First published in 1992 to extol the virtues of the 50 best fishing lakes in the state, the current iteration has doubled in size to feature more than 100 watering holes. This time, it includes sections on urban lakes as well as a half-dozen of the more popular bass lakes south of the border. Also included in the new edition are sections on big-fish-of-the-year records and information on where to purchase Arizona fishing licenses or permits to angle on Navajo, San Carlos and Apache reservation properties.
"This book may not answer all your questions or give you the magic formula for catching the biggest fish," says the experienced outdoorsman (now executive editor for National Rifle Association publications), "but it will be a guide to the many spectacular fishing opportunities--from mountain streams and rivers to desert lakes and reservoirs--that Arizona has to offer."
Although we live in the middle of a large desert dirt pile, 85 species of fish still call Arizona their home.
"Take several varieties of bass--largemouth, smallmouth, striped, yellow and white--add northern pike, walleye, channel and flathead catfish, carp and crappie, toss in hatchery-stocked trout of several kinds, and add a smattering of buffalo fish, grayling, mullet and warmouth--and you can see why our state offers some of the world's most diverse angling," Sagi writes.
Despite several years of back-to-back drought compounded by low water levels caused by drawdowns for urban and agricultural use--as well as the usual triple-digit summertime evaporation--Arizona still counts more than a half-million licensed anglers and once boasted the highest per-capita boat ownership in the country.
Trying to find the positive side of the half-full/half-empty conundrum, Sagi remains philosophical: "Water can be a scarce commodity in Arizona. Drought can result in lake levels low enough to prevent boat launching, and on occasion, the temporary disappearance of entire waterways. Most droughts are simply a component in any lake's life cycle. Every time a waterway recedes, even a few feet, nutrient-rich brush begins to grow, and when water levels return to normal, that new growth is inundated, and fish have cover to spawn in. Survival rates improve, game fish grow rapidly, and catch rates typically accelerate. Despite drier-than-normal conditions, fishing in Arizona has never been better--and the future is even brighter."
Sagi, a hunter and angler with journalistic memberships in all the right professional organizations, uses his connections to garner updated information to help make a fishing trip anywhere in the state potentially more successful.
For the experienced angler, he provides updates for watering holes along the Colorado River, Salt River Project reservoirs, White Mountain Apache Reservation lakes, urban fishing spots and, for the first time, a visit to six of the most popular lakes across the border. "You owe it to yourself to visit Mexico, at least once, to fish some of the bassiest waters on the entire planet," he says. Huge lakes such as Baccarac, El Salto, Comedero and Huites are lightly fished and are filled with extremely large Florida-strain bass.
Fellow outdoor writer Ted Trueblood--one of the biggest names in the hook and bullet press world--was fond of saying, "If you instill in your child a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of nature, you will have given him a treasure no one can take away. " Sagi helps Arizona readers do that with a chapter for beginners called Kids and Fishing--A Healthy Mixture. "Everyone's first fish is special, and some of the clearest memories I have are of quality fishing time in the outdoors. It didn't matter if we caught anything, we had good, clean family fun.
"Fishing Arizona is not your typical angling adventure where success is measured in pounds and ounces," he writes. "It's a total package that includes an occasional lunker, near-perfect weather regardless of the season, history, scenery, solitude and so much more."
Buy the book. Go to a lake. Catch a fish. Or not. Your reward will still be a day spent in the outdoors.