Finding the best fishing in Arizona can be easy depending on the type of experience you’re looking for. Great fishing conditions are always prevalent in Arizona’s state parks, and the more you know, the better your chances are of success. Read on to learn what kind of fish you can expect to catch in the parks, and how you can maximize your experience in Arizona’s gorgeous fishing destinations.
Your Arizona state parks encompass a wide variety of landscapes, at different elevations, and within differing habitats. Because of this, the target species are somewhat different depending on the park at which you're casting a line. Generally, higher elevation parks offer the best chance of catching trout, walleye, and pike. Sure, these cooler destinations have their share of largemouth and smallmouth bass, but the cold water species tend to thrive in this type of habitat. Our lower elevation lakes offer some of the best bass fishing in Arizona, if not the country! Of course, a variety of panfish like bluegill, redear sunfish, and both black and white crappie also grace our waters. Channel and flathead catfish are an Arizona staple, and our lakes produce some monster fish from time to time.
Lake Havasu State Park, right on the western border of the state, offers a variety of Arizona fishing options within the famed Colorado River corridor and boasts a very healthy population of popular sport fish. This lake is a highly sought destination for largemouth and smallmouth bass anglers and striped bass fanatics because the variety of underwater cover creates a very suitable habitat for all three bass species in different parts of the lake.
Quite possibly the main draw of this Arizona bass superpower is that the spawn is typically earlier than other places in the state, which allows anglers an opportunity to get out and hook a bunch of fish before the other Arizona lakes heat up. As early as the first couple of weeks in March, bass are preparing for the annual festivities and can be found cleaning out their beds. The clear water in this lake gives anglers a fantastic sight fishing experience! Be sure to use polarized sunglasses to help cut the water glare and help you see the fish better. The bays closest to the river heat up first and as March progresses, spawning activity in the main lake will start to pick up. Try throwing 1/4 to 3/8 ounce jigs to bed fish in an attempt to entice a strike.
Alamo Lake State Park may offer the best largemouth bass fishing in Arizona, possibly the western United States, and the crappie fishing action can be fantastic as well! This desert lake, located near the small western town of Wenden, is remotely situated amid a gorgeous slice of Sonoran Desert. Just like Havasu, this lake experiences an amazing spawn that can convince amateur anglers into believing they are seasoned bass circuit veterans! The relatively unrestricted shoreline creates the best shore fishing in Arizona for largemouth bass. Anglers who remain mobile tend to catch the most fish.
The schools of black crappie that inhabit the lake are typically willing to take a well-placed jig or minnow. Large, heavy stringers are common here, and the conveniently located fish cleaning stations are a great place to get these delicious fish ready for the table. Although Alamo crappie can be caught year-round, the spring spawn creates the best opportunity to hook lots of fish during your trip. Please remember...although fishing in Arizona can be very productive, only keep as many fish as you can eat.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park has three lagoons and also has areas that provide access to fishable portions of the Verde River. The lagoons and river are both stocked during the winter and early spring with rainbow trout. These supplemental stockings by the Arizona Game and Fish Department give anglers a great chance of hooking up with beautiful and delicious trout from this Cottonwood, Arizona park. Channel catfish are stocked periodically during the summer months, which adds to the variety of this beautiful fishing destination. Each year, anglers seem to catch a few outsized largemouth bass from the lagoons. Most likely these behemoths are feeding on stocked rainbow trout during the winter, and then on the large bluegill population the rest of the year. The Dead Horse bass tend to hold tight to the lake's cattails but can be enticed out with well-placed soft plastic baits.
Roper Lake State Park sits comfortably in the shadows of Mt. Graham and this southern Arizona fishing destination provides fantastic seasonal angling for largemouth bass, channel catfish, and rainbow trout. Recently, larger than average bass have been reported to have been caught here. We assume that, much like at Dead Horse Ranch, the accelerated growth rate can be attributed to the bass diet of stocked rainbow trout during the winter and early spring. These Roper Lake bass are known to stick very close to the numerous cattails within the lake. Soft plastics rigged "weedless" and flipped into the aquatic vegetation seem to entice the lion's share of fish here. Recently, Christopher T. hooked into a great fish! This 10.38-pound, 23-inch Arizona largemouth was fooled by a black and blue Pitboss flipped about three feet into the tules.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks rainbow trout throughout the winter and early spring. This location also receives "incentive" fish periodically. Incentive fish are much larger than a typical stocked trout and seen as quite the trophy! Roper Lake trout are caught with a variety of baits and lures, although inline spinners trolled slowly seem to produce the most repeatable results. Roper Lake is big fish country and demands serious consideration by Arizona anglers.
Patagonia Lake State Park, southern Arizona's premier birding destination, is also home to amazing largemouth bass and seasonal rainbow trout fishing. Although shore fishing can be tricky when trying to get to the best spots, it is possible to catch Patagonia Lake fish from shore. A boat, canoe, or kayak comes in handy to help get anglers right in the best spots to capitalize on great fishing. Although the average bass size is smaller than other lakes in state parks, the quantities caught are usually larger. Anglers can expect a chance of catching fish in the two-pound range with some larger fish available, though rare. Stocked trout also provide a quantity over quality experience here. Large shipments of eager rainbow trout are stocked throughout the winter and early spring, and anglers do very well catching limits on a regular basis! It should be noted that Patagonia Lake produces some absolute giant catfish from time to time as well. Patient anglers wait out the large fish at night with standard catfish baits fished on the bottom of the lake.
Lyman Lake State Park is home to Arizona's fastest growing walleye population and offers a great fishing experience for anglers targeting this unique fish. Not super prevalent in Arizona, walleye are typically found more often in the Midwest. North eastern Arizona's Lyman Lake is experiencing a walleye explosion right now! A bumper crop of fish from a very successful spawn three years ago are now of breeding age and the spawn this year should produce more baby walleye than this lake has ever seen.
Largemouth bass also cruise the murky waters of Lyman, and give anglers a chance of a really cool mixed bag experience. Because of the murkiness of this lake, these bass are most susceptible to lures that produce a sound or vibrations that can be sensed by the nerves in their lateral lines. Rattling crank baits or spinner baits with large blades seem to work best.
Your state parks provide amazing and diverse fishing opportunities throughout Arizona. These opportunities are often within some of the most beautiful landscapes to add to your experience. While fishing in the parks, please remember not to litter or encroach too closely on other anglers. This resource is only as strong as we can build together. We ask that anglers practice catch and release on largemouth and smallmouth bass February through April to help ensure a successful spawn, which will create even better fishing opportunities in the future.
Please refer to the AZGFD website for specific information about fishing rules in Arizona, and check out their current fishing report before your trip. A valid Arizona fishing license is required for anglers 10 years and older. Fishing licenses can be purchased online, or at several outdoor retailers throughout Arizona. Keep in mind when purchasing your fishing license that the Arizona Game and Fish Department doesn't receive a single penny of Arizona general tax dollars. Most of its funding comes from the public spending on things like fishing and hunting licenses, tags or stamps, and via a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition.