Tag Archives: arizona fishing

Where will the next AZ state record come from?

This winter has already been a mixed bag: record snow levels in some places followed by some warmer weather. That’s Arizona!

While it’s next to impossible to predict what the rest of winter has in store for us and what water levels might turn out to be, it’s always kind of fun to think about where that next state record fish might come from.

Plus, winter is a great time to think about upcoming fishing trips and where to prioritize your efforts.

This is just one biologist’s opinion, but here are some thoughts of where a few of our most popular game fish might be caught:

Largemouth bass

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 16 pounds, 7.68 ounces, Canyon Lake, 1997

Saguaro Lake is known for its potential record bass.
Saguaro Lake is known for its potential record bass.
  • Saguaro Lake: No surprise for those who have been fishing this scenic lake — there have been great numbers of bass of larger than 10 pounds being caught lately. And there are no signs of that slowing down.
  • Canyon Lake: Always a perennial favorite to foster the next state record largemouth.  After all, it’s where the current record (16 pounds, 7.68 ounces) was caught, and its population has the highest levels of Florida-strain genetic influence (bigger bass) of any water in Arizona.
  • Colorado River waters: If you like to fish the big river on the west end of the state, the Imperial Division and Cibola Division are great bets to catch a largemouth that weighs in the “teens.” Mittry Lake also has big largemouth that rivals Canyon Lake in Florida-strain influence.

Flathead catfish

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 76 pounds, 8.64 ounces, Bartlett Lake, 2013

The state record flathead catfish taken in April of 2013 by Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson from Bartlett Lake.
  • Bartlett Lake: Hard to argue this one: it boasts the current record.
  • Lake Pleasant and Roosevelt Lake: Both are dark horses to take the record away from Bartlett.  Flatheads of more than 50 pounds are routinely being caught at both of these reservoirs, with reports of 60-plus pounders somewhat common.

Channel catfish

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 32 pounds, 4 ounces, Parker Canyon Lake, 1987

Large channel catfish caught during surveys at Parker Canyon Lake.
Large channel catfish caught during surveys at Parker Canyon Lake.

This one is a little trickier as there is no clear-cut place to catch trophy-sized channel cats (if there is, please let me know).

That said:

  • Parker Canyon Lake:The current record (32 pounds, 4 ounces) came from this lake down on the border.  Parker Canyon could still have another record lurking.
  • Topock March, Lake Havasu, Alamo Lake, Apache Lake, Saguaro Lake: Your odds are probably equal at these lakes. The Colorado River record was from Topock Marsh: 35 pounds, 4 ounces.

Rainbow trout

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 15 pounds, 9.12 ounces, Willow Springs Lake, 2006

Don't sleep on Dogtown -- potential record trout lurk here.
Don’t forget about Dogtown Lake near Williams — potential record trout lurk here.
  • Becker, Carnero or Luna lakes in the White Mountains: These lakes grow trout fast, but are susceptible to winter and summer kills (mostly because of low oxygen).  If all goes well this winter, there could be some really big trout that come out of those lakes.
  • Dogtown Lake: This is a sleeper lake near Williams. The addition of woody habitat during the past few years has really contributed to high growth rates for trout.

Tiger trout

Inland waters, hook-and-line record: 0 pounds, 9.23 ounces, Willow Springs Lake, 2016

Tiger Trout raised at the Tonto Creek Hatchery

A newcomer to the state last year, the tiger trout’s maximum potential size in Arizona waters is unknown. But one thing is for sure: the current record of less than a pound from Willow Springs Lake will fall.

  •  Willow Springs, Woods Canyon, Carnero and Becker lakes:  These lakes are stocked with tigers. Trout grow quickly at Special Regulations waters Carnero and Becker, so try these lakes for tigers weighing more than 5 pounds.

Arizona state fish records

For a complete list of Arizona State Fish Records, see pg. 40 of the 2017-18 Fishing Regulations. While you’re at it, check out all our fishing resources.

Got a license? Get ’em online, 24/7 — this helps us conserve wildlife for future generations.

Which record are you going to set this year?

Andy Clark is the AZGFD statewide sportfish management program supervisor

Weekend roundup: Angler Reports

Send your fishing reports and pictures to BFishing@AZGFD.gov — one that includes a photo will be featured as Catch of the Week

Here’s the latest from your fellow anglers (click on the water for directions):

Lake Pleasant


Karrie R.: I thought I’d share this flathead catfish I caught from shore at Pleasant today: 22 pounds on a dropshot with a worm. It was definitely cold, but worth the catch! 🙂 Also caught an 8-pound carp and 3-pound channel catfish. Tight lines!

Silver Creek


Max W.: The upper portion of Silver Creek fished great over the weekend. People were doing really well on egg patterns and small midges. One of my buddies even managed to pull out this big guy on a Tenkara Rod– not bad for his first fish on the fly!

Gila River


Ramon: I caught a 14-inch largemouth bass with a worm at Gila River under the bridge side on Friday, Jan. 27 at 3  p.m.! Gave a good fight! Used 8-pound test line.

Desert Breeze Lake (Chandler)


Nicholas J.: Decided to spend the day outside at Desert Breeze since it was such an amazing Arizona winter day. All three of the kids caught a fish of their own. (Zac, Nikyah, and Mason Jaurigue).


Pretty sure all three were “incentive” trout. We got out there about 10 a.m., however we didn’t get our first fish until almost 2 p.m. Then all of a sudden the other two fish were caught. All three within 30 minutes of time.


The yellow corn/garlic mixed PowerBait is what finally caught them their first fish — after trying all the others we had in our box. Hope everyone else had as good of a weekend.

See more about fishing in Arizona

New fishing map for special regulations available

Seeing the Special Regulations that are in place for certain waters just got easier.

We set these special regulations to maintain the long-term welfare of our fishing waters and provide you some great sport-fishing opportunities.

This map has species-specific tabs for maps of Special Regulation waters and seasons, daily bag and possession limits, and length limits that differ from General Statewide Regulations or Statewide Daily Bag and Possession Limits.

See the map.

Please refer to the official Arizona Fishing Regulations for complete fishing rules and regulations.


Arizona fishing report: The Reel Deal

With the steady rain or snow in many regions, predicted to continue through Saturday, the best bets might be catching a dry window at your local Community fishing water for some “incentive” trout, or plan something for next weekend. This time of year fishing can be fruitful if anglers remember one general key: slow your presentations. See more tips in the full report.

If we get a milder spat of sunny winter weather (maybe next weekend), we have two fairly shallow lakes that tend to heat up fast because they are like two big solar bowls in the desert. The first is Alamo Lake west of Wickenberg. The other is Lake Havasu. Havasu has a larger mass than Alamo, but also a larger variety of sport-fish species as well. Alamo has something that draws a lot of winter visitors — crappie.

This influx of rains could boost spring fishing action (and be advantageous for quail hunting next year). At high run-off lakes such as Roosevelt, boaters at both ends of the lake much go slowly and watch for debris.

See a winter trout stocking schedule, maybe grab a fishing license online — you can get them 24/7 and go “Fish AZ.”

Catch of the Week

Send your Angler Reports to BFishing@AZGFD.gov – one will be featured as Catch of the Week


Richard J.’s son caught this 16-inch rainbow trout at Red Mountain Lake, a Community Fishing Program water in Mesa, on green PowerBait.  “My 4-year-old son literally asks me every day if we can go fishing,” Richard said. “Of course the answer is ‘yes.'”

See all the Angler Reports


Public fishing events

Free fishing clinics, loaner rods are provided, bait is free, and no license is required to those who register during event hours.

Saturday, Jan. 28 — Family Fishing Day, 8 a.m. – noon, Red Mountain Lake (7745 E. Brown Rd., Mesa).

The lake will be stocked prior to the event with 420 pounds of trout.

See the full schedule

Nets and waders: Working for you

This new section will periodically show what our fisheries biologists have been doing in the field to improve fishing in Arizona.

Despite low water level,
Alamo Lake fish populations thriving
Largemouth bass from a fall survey.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has completed its annual fall electrofishing trend survey of Alamo Lake in December. Despite some of the lowest water levels since Alamo Lake was constructed in 1968, the fish population is doing well.  The physical condition of largemouth bass appears to have improved during the past several years.

A large number of young-of-year and age-1 largemouth bass were captured in the 2016 survey – we hope these fish will provide a bright future for the lake’s largemouth bass fishery.

All of the fish were collected, weighed, measured, and released unharmed.  A total of 2,891 were captured in 16 survey stations, of which 255 were largemouth bass.  The largest sampled was 19.9 inches and 4.6 pounds.  Forage fish (threadfin shad, blue tilapia, and bluegill) comprised 89 percent of the total catch and should provide abundant food for the lake’s sportfish.

Stocking report

Rainbow trout

Thursday, Jan. 12 — Colorado River (Willow Beach). Read more. Wednesday, Jan. 11 and Thursday, Jan. 12 — All Community waters scheduled to be stocked with trout this week (marked with a “T” on the schedule) were stocked with larger-than-average trout. Thursday, Jan. 5 — Dankworth Ponds, Roper Lake, Cluff Reservoir # 3. Wednesday, Jan. 4 — Parker Canyon Lake.

Next week: we’re scheduled to stock the Verde River (Clarkdale to Camp Verde), Somerton Ponds, Yuma West Wetlands Pond, Pena Blanca Lake, Lower Salt River, Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake. (Stockings at Canyon and Saguaro scheduled for this week have been moved to next week.)

See the full schedule.



Rainbow trout stocking restarts at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery

Willow Beach, Ariz. – After a three-year hiatus, catchable-sized rainbow trout from Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery (NFH) will return to Colorado River waters downstream of Las Vegas.

The hatchery will release 2,500 rainbow trout into the cold waters below Davis Dam on Jan. 12. The trout measure up to 12 inches long.  Davis Camp and Bullhead City Park will be stocked once more in January, three times in February, four times in March, and once in April, for a total of 25,000 rainbow trout.

During the three-year hiatus of trout coming from the hatchery, the AZGFD continued stockings made possible by donations from local pest abatement districts.

Willow Beach trout stocking schedule

The Willow Beach area immediately downstream of the hatchery will be also stocked with 1,000 rainbow trout every Friday starting Feb. 3.

This weekly stocking schedule will continue year-round. See all the stocking schedules.

Rainbow trout production recently restarted at Willow Beach NFH after securing a reliable water source. A new pump and conveyance system delivers cold water to the federal fisheries facility that is needed by trout for proper growth.

Serving Arizona trout anglers


Trout stockings on the Colorado River continue. On Monday, Dec. 19, there were 5,000 pounds of rainbow trout stocked into the Colorado River in three spots from Davis Camp to Rotary Park. The next trout stocking on Jan. 12 will come from the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery. It will be the hatchery’s first stocking in several years thanks to the completion of a new water intake system.

“It gives me no small delight to see rainbow trout come back into production at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region. “Many concerned folks put their shoulder to the wheel to see this through—to design and build a new water conveyance system, and jump-start trout production with fish from our state partners. The hatchery once again serves the angling public.”

The first batches of rainbow trout to be stocked were secured by a partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). The hatchery has also started raising rainbow trout from the egg stage again.  In December of 2016, more than 110,000 rainbow trout eggs arrived from Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana. Those eggs have since hatched and quickly transformed into young trout to be stocked later.

About Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery

The hatchery, built in 1959, is located 12 miles downstream of Hoover Dam on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. It is one of 70 other such facilities in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery System.

See more information about fishing in Arizona

Weekend Roundup: Angler Reports

Send your fishing reports and pictures to BFishing@AZGFD.gov — one that includes a photo will be featured as Catch of the Week

Here’s the latest from your fellow anglers:

Verde River

The Verde River is a lesser-known spot that has some of the best winter fishing in Arizona.
The Verde River is a lesser-known spot that has some of the best winter fishing in Arizona.

Steve G. of Flagstaff with a Sonoran sucker (23 inches, pictured) and a roundtail chub (18 inches).


Becker Lake

James B.: Went fishing last weekend at Becker. The latest (in the year) I have ever fished. There was skim ice Friday and Saturday and not fishable, but Sunday afternoon the wind and sun pushed the ice off . My buddy and I caught several in the 18-inch range and one of more than 22 inches. Using red San Juan worms and large simi seal leeches in several colors. Bald eagle was out fishing, too!

Big Lake


Mike R.: Wednesday, Dec. 14, cutthroat trout using nightcrawlers from shore.

Editor’s note: As of Monday, Big Lake was completely iced-over. This time of year, certain lakes in the high country might have certain degrees of ice cover on any given day. 


Red Mountain Lake

Digital Camera

Jim E.: This is the first keeper largemouth I ever caught at Red Mt. after about 15 years.  I had hooked a shad and ended up using it as bait and caught it. It was a nice experience for me because it was my birthday  — Monday, Dec. 12.  Not sure of the weight but someone that is familiar with bass might give an estimate from the picture. Happy Holidays.

See more about fishing in Arizona

Weekend Roundup: Angler Reports

Send your fishing reports and pictures to BFishing@AZGFD.gov

Here’s the latest from your fellow anglers (updated Nov. 17):

Frye Mesa Reservoir


Jim A.: Made a first trip to Frye Mesa reservoir on Wed., Nov. 9. Gorgeous little lake on a beautiful day. Caught and released two of these gorgeous fish. Lost another with a few more strikes. Hint: don’t follow Google map or directions on Coronado forest website.

Call Stafford ranger station — a very nice lady had perfect directions. Road easily driven with high clearance vehicle.

Saguaro Lake


David C. of Mesa: Early Sunday morning (Nov. 13), just before the sun rose on  Saguaro Lake, I hooked a really nice channel catfish that weighed in at 7.5 pounds.

Caught on a chicken liver sitting on the bottom in about 25 feet of water. I knew I had a big one right away when my pole doubled over with line stripping off my reel.

It took a minute or two to get him close enough to the surface to see the outline and that white belly, but then he took off again, straight to the bottom, stripping line away.

Three times he did this until finally we got him into the net. It was an exciting few minutes that made my day! The pic I included is poor quality but it’s the best one of the few we took. And although I’m dressed for the White Mtns, it really wasn’t all that cold out there! Thanks and best of luck on the water!


Woods Canyon Lake


Nicholas J.: Here are some pictures from our fishing trip on Thursday, Nov. 10, to Woods Canyon Lake. We caught a total of 12 all day — one of them was a tiger trout. We used PowerBait about 3.5 feet below a bobber and had good results.


Lower Salt River


Javier L.: Rainbow trout fingerling.


Show Low Lake


Brandon N.: My wife (Veronica) and I spent some time last week up in the Show Low/Pinetop area.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great and it rained most of the time. My wife sat in the truck the majority of the time while I fished in the rain.

On Friday, as the storm cleared and the sun appeared through the clouds right before sunset, she decided to make a few casts with a rooster tail in-line spinner. Next thing I know I look over and she’s fighting a beautiful 16-inch rainbow trout! Highlight of the trip. It would be awesome if she made the weekend round-up!

See more about fishing in Arizona

South meets the South with bourbon-glazed catfish recipe

So you’ve taken advantage of Mr. Whiskers’ return to community fishing waters,  caught some line-ripping cats, and bragged to some buddies.

Good. Ready to cook ’em? (The catfish.)

Here’s an alcohol-infused creation to turn your community catfish into some fine Southern dining.

View a printable recipe


Fare Afield’s Bourbon-Glazed Catfish

By Johnathan O’Dell

Serves 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

  • Four 6-ounce catfish fillets
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup bourbon whiskey
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar


  1. Place oil in a large skillet or sauté pan on medium heat. In a shallow dish, combine cornmeal and Cajun seasoning and mix well. Coat catfish fillets in seasoned cornmeal, shake off any excess and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bourbon and brown sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3.  When the oil is hot, carefully add fillets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Remove fillets to individual serving dishes, then spoon the bourbon glaze onto each fillet.

Originally published in the May-June 2015 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine, this recipe was included in the “Drink With a Fish” article that was just awarded an Award of Merit in the Food Feature category from the International Regional Magazine Association.

Subscribe to Arizona Wildlife Views magazine online


Haven’t caught community catfish yet? See how to create community and catch some AZ catfish.

Fall fishing is official with Saturday’s Silver Creek opener

Sun-up at Silver Creek can be a fishing adventure of a lifetime.
Sun-up at Silver Creek can be a fishing adventure of a lifetime.


Fall fishing in Arizona doesn’t really kick off until the catch-and-release season at Silver Creek. This scenic, White Mountains trout fishing classic is great for beginners and experts. On Saturday, the catch-and-release season opens — and that means the upper section also opens to fishing for the first time since early spring.

Silver Creek is also one of the best winter fishing options in AZ.

This catch-and-release section of Silver Creek requires trout to be immediately released unharmed, and is artificial flies and lures only with single  barbless hooks. This segment of Silver Creek is open for fishing from Oct. 1 through March 31 of each year. See more fishing regulations.

Silver Creek is located east of Show Low about 5 miles on Highway 60. Turn north off 60 onto Bourdon Ranch Road for five miles to Hatchery Way Road. Turn east on Hatchery Way Road for 1 mile to where you can park at the Silver Creek Hatchery. Then simply follow the signs.

A salute to wounded veterans

This day also includes a wounded veterans fly fishing event through Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. Although Silver Creek is open to the public, the event is a for closed group.


The upper section of Silver Creek opens Saturday, Oct. 1, and that means some big trout that haven’t seen a fly or lure since spring.


How to fish Silver Creek

Try small lures such as Mepps, Rooster Tails, and Panther Martin spinners.  Fly-fishers may want to try wooly worms, wooly buggers, peacock ladies, prince nymphs, zug bugs, shrimp patterns, midge patterns, and small bead head nymphs.

Again, hooks must be barbless.

Don’t forget a fishing license that helps conserve wildlife.

See more information about fishing in Arizona.