From trout-laden streams to vast, bass-filled lakes, Arizona is an angler’s dream. Variety is key. Crystalline desert lakes offer big experiences – and colossal fish – set against boundless landscapes. Or relish the intimacy of fly-fishing in hushed, meandering creeks. Either way, grab your tackle and hit the water. Here are a few top fishing holes to get you started.
Note: A valid Arizona fishing license is required for both resident and non-resident anglers 10 years of age or older fishing in any public-accessible water in Arizona. Click here for more information: https://www.azgfd.com/Fishing.
Parker Dam was completed in 1938, taming the Colorado River and forming 19,300-acre Lake Havasu in Western Arizona. While the lake might be most famous for the 1831 London Bridge – moved there and reassembled in 1971 – anglers know that Havasu also ranks among the Southwest’s best fishing opportunities, teeming with everything from channel cat and bluegill to crappie and trophy-caliber bass.
Fool Hollow Lake
Weaving through ponderosa-pine country near Show Low, Fool Hollow has long been favored by anglers for its abundant catfish, walleye and sunfish. But rainbow trout is the undisputed star; they are stocked throughout the spring and summer, resulting in terrific catches. You don’t even need a boat; the lake boasts four fishing piers along the shoreline.
Upper Lake Mary
Tucked in the mountains near Flagstaff, Upper Lake Mary is a pretty little waterway that’s home to game species ranging from crappie, northern pike and bass to walleye and channel catfish. Park near the Narrows Boat Launch and Picnic Area, and take the short, well-marked trail to a perfect fishing spot on Lake Mary’s northern end.
This postcard-perfect mountain stream slices down through Arizona’s dramatic Sedona Red Rock Country. But Oak Creek is equally famous for its rainbow trout and largemouth bass. Rainbows from nearby Page Springs Fish Hatchery are stocked at more than 20 sites along the stream; you’ll often find them lingering beneath cut-out banks or in deep riffles.
Located just north of Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is a quick getaway for Valley anglers. Its 9,500 acres are stocked with the usual suspects, including largemouth and striped bass, sunfish and catfish. The lake also hosts Arizona’s only population of white bass – minus a record-setting five-pounder that was recently caught.
This 22,000-acre lake northeast of Phoenix was created by the Theodore Roosevelt Dam in 1911. Now a National Recreation Area, its 30 broad miles are filled with largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie and channel cat. Boat rentals are available at the Roosevelt Lake Marina. If you like to keep things simple, grab a pole and fish from the marina docks.
Bill Williams River
The Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge in central-western Arizona near Parker is not only beautiful and very fishy, but it also protects a rare cottonwood-willow forest on the Lower Colorado River. In this verdant preserve, you’ll find game fish ranging from largemouth bass to bluegill, stripers and catfish. Restrictions keep the refuge more calm than many waters, making it a favorite among kayak fishermen.
White Mountain Apache Tribal Land
The White Mountain Apache reservation stretches across the alpine heights of Northern Arizona and offers anglers a seasonal variety of lakes and streams. Sunrise Lake is known for big trout in spring and fall, while October and November are prime months for brown trout on Reservation Lake. Pick up bait and tackle and a daily fishing permit – as well as fishing tips – at Hon-Dah Ski and Outdoor Sports, located just inside the tribal lands, or at the Sunrise Park Resort General Store.
As the only spot in Glen Canyon where the Colorado River is easily accessible, Lees Ferry played a powerful role in settling the West. Today, it’s a mecca for fly-fishing. Protected as part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, it offers some of the best trout fishing around. Rent a boat or hire a guide from one of the outfitters in Marble Canyon.