Catch Memories at Dead Horse Ranch State Park 

Within north central Arizona’s Verde River Valley, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and the associated section of the Verde River, give anglers a chance to catch a variety of sportfish. Largemouth bass, rainbow trout, channel catfish, bluegill, green sunfish, and an occasional crappie live within the cattail lined lagoons at the park. Seasonally, the catfish and trout populations are supplemented by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to ensure anglers experience success at this absolutely gorgeous destination. Tactics may vary with the seasons, although the chance is always there to catch a memory along with a few fish.

Arizona State Parks Bass FishingLargemouth Bass

Year-round action for largemouth bass can be found at both the Dead Horse Ranch lagoons, and Verde River on the south end of the park. Every year, the lagoons give up one or two double digit fish, and five-pound specimens are currently common. The rich ecosystem, plenty of cover, loads of sunfish, and the seasonal stockings of rainbow trout all help the bass in Dead Horse Ranch to attain trophy dimensions. Although the fish on average are smaller in the Verde, quantity at times outweighs quality while still providing a very memorable experience.

Year-round action for largemouth bass can be found at both the Dead Horse Ranch lagoons, and Verde River on the south end of the park. Every year, the lagoons give up one or two double digit fish, and five-pound specimens are currently common. The rich ecosystem, plenty of cover, loads of sunfish, and the seasonal stockings of rainbow trout all help the bass in Dead Horse Ranch to attain trophy dimensions. Although the fish on average are smaller in the Verde, quantity at times outweighs quality while still providing a very memorable experience.Arizona State Parks Bass Fishing

Although bass can be caught almost anywhere in the lagoons, most of the time they relate to some sort of structure. In and around the cattails, hungry largemouth lurk while waiting for an unsuspecting meal to happen by. Fish crankbaits and spinnerbaits along the edges, at differing depths, and colors while figuring out what the bass prefer on any particular day. Some anglers experience success while flipping jigs and other weedless plastics into the cattail jungle. While flipping into cover, use heavy (at least 12lb test) line to ensure you’re able to pull a hooked bass from the vegetation, even if it gets wrapped up. Boat docks can be fished in a similar fashion, although if there is a lot of foot traffic it can be difficult to entice the bass to bite. Arrive to the lagoons early or stay late into the evening for best results and your best chance at actively feeding fish.

Access bass in the Verde River via trails that leave the main park area. With more available cover, and overall more surface area of inhabitable waterway, the bass population in the Verde River is robust and growing. Fishing small shallow diving and lipless crankbaits with the current and past likely structure will allow anglers to cover a large area which will certainly help find the bass. Slow it down after finding the areas in which the Verde River bass are frequenting. Toss jigs, or use spinnerbaits at varying speeds to pick up a few more fish.

Rainbow Trout

Arizona State Parks Trout FishingTrout fishing in central Arizona’s Verde River valley has never been better! Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the Verde River to the south offer seasonal options for anglers looking to make memories and put some trout on the grill. The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks both bodies of water throughout the fall, winter, and into spring with beautiful, delicious rainbow trout reared right here in Arizona! Successful tactics match those at other Arizona state parks, see below to learn how to catch these fun, gorgeous fish.

Dead Horse Ranch lagoons are relatively shallow, have plenty of cover, and give anglers a chance to experience first rate trout action from the shore or self-propelled watercraft. Lures that have proved successful at Dead Horse Ranch are in-line spinners, spoons, and small Rapala type stick baits. Fish lures of varying colors at different speeds and depths until you find what the trout are looking for. It is best to arrive with a variety of tackle to ensure you aren’t left without the correct lure for the Dead Horse ranch trout. A simple rule of thumb is to just keep casting! It’s a numbers game really until you find the right lure for a particular day. Stay positive, vary your retrieve and color options, and you will find the fish.

Anglers that use bait encounter a great deal of success at Dead Horse Ranch as well. Nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, corn, garlic scented marshmallows, and Power Bait have all produced stringers of fish here. Power Bait and other dough bait products are best offered on the lake bottom. Click Here to learn about a commonly used rigging technique. Once again, fish your offering at varying depths until you find where the fish are hanging out. Arrive at the lake early or stay late to catch fish cruising the lagoons for a meal. Bait fishing is a great option for kids, especially when a bobber is used. Their level of engagement is dramatically increased watching something as simple as a bobber swaying rhythmically in the water’s surface. They will learn patienArizona State Parks Trout Fishingce, a new skill, and make memories that they will carry with them forever.

Trout anglers looking for a little more solitude can take the Verde River Greenway trail on the south end of the park to experience trout fishing amid the tangled riparian atmosphere of the Verde River. Trout fishing tactics remain the same, although anglers with a bit of wanderlust will find remote pockets of fish that may have gone unnoticed. When taking these adventuresome fishing forays into the Verde River Jungle, please keep your safety a priority! The river is a different atmosphere completely than the docile lagoons of the park. This warning is not to dissuade anglers from venturing into the river area, it serves only to bring awareness.

Trout Stocking Schedule

The actual date of trout stocking varies throughout the week of the dates listed below. Trout are provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

11/05, 11/09, 12/03, 12/17, 12/31, 01/14, 02/04, 02/18, 03/04

Channel Catfish

Arizona State Parks Catfish

Channel catfish are stocked seasonally by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, typically during the warmer months. Although a good number are caught soon after being released into the lagoons, great fishing can be experienced throughout the year. Catfish anglers in the know have been taking advantage of this opportunity for quite a few years, here’s how they remain successful in catching the resident Dead Horse Ranch State Park catfish.

Catfish are most active during the first and last couple hours of daylight, and at night. Anglers that understand this arrive early and or stay late to catch these delicious fish. Bait options include earthworms, chicken liver, hot dogs, and manufactured “stink” bait. These baits are typically fished on a slip sinker set-up on the bottom of the lagoons. Patience is key, and anglers that wait out bites while taking in the beautiful scenery will catch more fish. It’s typically regarded as a good idea to bring (and try) a variety of baits while fishing for catfish at Dead Horse Ranch. The fish will let you know which one they prefer on any given day.

 

 

A valid Arizona fishing license is required for anglers 10 years and older. Licensing information is available online at Arizona Game & Fish, or purchase a fishing license at a local dealer.