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No summertime blues for Martinez Lake
For most Yuma businesses, summer means fewer customers and lean times. But along the Colorado River, tourism rises with the mercury — and the hottest months temperature-wise are also the hottest for business activity.
“Summer is absolutely our prime time,” said Debbie Lisk, Rio Loco bar manager at Fisher's Landing. “Memorial Day weekend is the kickoff, and it stays busy through Labor Day and into the fall.”
Another surprise? While Yumans are fleeing to the beach, it's folks from San Diego who flock to soak up the heat on the Colorado River.
“We have way more San Diegans than Yumans in the summer,” Lisk explained. “They come here to get out of the hustle and bustle and away from the traffic. And they're in the water, so they don't mind the heat.”
For many summer visitors, coming to the river is a family tradition, Lisk said, with “generation after generation” returning to soak up the Yuma sunshine.
Laura Guth of Martinez Lake Resort agreed. “At least 80 percent of our customers in the summer are from California, mostly from San Diego, with some Yumans, some from Phoenix and some from Orange County.”
“They come for the beautiful, clean water, the dry heat, the boating and the laid-back atmosphere,” Guth said. “It's their summer getaway.”
That getaway centers on Martinez Lake, and the friendly business rivals located to the left — Fisher's Landing, 782-7049 — or the right — Martinez Lake Resort, 783-9589 — at the end of the rollercoaster road from Highway 95.
Both are open 364 days a year — every day but Christmas — and both offer boat launches, gas, dock space and boat repairs, along with stores for basic supplies and river necessities. The Rio Loco bar and grill at Fisher's offers breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, while Martinez Lake Resort‘s cantina serves breakfast on weekends, lunch and dinner every day. Both offer music and entertainment through the summer — “like” them on Facebook to keep updated about bands, contests and special promotions.
At Fisher's Landing, three RV areas offer full hookups or dry camping, as well as tent sites. Martinez offers motel units, cabin rentals and RV spaces, along with some of the only lots for private home construction available along this stretch of the Colorado.
The new Martinez Lake subdivision was approved in 2009, Guth explained — just in time for the economic downturn and the collapse of the real estate market.
“But we have six brand-new houses this summer and more on the way,” Guth said. “Of 135 lots total, we've sold about 30 ... and we can use the others for RVs as an interim use until 2017, so we're hanging in there.”
Also in the works over the next few months is reconstruction of the resort's docks, Guth said. In the meantime, the Martinez store's live bait offerings (including “water dog” salamanders) get bites from fishermen from throughout the area.
Though activity slows when the weather cools off, the river is still a draw year round.
“The most beautiful months of the year are September and October,” Guth said. “I always tell friends that if they can take vacation then, it's the best time to visit.”
Of course, anglers are welcome throughout the year, and snowbirds find their way to the river both by road and ATVs in the cooler months.
“The fishermen, they're dedicated souls, sweating their heads off in the summer and freezing their buns in the winter,” Lisk said. “I love all my customers, but it's the night life in the summer versus the lunch life in the winter.”
Ann Walker is a writer for the Yuma Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 376-0100.
Want to get on the water, but don't have a boat to float? Jet Rent in Yuma (314-4345, www.jet-rent.com) has everything from stand-up paddleboards to pontoon boats, including kayaks and personal watercraft. Pick ‘em up on a trailer — rent a truck if you need some giddyup — or they'll deliver.
“One of the cool trips is to kayak from the Imperial Dam to Gateway Park,” said Jet Rent's Veronica Frandsen. “It's $45 each for a minimum of two people, but we'll drop you off and pick you up, so you get a whole day on the water for less than $100.”
Or hook up with Dave Willhide of Goin' Fishin' (782-2621) for a half or full day of bass mastery from an expert who can “talk all week” about “one of the best bass fisheries in the western U.S., but different from everyplace else.”
Too hot to fish now? Not so, says Willhide, who explains it's perfectly pleasant on the water from “safe light” (about 5 a.m.) until midmorning. A “split trip” includes the early-morning session, a midday retreat to swap fish tales in air-conditioned comfort, then more fishing from late afternoon until dark. In fact, his description of “summer glass” water at dawn is (almost) enough to motivate a nonfishing night owl to rise early.
A former Marine, Willhide first came to Yuma in 1967 and thought it was “the most godforsaken place on earth.” But he came to appreciate Yuma as a “best-kept secret” and angled to serve his last tour here — not just for the fishing, but because Yuma welcomes veterans. And it's home now.
“When you go out on the water, you never know what kind of wildlife you're going to see,” Willhide adds. “There's so much to do here ... I wouldn't trade it for the world.”