The Reel Deal

OK, let’s start with Mother’s Day ideas. (It’s Sunday, remember?) Consider planning a trip to the high country where pine scents linger and rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout can make mom set her hook and etch a memory. Plus, if you live in lower elevations, it’s a cool relief. Mom deserves it.

Or just bring family and friends. Heck, go alone. Big Lake and Woods Canyon Lake can be productive. Both have stores and boat rentals. We’ll have stocked 2,000 rainbow trout into Woods Canyon through Friday.

Good news for those who are cutthroat crazy — at Big Lake, recent fish population surveys found numerous cutthroat up to 21 inches.

These highly productive waters have different stocking strategies. Woods Canyon, like many fisheries listed in our summer trout stocking schedule, is stocked weekly with rainbows throughout the prime trout fishing season. We call it a classic “put and take” lake. Get the fish within 7-10 days after the stocking.

Big Lake is our largest mountain fishery and is at almost 9,000 feet in elevation. One of our deepest trout lakes, Big Lake is only stocked a couple times per year — but with hundreds of thousands of young stock. These trout, although from a hatchery, grew up wild and free.

Finally, don’t forget that a bunch of brown trout were just stocked at Lynx Lake near Prescott.

Making fishy memories can be pretty simple – and cheap. For example, a Youth Combination Hunt and Fish license is only $5. This is required for youth ages 10-17. Like all our licenses, it’s now valid 365 days from the date of purchase. Why get kids into fishing? If you’ve ever heard a mother or father talk about taking their kids fishing for the first time, and what an incredible experience they had, you’ll know why.

Need a license? (Thought you’d never ask.) You can purchase one online.

(By the way, here’s a quick “did you know?” This money goes right back into wildlife conservation and management; the Department receives no general tax revenue … OK, one more: Hunters and anglers were the original conservationists! Their efforts ended unregulated market hunting that wiped out or threatened many wildlife species and helped create today’s regulated, science-based management. This has brought back sustainable, thriving populations of many wildlife species. Something we can all be proud of.)

Flathead catfish is still a viable target, but the big boys are not cruising around much, said Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson, owner of the state’s heaviest recorded fish, a 76.54-pound flathead catfish. At the Flat Cat Classic last weekend at Bartlett Lake, the biggest fish was “only” 49 pounds. Flathead fishing will improve and possibly peak by mid-June. Believe it: Arizona is one of the nation’s best states for targeting monster flathead catfish. See a video on how to target these bruisers.

Rounding out some other species, the crappie spawn should be winding down. Most bass are in post-spawn mode and some anglers have reported some good top-water action. Bass typically spawn unti mid-June. See the full report for more details.

And don’t forget to check our Fish and Boat Arizona map to see Google-map locations of the state’s top fisheries.

I’ll be targeting some flathead cats this weekend. Good luck!


(Send your fishing reports and photos to

Cecil G. and his son Trevor went bow-fishing for the spawning carp:
Came across a section of the Salt River below the lakes and found these huge tilapia in clear, shallow water. My son Trevor shot the first one witch turned out to be the largest at 8.25 pounds and we managed to get five total from 6.5 pounds to the big one at 8.25 pounds.

Noah caught a a big largemouth bass on Saturday, May 3 at Canyon Lake:
Took the family fishing … near first bridge I thought my wife was snagged again but nope she landed a nice largemouth bass. My son Noah also caught a nice largemouth…both 17-plus inches, both caught on dropshot rigged ox blood Roboworms.

Adam B. reported that Woods Canyon Lake was on fire last weekend: Got to the lake about 6 a.m. and fished until noon. Ended up catching 48 rainbows, all 6-20 inches, with a lot in the 10-15-inch range. The weather was clear, cool, with light wind. All fish were caught using Rebel crawdads trolling the lake, and all were released unharmed. Overall a great day on the lake!

Kevin M. went with his friend to Canyon Lake lask week and fishing from the early morning until noon: We both got our limit. Some nice fat ones. Biggest was only 4 pounds, but was a lot of fun. Started off slowly then picked up down towards the back in small coves with spinnerbaits and jerkbaits. Saw a lot of fish on beds. Caught a couple on the beds. That was fun. Good luck!


What’s your fish story? In the eighth segment of “Fish Stories,” In this latest segment of Fish Stories from the “AZGFD” YouTube site, take a ride on Willow Springs Lake (a great spot to fish right now) as Bobby Avery tells his fish story!

See this video from the “AZGFD” YouTube site!

Have a fond memory? An exciting experience? Or, just a special day on the water with family and friends enjoying Arizona’s amazing outdoors? Email your story to, and we may share it with others online, in print, or on television.

Stay tuned for future additions of “Fish Stories,” which will frequently appear here in print, online or on television.

See the full report.

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