in the warmer months and can get pretty crowded as it is not that far outside of Yuma, AZ. There is no water here but there are rest rooms, dumpsters for trash and a nice boat launch.

Camping at Mittry Lake near Yuma, AZ

We’ve covered everything about Mittry Lake except the fishing. The lake water temperature has been unusually cool, causing the bass to slow down on the biting. There has also been a fair amount of wind. We figured we might not be catching fish because we are just learning about winter largemouth bass fishing on the Colorado River, but local bass fishermen have told us the bite is definitely off. We did manage to catch a few largemouth bass that were on the small to medium size.

Mittry Lake largemouth bass caught kayak fishing

The fishing seems to be getting better the past couple days so we are hopeful that we will be catching a few more fish.

Early morning kayak launch on Mittry Lake

Part of the lake is closed for migratory bird nesting, but we are moving to the north end of the lake because the fishing seems a little better there and we won’t have to paddle across the entire lake every morning.

Sunrise over Mittry Lake AZ

The truck is stocked up with food and water, all our computer work is done(thanks to Yuma Public Library) and batteries are charged, time to leave Yuma and head back into the desert for more kayak fishing. See you in a few days.

Dec 122017

The wind in the southwest desert of Arizona continues to blow so we are trying our hand at canal fishing. The Colorado River and larger lakes are a little sketchy in the wind, so until we get more experience with the quickly changing wind conditions, we are fishing from the banks of large irrigation canals that provide all the water to this area of desert. We rode around on our mountain bikes talking to local fishermen to get an idea of what to do. There are miles and miles of these canals and a lot of them hold fish.

Local Yuma fisherman with a bluegill from the Gila Gravity Canal

Winter is not all that harsh here in the southwest American desert, so getting up before sunrise to go fishing is not all that difficult.

Sunrise on the Gila Gravity Canal near Yuma, AZ

We spent the past couple days fishing at this spot on the Gila Gravity Canal and had a few bites and caught a couple fish, but just like on the Columbia River with the dams, the water is moved through these irrigation canals and when the water levels or temperature changes suddenly, it puts the fish off biting for a day or so. The fishing is good here in the winter, but it’s usually not the best time of year for different species, especially the largemouth bass we would like to find. Kayaking is not allowed in these canals, which is a shame, because they are perfect for kayak fishing.

Fishing in the Gila Gravity Canal near Yuma, AZ

Even though the fishing could be rated a little slow, I managed to catch a chunky bluegill and a slightly larger redear, which looks like a sunfish on steroids.

A chunky bluegill from the Gila Gravity Canal near Yuma, AZ

We are searching the area for fishing spots by truck and mountain bike. There is a lot of potential fishing areas here, we are hoping the wind dies down soon so we can get the kayaks out on the bigger water.

Searching for fishing spots in the Arizona desert

We are camped out at Fortuna Pond, just outside of Yuma, AZ. The fishing here has been pretty poor, but it’s a convenient camping place to wait for the wind to die down. Pretty nice place to spend a few days, even it the fish aren’t biting.

Fortuna Pond, just outside of Yuma, AZ

I think we will be loading up with supplies in the next day or two and head for better fishing grounds. Maybe the wind will die down or we can find some wind protected areas to fish. Keep checking in as we explore the southwest desert for kayak fishing spots.

Dec 042017

We looked for kayak fishing spots outside of Yuma, AZ and came across Martinez Lake. It is a large lake connected to the Colorado River. We checked out Senator Wash and Squaw Lake before heading out a little further to Martinez Lake to start our Arizona kayak fishing adventures. We stopped in at Fisher’s Landing to buy a fishing license and ask about possible fishing spots. The folks at Fisher’s Landing were real friendly, set me up with a fishing license and got us headed in the right direction for fishing. They have a nice launch ramp and parking, camping and bar and grill. The launch is close to the access point of the Colorado River itself and Fisher’s Landing has lots of fishing tournaments if you’re interested in fishing competition.

Fisher's Resort Bar & Grill

We’ll try launching at Fisher’s Landing later because we wanted to look around more. We headed out on a lovely washboard road towards the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge.

Arizona backroad to kayak fishing spot

We explored a few side roads hoping they would lead to the Colorado River, but usually they led to seasonal dry washes that had nothing more than deep sand. Without four wheel drive and not even having a shovel, we did not go far off the road for fear of getting stuck in the sand.

Deep sand off the main roads

We arrived at our destination, Meers Point launch ramp, before sunrise and got the kayak rigged for our first shot at Arizona/Colorado River fishing. It was a beautiful morning, probably about 50°F, when we headed out onto the lake with fish jumping all around.

Meers Point launch ramp Imperial National Wildlife Refuge

This place is a kayak fisherman’s dream. There are hundreds of inlets and coves around the Colorado River and adjacent lakes just like this one, full of fish. Mostly largemouth bass, I reckon, because it looks like prime bass fishing waters.

Lake Martinez largemouth bass fishing

We were on an exploratory trip here to try and figure out what kind of fishing tackle we were going to need because all we had was our trusty smallmouth bass lures that work so well on the Columbia River. It was pretty clear we were going to need some topwater lures for fishing in the morning, when the fish are feeding on the surface before it gets too hot and some shallower running crankbaits to go along with our lead head grubs, plastic worms and spinners. Even though we felt we did not have the suitable largemouth bass lures, I managed to catch my first Colorado River largemouth bass on the lead head grub that works so well on the smallmouth bass in the Pacific Northwest.

Lake Martinez largemouth bass caught kayak fishing

It’s windy today so no fishing. We came back into Yuma to stock up on supplies, get some largemouth bass lures and post to the blog because there are very few places with internet access, or even cell phone coverage while out in the desert. We are headed back out anxious for new fishing adventures so keep checking in!

Dec 042017

We left a rainy Columbia River Gorge headed to the Colorado River in Arizona for a kayak fishing road trip. It’s been a wet autumn here in the Gorge and we were anxious to leave the cold, wet weather behind for some nice winter kayak fishing in the desert sun. It was non-stop rainbows from all the passing storms as we loaded up the truck and headed south for the winter.

Hood River rainbow over the Columbia River

We stopped in for a quick visit with an old surfing buddy and his family in Carlsbad, CA. Checked out the surf, had some Mexican food and watched a couple high school basketball games before heading east towards Yuma, AZ.

Warm Water Jetty in Carlsbad, CA

It wasn’t long before the SoCal traffic jams and tract houses turned into sand and open desert.

Desert highway

It wasn’t a long trip out of San Diego before we arrived in Yuma, AZ on a warm and sunny December afternoon. We did a quick look around town and located the first potential kayak fishing launch spot. Believe it or not, this is the Colorado River. There’s not much left of it by the time it reaches the Mexican border and the Gulf of California.

Colorado River in Yuma, AZ

A few miles out of town is Senator Wash and Squaw Lake. This area is popular with “snowbirds” who camp here in their RV’s for the winter.

Senator Wash Reservoir near Yuma, AZ

Even though this is primarily a kayak fishing trip, we brought the mountain bike along in case we found places to ride. It didn’t take long to find the first stretch of desert singletrack. We didn’t bring the front line, full suspension bikes, but this trusty old hardtail should do the job.

Desert singletrack near the Colorado River

We are starting to find our way around and will be looking for new kayak fishing spots every day, so keep checking back in for more southwest desert kayak fishing adventures!

Sep 092017

No sooner than we get the kayak fishing for salmon started, the fishing is on hold thanks to high winds, and even worse, an out of control wildfire that is burning just a few miles away. The local interstate is closed and the roads are full of fire fighting vehicles. The air is full of thick smoke and ash, unhealthy to breathe, so any kind of physical activity is limited.

Cleaning fishing reels

Not much else to do except clean and repair the salmon fishing reels. One was in bad need of a grease job and the other one, the front line salmon reel, had a few loose screws and needed a lube job as well. Catching these big fish and getting banged around on the kayak is tough on the fishing gear, it’s a pretty good idea to do regular maintenance, which of course, nobody seems to do.

Sorry, nothing much to report this time. Thanks to all the firefighters working the Eagle Creek fire, they have a big job ahead of them and we hope that nobody gets injured.

Sep 062017

We finally got out for our first kayak fishing for salmon trip of the season. It was unlike any of the other first salmon fishing trips of the year because the Columbia River Gorge is filled with heavy smoke and ash from the nearby Eagle Creek wildfire. It’s not exactly easy breathing and visibility was often less than a quarter mile, but we had to get out there and try for the first salmon of the season.

It didn’t take long for me to get the first fish of the year. After only a few casts, about a half hour before sunrise, I hooked into the first Chinook salmon of the season. It was a smaller fish, probably ten pounds or less, so I released it. Little did I know it would be quite a few hours before I felt another serious tug on the line. The sun came up, but it didn’t get too bright because of the thick smoke. There were a few fish being caught, but for this time in the annual salmon run, I would have to rate the fishing as “somewhat slow”. The slow fishing, hot weather and smoke from wildfire made for a typical challenging day of fishing.

A smoky Columbia River challenges salmon fishermen

After going all day with only a few half-hearted hits and no solid strikes, I was pretty disappointed after catching a salmon in the first half hour on the water. Then, I got a solid hit and a good hookup. It was a good fish, but I could tell it was not a salmon or steelhead. Turns out it was a big smallmouth bass. At least I caught some kind of fish. I was about to call it a day when I got a hit that nearly ripped the fishing rod out of my tired hands.

Kayak fishing for salmon

This fish was a salmon; a big salmon. It went on a couple long runs, ripping line from the reel and giving the drag a real workout. Between the runs, the fish made two huge jumps out of the water. It was a real battle and I was not making any progress getting the fish to the boat. When I finally got the fish close to the kayak, I could see that it was a big Chinook salmon. It would never fit into my landing net, but it didn’t matter. A closer look at the fish I could see that it was foul hooked in the dorsal fin, that’s why I couldn’t make much progress getting it to the kayak. I was wondering how to unhook and release a thirty pound salmon when the hook worked itself loose and the monster salmon swam away.

Quite a way to start the salmon fishing season!