AZ winter fishing spots: your top-5 guide
Winter’s here again, and it’s great to be an Arizonan. Unlike many areas of the U.S., air and water temperatures remain ideal for trout fishing.
Although fishing tends to slow a tad this time of the year, there many spots that are winter-friendly.
Here, then, are our top fishing holes for this winter. AZGFD staff determined rankings based on angler reports, historical winter fishing opportunities, and recent survey data.
Trout stocking resumed in November. As we head into winter, Dead Horse, located near Cottonwood in North Central Arizona, provides some of the best catch rates around for rainbow trout. Trout can be easily caught on a variety of PowerBait colors, homemade dough baits and spinners. Fly fisherman also have great success here. There is an entrance fee at Dead Horse Ranch State Park which is currently $7 per vehicle (1-4 adults) and $3 for an individual (walk in/bicycle) and the hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Seasonal hours may apply and will be posted at the entrance. The lakes are A.D.A. accessible.
This stretch of the lower Colorado River in Bullhead City is excellent for trout fishing and can produce some big striped bass. Trout are being stocked monthly. Meal worms, nightcrawlers and PowerBait are effective baits for trout near the stocking sites.
Anglers get the unique experience of stream fishing for trout in the desert. The Lower Salt River, just minutes from some of the Valley of the Sun’s population centers, is stocked with trout throughout the winter and offers good shoreline fishing options as well. A Tonto Pass is required.
Try nightcrawlers, small spinners, Kastmasters and flies. You might be able to catch some bass or sunfish in the deeper holes.
2. Lake Havasu
This giant, shallow, solunar bowl in the desert heats up quickly during a warm winter sun and has a large variety of sport-fish.
Havasu continues to be ranked as one of the top places to fish for bass in the country. The largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing should continue to be great. Fishing has been pretty good all year: Tournament anglers have needed five-fish bags weighing around 20 pounds to win a tournament and it was not uncommon to catch bass of more than 5 pounds and some even approaching 10 pounds. This year’s electrofishing survey conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife showed an abundant bass with an adult population that should provide great fishing now and a juvenile fish population that anglers will be able to catch for several years to come.
Havasu also contains some monster redear sunfish — the world record 5-pound, 12.8-ounce redear was taken from Havasu in February of 2014.
The “West Coast of Arizona” hardly experiences winter.
1. Alamo Lake
Alamo is a western Arizona dandy that can heat up quickly during the winter. At any given time from Nov. – Feb., Alamo can have some of the best crappie fishing in the state.
Based upon recent surveys and fishing reports, we believe fishing at Alamo Lake should be good this winter, though not likely as good as during the warmer times of the year. The lake level as of late December had already increased 7 feet to 1,122 MSL due to some great early winter storms. How successful anglers will be this winter could depend on how much more inflow the lake receives from the Big Sandy and Santa Maria Rivers.
Honorable mentions: Cluff Ranch Ponds (Safford), Patagonia Lake (Tucson), Dead Horse Ranch State Park lagoons (Cottonwood), Community Fishing Program waters, Verde River.
You’ll need a fishing license — purchase them online, 24/7. They’re good for 365 days and help conserve wildlife for future generations.
Not ready to get a license? Prepare for that eventual fishing excursion by signing up for the weekly fishing report.