Spring is the very best time of year for trout fishing in Arizona so get your new rod and reel ready. The waters are warming just enough to bring a spring frenzy of spawning and feeding. The Arizona Game and Fish Department divides the state into seven zones: White Mountains, North Central Region, Mogollon Rim, Colorado River Northwest, Central Arizona, Southeastern Arizona and Southwestern Arizona. Each region has unique challenges and fantastic fishing waters, especially in the Spring when temperatures are mild and skies are blue every day.
The waters in the White Mountains sit above 6,500 feet and the area is dotted with alpine lakes nestled amidst pine and fir forests. While there are a few bass and catfish in some of these lakes, the majority of the fish are trout. The waters are stocked weekly from Memorial Day to Labor Day by the Game and Fish Department. The waters of the West Fork of the Black River are one of the few areas in Arizona where Apache trout exist.
The North Central region contains the rivers and streams around Flagstaff south to Camp Verde. Pine, fir and aspen forests yield to fantastic, soaring canyons filled with tumbling waters, as well as many smaller lakes and streams. You’ll find smallmouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish and roundtail chub, as well as wallee, largemouth bass and crappie in Lake Mary. Higher altitudes around Flagstaff and in Oak Creek contain the best wild brown trout population in the area.
The Mogollon Rim, the southern boundry of the Colorado Plateau, sits at 7,000 feet above sea level and is graced by soaring pine trees and cool summer breezes. With many small lakes and reservoirs, tumbling streams and rivers, this is trout country. The best stream fishing is found in Canyon Creek, Chevelon Creek and East Clear Creek, and the best lake fishing are Bear Canyon Lake, Chevelon Canyon Lake and Black Canyon Lake.
The Colorado River Northwest region includes the waters from Lake Powell to Lake Havasu. Four major reservoirs (Lake Mead, Lake Mojave, Lake Powell and Lake Havasu) as well as the Colorado River, offer a wide variety of fishing from striped bass to trout, largemouth bass to catfish. Except for the Grand Canyon itself, this is high desert terrain and can be punishing in the summer heat. This area is extremely remote and hard to reach, so it is a good idea to do a lot of research and go extremely well-prepared in case of misadventure.
Central Arizona sits smack in the middle of the Sonoran Desert and yet more fishing takes place on the lakes, streams, rivers and reservoirs than all of the other areas of the state combined. These waters provide the best largemouth bass, crappie and catfish angling in the state. Lakes Pleasant and Roosevelt are best for largemouth bass and crappie, while Roosevelt and Bartlett are best for catfish. The Salt River below Saguaro Lake is a terrific place to catch trout, especially in the summer months when the waters stay a cool 65 degrees.
Everyone thinks Arizona is nothing but desert, however, not only does Arizona have numerous mountain regions and forests, but it also has a grassland that stretches from Tucson to the Mexico border. Small lakes nestle in rolling hills dotted with oak trees and these waters are home to bass, bluegill and catfish, with a few trout in the winter months.
Stretching south from Yuma to the Mexico border, the Southwestern zone is a great place to see what the Colorado River looked like before European Settlers moved into the West. The stretch of river from Cibola National Wildlife Refuge to the Imperial Reservoir is a great place for trophy bass, as well as the Alamo Reservoir on the Bill Williams River.
Of course, any fishing in Arizona requires a permit. Permits are available practically anywhere, but certainly your hotel concierge can direct to the nearest location or even obtain permits for you. If you are camping, fishing permits can often be purchased right at the camp area or very nearby.
For the very latest information on fishing in Arizona, you’ll want to visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website