June 2007

Fishing: Arizona-Style

By Rory Aikens
Arizona Game & Fish Department

With triple-digit weather in the deserts, a lot of families will probably find the 70-degree daytime weather in the high country to be almost irresistible. Keep in mind that the mountain nights are still chilly, so take along your jackets.

Trout fishing can be simple. A lot of baits and techniques can work this time of year. Try night crawlers, mealworms, corn, salmon eggs, Power Bait, small spinners, Z-rays, or Super Dupers. The Mogollon Rim lakes offer lots of fishing, camping and wildlife-watching opportunities.

Here is a quick run down of the popular Rim lakes:

  • Woods Canyon near the edge of the Mogollon Rim just off Highway 260 near Payson has been providing the best catch rates for stocked rainbow trout. Woods Canyon has plenty of good shoreline access, plus a store and boat rentals. It’s a great place for youngsters or adults to catch their first trout.
  • Willow Springs Lake is the largest Rim lake and not only had trout, but smallmouth and largemouth bass as well. There is excellent shoreline access. With 250 surface acres, this classic mountain lake is also popular with boat anglers.
  • Bear Canyon Lake (just down the Rim Road from Woods Canon) does require a short hike down a steep, switch-back trail, which often means it is a place to escape weekend crowds. Despite being a fairly deep canyon lake, there is plenty of shoreline access here, and you always have a chance of catching a larger carry-over trout. This fishery is also favored by fly anglers using float tubes.
  • Chevelon Canyon Lake is a hike-in adventure down a long, steep trail, but don’t expect lots of shoreline access. This lake is best fished from a float tube or other inflatable. However, fly anglers in floats have been reporting great success for nice-sized rainbows and a few larger browns.
  • Knoll Lake requires driving a score of miles or more along the dusty Rim Road (Forest Road 300) through the heart of elk and turkey country. Catch rates can be good, but aren’t always. There is plenty of shoreline access. For boaters, it’s electric trolling motor only, so you can leave your gas engine at home in the garage.


  • Blue Ridge Reservoir is located in a steep canyon with little in the way of quality shoreline access. There is a launch ramp, and it is best fished from a boat or float. Catch rates have not been great so far this year, but there are some larger carry-over trout.
  • Black Canyon Lake near Heber/Overgaard is low this year, but is still providing some okay action for stocked trout. There is decent shoreline access, but boat anglers often have the edge on catch rates here.

For more detailed information on all the fishing waters in Arizona, consider obtaining the latest edition of the popular “Arizona Fishin’ Holes,” which is the premier guide to the state’s public fishing waters. Just visit any department office in the state or go to the department’s web site and download an order form.

Despite costing only $6, this easy-to-use guide has a wealth of information and is a must-have for new anglers to the state.

By the way, if you are camping in the high country, be sure to keep a clean camp and Be Bear Aware.

In southern Arizona, it sounds like Parker Canyon Lake is the place to go for rainbow trout. Take along a pair of binoculars: this area is visited each year with lots of neotropical bird species, such as the colorful elegant trogon.

This is also a great time to visit the desert lakes. Even though temperatures can soar into the triple digits at mid day, spring mornings and evenings are a delightful time to fish because the only thing hot is the action. Right now, shore or boat anglers can fish for bass, catfish or sunfish.

The hot spots at press time were Roosevelt, Alamo, Bartlett and Pleasant for the interior lakes.

With a waning moon, this is an excellent time for crappie or bass fishing at night using a submersible or floating light. The light attracts plankton. The plankton attracts shad. The shad attract crappie, bass and other finned predators. It’s also a good time to get re-acquainted with the star-studded desert sky.

Another hot spot right now is Lake Powell, where the bite is on for striped bass, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass.

However, with the high gas prices, you can also stay in town or close to town and still catch fish. Tempe Town Lake is a good choice for bass, catfish, and bluegill. Try at sunrise or sunset for the best action.

The Lower Salt River (below Saguaro Lake) has been stocked with trout. It seems strange to catch trout when you know the temperatures will get into the triple digits, but that is part of the mystique of fishing a desert river.

Try night crawlers fished with very little weight on light line and cast upstream into the riffles and let the worms float down into the pools, deeper holes, or cut banks. You might even get some largemouth bass surprises.

Our plentiful Urban Fishing Program Lakes are stocked with catfish this time of year and are a lot of fun to fish, especially for families with children.