Fishing Arizona

It Just Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This!


Hey, with temperatures in the deserts expected to soar into the triple digits, it might be time for a cool dose of scented pine air. Especially since we are getting great fishing reports from most of the mountain lakes.

Woods Canyon Lake

Big Lake and Woods Canyon Lake are both hot spots right now. Both of those waters have stores and boat rentals, making them even more attractive. I have been getting lots of reports of anglers catching limits of trout — even some larger holdover ones.

Ironically, these two highly productive waters are two vastly different stocking strategies. At Woods Canyon, it is stocked weekly with rainbows throughout the prime trout-fishing season. It's what we call a classic "put-and-take" lake. Within a week to 10 days after stocking, the vast majority of the fish will likely be caught. That typically equates to high catch rates at Woods Canyon.

In fact, a lot of youngsters over the decades caught their first trout ever in this picturesque lake on the Mogollon Rim. It's a family memory maker most of us remember with fondness of past fishing adventures and with great anticipation for future ones.

Big Lake

Then there is my old high-mountain sweetheart, Big Lake. This is our largest high mountain fishery and at almost 9,000 feet in elevation, it is also one of our highest elevation waters. Big Lake is also one of our deepest trout lakes.

At this huge, phenomenally productive lake, we only stock it a couple times of year but with hundreds of thousands of young stock. These baby and young trout are then allowed to grow up fat and feisty at Big Lake. Therefore, when you catch a hard-fighting trout at Big Lake, it might have started its life at a hatchery, but it grew up wild and free — acts like it on the end of the fishing line.

Typically, the fish at Big Lake — especially in the early season like this — have nice firm pink meat like a salmon. Mostly my family practices catch and release, but at Big Lake it's tough to resist taking a couple of trout back to cook and eat next to the campfire.

Knoll Lake

So take your pick. Another "editor's" picks right now is Knoll Lake along the Mogollon Rim. It takes about an hour's drive or so down the bumpy and dusty Rim Road (FR 300) to get to Knoll Lake. That very fact often keeps the hordes away.

The lack of facilities — only a launch ramp and a bathroom — keeps a lot of others away. There is also limited camping opportunity, unless you like dispersed camping. Some might say all those things go against fishing at Knoll. Some of us love Knoll because of those amenity deficits.


Be sure to take your youngsters for a little stream fishing. There is nothing quite like it, especially if you get them to dig their own worms and catch their own grasshoppers. Recently we have again stocked Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek, Haigler Creek and the East Verde River along the Mogollon Rim near Payson.

Earlier we also stocked Wet Beaver Creek and East Clear Creek in the Verde Valley near Camp Verde. Don't forget the Little Colorado River in the Greer area, or Sheeps’ Crossing of the Little Colorado River where it tumbles in from the shoulders of Mount Baldy.

Stealthy Trout Anglers

The most successful trout anglers will be stealthy. You need to sneak up on the pools and not spool the stream-wise trout, or the not-so-wise stockers. Stay hidden and cast your offering into the riffles above the pool and let the current carry your hopes to the trout waiting in concealed ambush.

My family likes using old cane poles (yes, they still sell them). Light line and little or no weight is the ticket, no matter what type of outfit you employ.

Upper Lake Mary

Also, hearing great reports from pike anglers at Upper Lake Mary near Flagstaff. Some are even catching nice walleye.

Don't want to leave out the warm-water lakes. Pick your lake, your species, and go. This is the really good bite for post-spawn largemouth bass. Bluegills are spawning. Catfish are kicking into high gear. Carp fishing is excellent. Striper fishing is still blowing hot and cold, depending on the lake, but it's always exciting to catch these hard-fishing bass.

Lake Powell

Also, I just heard from a buddy who caught hordes of smallmouth bass at Lake Powell. My old friend Mike McFarland, who guides at Lake Pleasant, said right now is the best bite of the year for striped bass.

Havasu And The Parker Strip

As a side note, it was great meeting everyone at Lake Havasu during the Bass Pro Fishing Festival. Signed a lot of fishing guides there. I fished Havasu long before Lake Havasu City came into being, or really, when Mr. McCullock was starting it. My first striped bass ever was caught near the dam in 1967.

I also looked at the Parker Strip with longing as I passed — there's some great smallmouth bass fishing below the dam.

So quit reading my memories and go catch some of your own. Maybe I'll see you out there.

Note: If you have a fishing report or good fishing pictures to share (JPEG), send them to Rory can also be reached at (623) 236-7214. Need ideas on where to go fishing? Try the Department's new interactive Fish and Boat Map: Fish and Boat Arizona.


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