by Margie Anderson
Martinez Lake is typical of the southern Colorado River Lakes. It isn't actually a lake – it's a backwater of the Colorado River. Put in at Martinez and you can end up on the main river channel with access to many other backwaters. From here you can motor to hotels, restaurants, cantinas and campgrounds.
Reedy and shallow, Martinez holds plenty of fish of all different species. You can have fun at Martinez even if you don’t fish, but if you do like to fish you can go after bass, crappie, catfish (channels and flatheads), carp, tilapia, sunfish, stripers, and even bullfrogs.
Martinez is highly developed–there are stores, resorts, cantinas, restaurants, campgrounds, and several launch sites in the vicinity. You can rent a boat or charter a river trip with a guide. If you want to fish, you'll need a fishing license and a Colorado River Stamp.
Before the Colorado was dammed it was a busy waterway–steamboats carried cargo and passengers up and down the river. Gold and silver mining meant that river traffic was heavy and a lot of towns grew up around the mines. There are still active mines along the river in the southern counties. Martinez Lake Resort was started as a fishing camp in 1955 and is now a year-round resort that caters to snowbirds, sight seers, fishermen, rock hounds, boaters, hunters, and skiers. The resort offers waterfront party houses for 2 to 12 people, trailers, motel cabins, RV spaces, a gift shop, convenience store, cantina, restaurant, and rentals of canoes, kayaks, pontoon boats, and aluminum boats.
Fishing guide services are also available at Martinez. Species include bass, crappie, bluegill, stripers, and catfish. Call the resort or 1-800-876-7004 for information on guide trips. If you just want to paddle a canoe from Martinez to Imperial, it will take about one day and you will be rewarded with views of gorgeous scenery and a variety of wildlife and birds. The resort will deliver the canoes and pick them up, and even shuttle your car if necessary. Call them for information on rates and services.
For a boat trip with a lot less work, call Yuma River Tours at (928) 783-4400. They have boat trips down the river from Fisher’s Landing at Martinez Lake to Imperial Dam, with side trips through back channels and lakes. You can even get lunch or dinner on the trip. They have jet boats, canoes, cruises and all kinds of boat tours lasting anywhere from a couple of hours to an entire day.
Boat activity on Martinez is usually heavy, and the lake is popular with Californians. But the fishing can be worth the effort. Huge bass and catfish live in Martinez. For the bass, try spinnerbaits and crankbaits along the channels or pitch worms or jigs to the reeds. Topwater frogs and rats often produce huge bass. The lake only covers about 640 acres, but it is all fishy stuff. The elevation is under 200 feet, so summers are very warm. Winters are fabulous.
Be sure to stop in at the store near the boat launch at the resort and ask them what’s biting and what to use. They have tons of photos and they sell bait.
Immediately to the north of Martinez is the Imperial Wildlife Refuge. There is a visitor’s center near the lake (the turnoff, just before reaching the lake, is clearly marked). The refuge covers 55,000 acres and fronts both sides of the river for nearly 35 miles. An amazing variety of birds and mammals use the refuge. It’s well worth a side trip. You can call the Imperial Wildlife Refuge at 928-783-3371 for information on visiting the refuge or the visitors’ center.
To get to Martinez, take I-95 to Martinez Lake Road. If you are coming from the south, you will pass the Imperial Dam road. If you are coming from the north, you won’t pass much of anything for about sixty miles from Quartzsite until you reach the Martinez Lake Road. It is clearly marked and is paved. From I-95 it’s only about ten or twelve miles to the lake. Signs will direct you to the various launch sites and campgrounds.
Weekly fishing reports are available at the Arizona Game and Fish website at www.azgfd.gov. The lake averages ten feet deep, and as far as I know there are no maps specifically for Martinez. But the Fish-n-Map company has an excellent waterproof map of the Lower Colorado Rive from Parker Dam to Yuma, and Kym’s Guide (#3) covers the Colorado from Blythe to Yuma and includes maps and charts of recreation areas.
Martinez Lake Resort
928.783.9589 or 800.876.7004
Dinghy Digest ®