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The Best Trout Fishing In Arizona: (Top 10 Trout Fishing Locations)

rainbow trout caught in arizona

The Best Trout Fishing In arizona: (Top 10 Trout Fishing Locations)

 From the mountaintops to the deserts, trout fishing can be found in arizona at almost anytime of the year.  One of my favorite things about arizona is the plethora of diversity it brings. Take a three hour drive at any time of year and it can feel like a totally different climate. In the winter, the high mountains are filled with snow and inaccessibility, while the desert floor remains comfortable t-shirt weather. In the summer, you can easily escape the blistering desert heat with a quick foray or camp-out up to the cool and breezy pine forests. 

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With all of the diversity the climates of arizona bring, the diversity in fishing opportunity follows. Despite being in the desert Southwest, arizona hosts a variety of unique and surprisingly productive trout fisheries. From high mountain streams chasing native Apache trout, to towering red walls of the Grand Canyon containing wild rainbows, to the abundance of hatchery stocked reservoirs and streams to provide fishing opportunity for people across the state; arizona just about has it all.

While trout fishing in arizona can be a counter intuitive thought to some, it is full of opportunity for the eager. Here, we have assembled a guide of some must-fish trout waters in arizona for anglers of all experience levels. From high mountain streams to ponds in the urban jungle of Phoenix, there is a diverse list of places to check out for the best trout fishing in arizona.

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Arizona's Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips
$20.44
  • 181 of Arizona's prime fishing spots
  • Maps
  • GPS Coordinates and Directions
  • Insider Tips
04/29/2021 11:40 pm GMT
Lasso Brag

Whether you live in arizona, or are planning on spending any time here, you’ll want to have a copy of this arizona Fishing guide. 

The 181 arizona prime fishing spots that are mentioned in this guide range from small sections of rivers and streams to various ponds and large lakes.

Each fishing spot comes with expert descriptions of the location, detailed directions to get you there, maps, amenities, GPS coordinates, fishing tips, historical notes and other insider information you’ll only be able to find in this book.

If you’re in one of the larger metropolitan areas, like Phoenix, the guide contains special sections on urban fishing.    

This is definitely one of the fishing tools you should have on hand if you’re going to be spending any time enjoying all that arizona has to offer.

Mountain Lakes for Summer Getaways

When the dog days of summer hit, its time to make a run up to the mountains. In arizona, the mountain lakes offer some of the best and most enjoyable trout fishing in the state. Here are a few must fish spots. 

1. Woods Canyon Lake

For a quick mountain getaway from the hot summers of Phoenix, Woods Canyon Lake is a short drive. Here you can enjoy a pine tree shoreline, abundant camping, and great trout fishing opportunity throughout the summer season.

trout fishing locations in arizona
Woods Canyon Lake

Woods Canyon Lake is one of the higher recreation use lakes due to its easy access and readily stocked rainbow trout fishery. Additionally, the lake has more recently been stocked with hybrid Tiger Trout the past several years, diversifying angling opportunity.Fishing tactics for this lake can vary. This is a deeper and rockier lake than others and in the dog days of summer trout may be found deeper.

Using a sinker rig with bait during the day or a very deep fishing bobber setup may be productive. In the dawn and dusk hours, fishing shallower or casting lures around the shorelines could be a good tactic, particularly for voracious Tiger Trout.

2. Willow Springs Lake

Willow Springs Lake, a close neighbor of the aforementioned Woods Canyon Lake, is another similarly characterized lake that is a great mountain getaway in the warmer summer months.

Though Willow Springs Lake doesn’t offer the plethora of developed campgrounds that its neighbor, Woods Canyon, does; it offers just as good of fishing opportunity for trout.

Willow Springs Lake. Best Trout Fishing In Arizona
Willow Springs Lake

Willow Springs Lake is another deep lake, a reservoir formed by the damming of the canyon. It is a very rocky lake that is also home to bass which ambush from the rocks. Both rainbow trout and tiger trout are regularly stocked into this lake during the summer fishing season.

Fishing tactics can vary but during warm summer days, trout may seek the cooler waters of the deep. Fishing shallow and near shores during the cooler portions of the day should be a productive method of fishing.

Boats are allowed on this lake, though with restricted horsepower limits. However, this lake offers excellent shoreline access that can still yield great trout fishing.

3. Big Lake

One of the highest elevation trout lakes in arizona is situated in an idyllic mountain meadow in the White Mountains in the eastern part of the state. Big Lake is a large mountain reservoir that is a top summer trout fishing destination year and year over.

Big Lake arizona trout fishing
Big Lake Arizona

This high mountain reservoir is  popular summer camping and fishing destination due to its beautiful mountain views, abundant camping, and excellent trout fishing. Big Lake is known for growing good sized trout some some years. Rainbow trout, brook trout, and cutthroat trout are stocked in this lake and offer good fishing opportunity.

The fishing tactics are going to vary greatly on this high mountain lake depending on season and time of day. As always, bait fishing with bobbers or sinkers is going to be a fail safe for rainbow trout. In this lake, cutthroat trout and brook trout are best targeted with lures in the shallower coves. 

Fly fishing is also a popular practice for this lake. Anglers can target insect hatches in the dawn or dusk hours and then continue to fish wet flies throughout the day. Targeting the edges of weed beds can be productive as the trout tend to cruise these areas looking for aquatic insects (there primary food source here).

This lake is boat accessible with horsepower restrictions. Due to it’s larger size and sloping shorelines, boats are preferable on this lake. However, shoreline fishing access is plentiful and can still be productive.

4. Dogtown Lake

This mountain reservoir is situated in the pines a short drive west of Flagstaff, AZ. Closer to the town of Williams, this lake is a great fishing spot for trout, particularly in the cooler spring and fall months. Summer time and warmer temps can often lead to a slow down for trout fishing in this lake.

Dogtown Lake is regularly stocked with rainbow and brown trout for angler harvest. The brown trout in this lake have known to exceed 20 inches in length at times. To target these trout, a wide variety of angling methods can be productive. For bait anglers, fishing worms or powerbait with a bobber or sinker rig should work. When it is warmer out, I would always suggest fishing deeper for trout.

Flies and lures can also work well on this lake. Utilizing small shiny lures such as spinners or casting spoons can be productive when fishing near the bottom or around shorelines. This can be a great method for targeting the larger brown trout.

Boats are allowed on this lake but are faced with horespower limitations. If you don’t have any watercraft fear not, as shoreline access is plentiful and can still offer access to good fishing.

5. Lees Ferry

When it comes down to world renowned tailwater trout fisheries, Lees Ferry has go to be one of the most beautifully unique out there. A section of the Colorado River situated tightly between towering red sandstone walls near the beginning of the Grand Canyon boasts a robust population of wild rainbow trout.

For decades, the stretch of Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam has flown with cold water from Lake Powell. This has led to a highly productive insect community in this flowing water and therefore leading to a great population of wild trout.

Lees Ferry is best accessed via jetboat to get upriver into the inaccessible by foot canyon. This is where anglers can have 100+ fish days seated beneath 1,000 foot tall red cliffs. There is also a walk-in area at Lees Ferry which gives anglers a riffle section of the river to fish via foot access.

In this river, fly-fishing tends to be the go-to method. Fly anglers use a variety of midge and worm patterns to entice trout. For bait anglers, drifting worms through riffles as you would fly fishing is a productive method.

For a true unforgettable trout fishing experience in arizona, Lees Ferry will not disappoint.

6. Becker Lake

If catching big and fat rainbow trout and practicing catch and release is more your cup of tea, Becker Lake has you covered. This reservoir situated outside the town limits of Springerville/Eagar, Arizona is managed as an artificial fly/lure catch and release trophy trout fishing lake.

Becker Lake Arizona Trout fishing
Becker Lake

The trout in this lake grow to sizes in excess of 20 inches and often boast a very healthy girth. While most fish in this lake are rainbow trout, some tiger trout are also stocked into this water.

The trout in this lake spend much of their time feeding on small aquatic insects around weed beds. Fly-fishing will be your best bet to target this activity with a small selection of wet flies and nymph patterns. Most fly anglers utilize floating watercraft to fish this water.

For traditional anglers, small shiny lures and spinners offer a good chance at catching large fish from the shore or boat.

Regulations on this lake have changed in the past and be sure to be up to date with current tackle restrictions and catch/release regulations on this water.

7. Black River

For those who are looking for a true and traditional trout fishing experience in the high mountains, the Black River fills this role. Located in the white mountains of eastern Arizona, the Black River (along with its accompanying East and West Forks) offer great recreational trout fishing of all types in a wild mountain stream setting.

Trout fishing in Arizona at Black River
Black River Arizona

Along the East Fork Black River, undeveloped campgrounds abound and give people the chance to camp where they can here the water gurgling down through the canyon from the comfort of their campsite. Access along this stretch of the river is abundant and many fishing holes exist. In this section of the Black River, rainbow and Apache trout are stocked as recreational sport fish. Additionally, wild brown trout also exist in this stream though can be a little harder to catch than the stocked fish.

If pursuing big wild brown trout is more your cup of tea, try moving further downstream. After the east and west forks meet, the Black River is a larger creek system that has potential to hold larger fish. In this section, there are no trout stocked, but wild rainbow and brown trout persist throughout.

Being flowing water systems, tactics are going to be different than those for stillwater. For anglers fishing with bait, I would recommend drifting worms or powerbait down moderate flowing water sections or deeper pools.

For flies and lures, drifting attractive patterns and lures through similar moderate flowing water can yield good results. For bigger wild brown trout, you will want to fish slower and deeper.

The Black River and its forks offer a diversity of fishing opportunity from easy access campgrounds with hatchery stocked trout; all the way to remote hard to access river holding large brown trout. Whether you are a fly angler, bait angler, or just plain old forest enthusiast, this area of the white mountains in eastern arizona is truly something to experience. 

8. Silver Creek

Arizona manages another one of there stream systems as a trophy trout water to give anglers the opportunity to hook into a 5 plus pound rainbow trout. Silver Creek is located just northeast of the town of Show-Low. Here, arizona Game and Fish manages both a hatchery and a trophy rainbow trout fishery just downstream.

From October 1- March 31, Silver Creek is a catch and release only stream. It is also under special regulation to use artificial flies and lures with single barbless hooks only. During this time of year, a large number of good sized rainbow trout are found throughout and offer anglers a good chance at catching them. From April 1-September 31, harvest is open and anglers can keep a limited number of these large adult rainbow trout. They also open regulations to barbed hooks and bait use on April 1.

Being stocked hatchery fish, they can be susceptible to a variety of tactics. Both fly anglers and conventional spin fishing anglers are regularly successful here in hooking into big and fat rainbow trout. Baits, flies, and lures are all likely to work in this system and experimenting with your setup day by day will lead to the best results.

Arizona Desert Lakes for Winter Trout

Good trout fishing actually exists in the lower elevations of the sonoran desert. Where you can reel in a trout while being graced with the view of a towering Saguaro cactus. Despite warmer desert temperatures, trout are stocked and able to persist seasonally at a variety of fisheries all in the lower Sonoran desert.

9. Phoenix Metro Area Urban Ponds – “Community Fishing Waters”

Surprising enough to some, trout fishing opportunity can be found all over the concrete jungle that is the fifth largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. In a joint effort through various City Councils and the arizona Game and Fish Department, several urban ponds and lakes are stocked and maintained with fish to give urban residents access to fishing opportunity. 

Trout fishing in Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Metro Area Urban Ponds

In addition to bass and catfish which are able to thrive even in the warm summer months, trout are a seasonal treat at these urban ponds. During the cooler winter months, rainbow trout are stocked into nearly all of these designated “Community Fishing Waters” across cities in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. These stocked rainbow trout are highly susceptible to a variety of fishing tactics such as trout baits and small lures.

10. Lower Salt River

During the hot days that are the Phoenix summertime, the lower Salt River serves as a natural and fun water body to cool off in right outside of Phoenix. The big attraction during this time of year being the river tube rentals that allow visitors to enjoy the hot summer days from the luxury of floating down the cool river.

In the winter time, the lower Salt River just below Saguaro Lake turns into a different recreational destination. This time of year, rainbow trout are stocked at several locations and offer Phoenix locals a quick getaway to trout fishing a flowing river in the Sonoran Desert. Being a natural river, trout fishing tactics will be a little different than some lakes or reservoirs. Despite being stocked trout, these trout may act and feed like wild trout.

The best tactics here would be to target areas of moderate velocity flow and drifting or casting baits down the currents. You could try worms or powerbait and see how they respond. Alternatively, you can try to emulate more natural food sources with small lures or even fly fishing with flies.

Arizona Trout Challenge – Put your Skills to the Test

For dedicated anglers who like the challenge and pursuit that fishing offers, the arizona Game and Fish Department has started an interesting new program. Deemed the “Arizona Trout Challenge”, the idea is to pursue and catch a certain number of species of trout in arizona. The program is designed to get anglers out and exploring new waters and species. All the while, offering a price incentive for those successful participants.

arizona currently offers two types of these challenges. One is focused on catching a certain number of the trout species in arizona. For this challenge, anglers must catch and document 6 of the following 8 species in arizona:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Tiger Trout
  • Apache Trout
  • Gila Trout
  • Cuttthroat Trout
  • Grayling

The other challenge is deemed the “Wild Trout Challenge”. This one requires anglers to catch all the wild persisting trout species in arizona. While many of these species are stocked in certain waters, this challenge requires anglers to catch the species from a water body known to hold wild populations of the species. These species include:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Apache Trout
  • Gila Trout (currently not required following a post-wildfire fish kill)

Arizona Trout Challenge Interactive Maparizona Game and Fish Department

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the state of arizona isn’t just about bass fishing. arizona offers many opportunities for you if you’re a trout fisherman. From the cool high elevations, down to the hot Phoenix valley floor…trout fishing exists. 

So take some time this year to plan a trout fishing trip, and experience the state in a whole new way. 

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Arizona’s Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips.

Arizona's Official Fishing Guide: 181 Top Fishing Spots, Directions & Tips
$20.44
  • 181 of Arizona's prime fishing spots
  • Maps
  • GPS Coordinates and Directions
  • Insider Tips
04/29/2021 11:40 pm GMT
Lasso Brag

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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