No keys, no problem: kayak-fishing at Canyon Lake

The Boulder Creek area of Canyon Lake, because of its no-wake restrictions, is an excellent place for beginning and expert paddlers.
As Arizona Game and Fish public information officer Nick Walter found out, the Boulder Creek area of Canyon Lake, because of its no-wake restrictions, is an excellent spot for beginning and expert kayak anglers.

Undulating water that rippled across Canyon Lake in early November, gently rocking the kayak, was felt from head to hips.

Paddling a new Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler for the first time, and during what was this angler’s first time fishing this desert dandy,  made for excitement that filled the head and heart with ideas of possible thrills — catching a monster largemouth bass on a 6-inch rainbow trout swimbait, carving open water, and endless other adventures.

Losing the truck keys, however, wasn’t supposed to be one of them.

A community of paddlers and anglers

A “thank you” is in order. Four gracious (and sympathetic) kayakers offered this nearly stranded stranger, who somewhere among kayaking excitement lost the truck keys,  a ride from the Salt River-chain lake in the Tonto National Forest to their mobile home in Mesa.

Then, a party invitation. A full moon bash would be happening that night at the swimming pool of their 55-and-over senior community. Karaoke, conversation and wine. “Wow, this is turning out OK,” I thought.

The lesson: fishing can be the doorway to any adventure.

All you need is to purchase a license, some tackle and poles, and maybe a kayak, which is cheaper and more stealthy than a boat. Fish rarely are spooked by a ‘yak — it’s cheating.

But one tip: keep your keys. Consider carrying a carabiner. Or even sign up for one of our free paddling classes — call 623-236-7219 for information.

Anyway, the party didn’t happen — this writer was able to find a ride from the senior community back to his north Phoenix home. But still in order was a cold Bud Light and some macaroni and cheese at the courteous kayakers’ Mesa mobile home.  Almost made up for not catching a lunker bass.

What did redeem this whole mess two days later? Four, fresh fish tacos.

Fishing trout swimbaits at Canyon Lake, Arizona

CanyonLakeVistaCanyon Lake is the “land of lunkers,” and after our first winter rainbow trout stocking, some ambitious anglers begin to throw big rainbow trout swimbaits (usually 4-10 inches)  in an attempt to catch one of those plus-size bass that occasionally feed on trout.

It can be absolute hit-and-miss fishing; maybe an angler can catch one during two or three full day trips.

No luck this day.  Didn’t sound like any other anglers fishing the Boulder Creek area that day had big bass luck, either. But one pesky bass was on the full moon feed.

The technique

A 13-inch largemouth bass hit a 3-inch Kamlooper orange-and-silver spoon tied to 8-pound test monofilament line kayak-trolling the Boulder Creek area of Canyon Lake.

The setup for monster bass included a 6-inch Huddleston rainbow trout swimbait tied with a uni-knot to 50 yards of 17-pound Stren fluorocarbon line (a roll of 200 yards was just $13 at Sportsman’s Warehouse), connected with a double uni-knot to 20-pound braided line as backing. Go with a medium-heavy action rod of at least 7 feet. Purchasing components for this rig is like buying a really expensive scratch ticket (but a lot more fun.)

Canyon Lake, with its sandy-colored, arcing shoreline features, is one of the most unique fisheries in the country. See more information, including a map, of Canyon Lake.

Fishing from a kayak on such an expansive and deep lake, and it being this angler’s first time at Canyon Lake, trolling a spoon or crankbait and the swimbait from the kayak’s two rod holders seemed to be the most effective method to cover water and possibly figure out a pattern or location of congregated fish. (Tip: put one line out about 10 yards farther than the other to avoid lines crossing.)

YakThe 10 1/2-foot Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler, a sit-on-top, is narrow and weighs only 50 pounds, and so is easy to transport.  Stealthy and smooth on the water, it’s designed for those with small-to-medium builds (the kayak has a weight capacity of 225-275 pounds.) Well worth buying if on clearance or marked down on craigslist.

Trolling from this ‘yak with a 3-inch, orange-and-silver Kamlooper spoon produced the above 13-inch largemouth bass around 2 p.m. in about 20 feet of water in Boulder Creek near the fishing pier.

The bass skyrocketed from the water four or five times, a memory-making sight.

Then, Mr. Bass went from the water to the table.

Taco time (bass, not beans)

Two days later, the bass was filleted into 1/2-inch wide  chunks, soaked in cold water, rolled in white corn meal, and fried in a shallow amount of peanut oil …


… then laid to rest on paper towels and sprinkled with salt and pepper …



… then finally dropped into plus-size corn tacos shells (25-percent larger!) along with shreds of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese and homemade medium salsa (thanks, the mom of Mary from Game and Fish). Few ingredients helped highlight a fresh fish taste.

Maybe the best part of fishing is the eating!


And at this point … what keys?

5 thoughts on “No keys, no problem: kayak-fishing at Canyon Lake”

  1. That’s a shame it happened, but it is always awesome seeing people of a community help one another out in those kind of situations. That bass does look great, makes me wish it wasn’t still too cold for me to go out on the water!

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