Lake Havasu Fishing

In Loving Memory of

 


Captain James "Jim" Ocker
Writer, Naturalist, Cartographer,

Instructor, Tournament Pro,

USCG Vessel Master,

Arizona Licensed Guide  

 

July 18, 1946April 1, 2010

 

On April 1, 2010, we lost a man that was a keystone in our lives.

Jim was born on July 18, 1946 in Clinton, Iowa where he resided with his wife and three children for 47 years. After high school, he worked for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad for 23 years until a back injury caused him to retire in 1988. Jim moved with his wife and daughter to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1993 where he thoroughly enjoyed living. In his late 40's, he decided to return to college and graduated from Mohave Community College with an Associate of Arts degree focusing on freshwater biology. Jim was an avid fisherman and guide and was very proud of his Merchant Marine Captain's License. Jim was also a shooting enthusiast and a voluntary board member of The Lake Havasu City Sportsman's Club where he would frequently partake and assist in designing 3-gun shooting matches. He also enjoyed going on desert jeep rides with his wife and family. Jim is survived by his wife, Holly; three children: Josh (April) Ocker, Jake (Mirna) Ocker and Rachael (Ocker) Ploegman; his brother Paul (Christine) Ocker; and four grandchildren: Courtnie McKnight, Charles (C.J.) McKnight, Chase Selvidge, and Hannah Rose Ocker as well as many nieces and nephews. Jim’s family and many friends miss him dearly. Services will be held at Lietz-Fraze Funeral Home on Saturday, April 10, 2010, at 4:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, Jim's family has asked that a donation be made to The Lake Havasu City Sportsman's Club, c/o Mark Hoffmier, 451 Pueblo Drive, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86406.

Guide service no longer available.

  Lake Havasu Characteristics

LOCATION- An impoundment of the Colorado River, located on the Arizona-California border, south of Interstate 40.
 

S1ZE & DEPTH- From Davis Dam (Lake Mohave), the Colorado river flows southward about 57 miles to an area known locally as "the sandbar". There, the lake proper begins, covering about 21,000 surface acres and extending 29miles to Parker Dam. Normal summer surface elevation at Parker Dam is 450 ft.NGVD (National Geodetic Vertical Datum). During the winter months, normal surface level is about 446 NGVD. Maximum depth in the lower one-third of the lake is about 75 ft. Average lake depth is about 30 ft. The river section,upstream from the sandbar, offers an average depth of about 12 ft. with scour holes that extend to about 50 ft. and sand or rock bars just under the surface.

 

SHORELINE- Irregular and ranging from mountainous bedrock to gravel and sand aggregates in the backs of coves, which are continuations of desert washes. Development is confined to state and city parks, marina and resort concessionaires and the Chemehuevi Indian reservation on the California side. The entire Arizona side from Parker Dam to Lake Havasu City is a Bureau of Land Management area with over 100 campsites that are accessible by boat only.

WATER SOURCE- An impoundment of the Colorado River, most water enters the lake from Davis Dam at Laughlin, Nevada. The only tributary, Bill Williams River, enters the lake near Parker Dam. Flow of the Bill Williams is dictated by runoff from the Prescott, Arizona area and release from Alamo Dam. Water exits Lake Havasu through the hydroelectric dam or through either the Metropolitan Canal in California or the Central Arizona Canal.

WATER QUALITY- Moderately fertile with color ranging from greenish clear in the main lake to brownish in the backs of coves and river backwaters. Secchi depth, a measure of transparency, ranges from 4ft. (some coves and Mouth of Bill Williams River) to 24 ft in the main lake. The water is alkaline with pH ranging from 7.6 to 8.6. Both calcium and manganese carbonates account for elevated hardness. A thermocline develops during the latter half of summer at depths from 20 to 35 ft. but the hypolimnion does not become depleted of dissolved oxygen. 2007 update: A recent and undesired introduction of Quagga mussels is expected to increase the Secchi depth and reduce overall fertility.

BOTTOM COMPOSITION- Predominately silt (inorganic) over rock. Within the littoral zone, mixes of muck (organic) and silt occur. Erosion has left areas of round cobble and broken bedrock along the shoreline.

Much of the original river channel has become homogeneous with the surrounding bottom within the upper portion of the lake, commonly referred to as Windsor Basin. Large areas of standing trees are present. Most were trimmed to 15 ft. below the 450 NGVD surface. Since 1993, an ongoing, multi-governmental habitat improvement project continues to place artificial structure at various lake locations. 2007 update: The placement of man-made fish habitat composed of plastic has ended. Forty-two coves within the system have some amount of that structure. Present placement consists of tied bundles composed of vegetative waste such as palm fronds. Life expectancy of the bundles is roughly 2 years.

VEGETATION- Common emergent species are cattail (Typha latifolia) and bulrush (Scirpus americanus). They are evident in the backs of nearly all coves. Within the lake, the submergent species spiny naiad (Najas marina) and sago or small leaf pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) form dense beds during late summer with a deep weedline extending to 15 ft. or more. There is an introduction of white water lily (Nymphaea odorata) located within Bluebird Cove but spreading is slow. 2007 update: The Bureau of Reclamation has chemically removed the water lily from Bluebird Cove because it has been deemed a noxious weed. In the river, upstream from the sandbar, there are limited exhibits of Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), curly leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), and water celery (Vallisneria). Milfoil has also recently become invasive at the mouth of the Bill Williams River.  It is interesting to note that the sandbar is constantly encroaching into the lake. As new shallow areas are produced, they are rapidly colonized by the bulrush and new habitat is produced.


FISHERY SPECIES-

ABUNDANT- Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), Carp (Cyprinus carpio). 

COMMON- Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Redear Sunfish (Zepomis microlophus), Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris).

LIMITED- Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui), Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), Warmouth (Chaenobryttus gulosus), Rainbow Trout (Salmo gairdneri).

2007 update: Fishery populations are always dynamic. Presently, the Striper, although still abundant, is not as numerous and the overall average size is smaller. An unofficial introduction of Smallmouth Bass at the first of this decade has moved that species from limited to common. That rapid increase in Smallmouth Bass has placed a burden upon the Largemouth Bass which are now less common. Rainbow Trout were listed are limited based upon a few hatchery fish released at Casino Row in Laughlin, Nev. that were able to survive and move into the lower river. None have been reported below the I-40 bridge in recent years.

FORAGE- The predominant forage fish is the Threadfin Shad (Dorosoma petenense), named for Lake Peten in the Yucatan and widely introduced in the U.S. Other important species include Red Shiner (Notropis lutrensis), Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), and fathead minnow (pimephales promelas). As with D. petenense, all species are nonindigenous. Crayfish, insect larvae, and young-of-the-year of various fish species are also important forage. 2007 update: This past winter was the coldest in 13 years. Water temperatures were in the high 30’s for over 15 consecutive days and stressed the Shad population. Numbers of available spawning adults were reduced this spring but disregarding water quality changes and pollutants, the prolific species can quickly recover.

Lou Bell with his 32 lb. Striper

COMMENT- The Striped Bass is the dominant predator within the lake and is also the most sought after sport fish. Commonly known as Striper, they can be caught throughout the year, but best fishing locations change with the seasons and with water temperature. The overall average size is from 2.5 to 5 lbs. but a few individuals in the 20 to 30 lb. range are harvested every year. Fish from 8 to 10 lbs. or a 10-fish daily limit weighing more than 50 lbs. are worthy of photos and "braggin’ rights".

Steve fast with a 13 lb. Striper

Ron Paliwoda with a 21 pounder

 

Cliff Fincher with a 13 pounder

Jeff Hughes, Bryon & Tanner Barnes with a 15 lb. Flathead

The Largemouth Bass is sufficient to support tournaments nearly every weekend from September through May. The overall average size of the Bass is about 2 lbs. but fish from 4.5 to 5.5 lbs. are not uncommon.  The population seems to be increasing, probably due to a compilation of causes including heavily practiced catch-and-release angling, an increase in aquatic vegetation, introduction of massive amounts of man-made habitat, abundant (although not ideally diverse) forage, and care of tournament caught fish. The summer months also offer good to excellent Bass fishing, but air temperatures that can exceed 115 degrees during the afternoon are difficult for tournament fishing. Summer fishing is confined to the morning hours or to late evening.  The Havasu Bass Club owns and operates a live release boat to transport tournament fish away from the weigh-in site, thereby virtually eliminating unrestrained harvesting after tournaments.  The Smallmouth Bass population has experienced a boom during the past couple of years adding a needed resource for tournament anglers. 2007 update: Largemouth and Smallmouth bass together support tournaments. Smallmouth numbers are greatly increasing while Largemouth numbers are falling off. Recently, catches have included a half dozen Largemouth Bass over 7 lbs. with a couple over 9 lbs. There have been a couple of Smallmouth Bass recorded which weighed over 6 lbs. The Havasu Bass Club no longer operates a live release boat.

 

Channel Catfish are abundant and average 2 to 4 lbs.  Areas of shallow clear water can afford observation of schools of fish containing 20 to 50 individuals in a variety of sizes cruising the weed beds.  I have landed clients fish up to 23 lbs.  Flathead Catfish grow to monstrous sizes in this system.  My personal largest fish to date is 44 lbs.  Only a limited number of anglers fish specifically for catfish.  Most are caught incidentally to other angling.  Black Crappie numbers are limited and the individuals taken are often from 1.5 to 3 lbs.  During the 70’s, Lake Havasu was noted as an excellent crappie lake but severe over-harvesting and lack of concealing habitat have all but ruined the fishery.  Presently, fair Crappie fishing can only be found at 3 or 4 small, isolated locations.  All anglers are hoping that new and restrictive creel limits and the introduction of vital habitat are about to turn the Crappie population around.  The lake contains Bluegill and some very large Redear Sunfish, many are well over a pound.  The population as a whole seems healthy.  The current Arizona state record Redear Sunfish weighing 3 lbs. 8 oz., was caught here. 2007 update: The Crappie population has not changed. It is still very limited.  

Copyright 1997 and 2004, Jim Ocker, All rights reserved. Use data for personal and not-for-profit reasons without further authority, provided full credit for authorship observed. All commercial usage requires prior permission from the author.

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