Best Fishing Locations in Arizona: Rim Country, Sedona & More

You’ll find the desert state of Arizona in the south west of the US. Arizona is perhaps most famous for the Grand Canyon, the mile-deep gorge that was carved out over millennia by the flow of the Colorado River. Tourists come to this sun-bleached state from around the world to marvel at the spectacular scenery and incredible nature-made sculptures that are its trademark feature.

But it’s not just Arizona’s beautiful landscapes and natural wonders that attract visitors. Fishing enthusiasts also come to the area to fish the lakes and reservoirs of Arizona’s State Parks. There’s year-round fishing aplenty here and an astounding range of habitats and fish species to enjoy.

Arizona offers fishing opportunities for beginners and experts alike. So, whether you’re a fly fishing devotee in search of Arizona’s official state fish, the Apache trout, or if you’re after catfish and bass, Arizona’s waters have both in abundance.

Arizona’s waterways are home to no fewer than 27 fish species. Eight of these are cold water fish, and 19 are species that prefer warmer waters. The State has 160 stream management reaches across 1,500 miles and approximately 80 natural lakes and 21 urban lakes that are actively managed by the Arizona Fish and Game Department for different species of trout.

Under Arizona Fish and Game Department regulations, if you’re aged over ten, you must have a valid fish or combination license to fish the publicly accessible waters in this state. Children under ten do not need to possess a license, but they should be under the adult supervision of a license holder.

You can obtain a license online before you make your trip to Arizona. You can pay by Visa or MasterCard. Once you’ve completed the form and paid the fee, simply print the license off and take it with you.

Note that most of the popular fishing locations in this State do NOT have a facility for visitors to buy fishing licenses, so it’s advisable to obtain one before your trip and bring it with you.

We’ve put together a list of 10 of the most popular fishing locations that this surprisingly fish-rich desert state has to offer. If desert camping is not your bag, we’ve included some locations that are close to hotel accommodation and other facilities.


1. Roosevelt Lake

fishing locations in arizona: Lake Roosevelt

Roosevelt Lake is found in Tonto National Forest and is the go-to spot in this State if you’re into bass fishing. There’s a Visitor Center where you can find all the information you’ll need for a memorable visit here, including camping guides and important fire risk alerts.

The 20,000-acre lake has warm waters, and its shores are lined with submerged trees and brush coves that provide plenty of perfect nutrient-rich forage that bass love.

Fish species you’ll find in abundance here include:

  • Striped bass
  • Largemouth bass
  • White bass
  • Catfish
  • Large Carp

The perfect spots for shoreline bass fishing are Salt Arm, Tonto Arm, and Salome Cove where you’ll find drop-offs and rocks where the fish congregate. Check out the place where Tonto Creek enters the lake too.

You’ll find largemouth bass hiding where the waters are cold and deep, close to the dam and the aptly named Bass Island. When the weather is warm and sunny, the fish will move into shallower, warmer waters close to the drop-offs.

2. Patagonia Lake

Lake Patagonia Tucson

Patagonia Lake State Park is one of the best fishing locations in Arizona since it is ideal for those who enjoy fishing from a boat, as well as from the shoreline. The Park is found about one hour’s drive from the city of Tucson. If you want to stay in the park itself, tent and RV camping are both permitted.

There’s plenty to do here. As well as casting a line for catfish and bass, you can enjoy some time soaking up the sunshine on pretty beaches, venture out on the lake by boat, or take in a guided wildlife watching tour.

The lake is carefully managed to create healthy populations of several different varieties of fish. Christmas tree bundles, lush water vegetation, and shoreline brush provide ample cover for the large bass population.  You can see the location right here.

You can expect to find the following species in numbers here:

Fishing this 265-acre man-made lake during the winter months will also yield a catch of rainbow trout.

3. Lake Havasu State Park

Lake Havasu Fishing

Lake Havasu State Park is located right alongside Lake Havasu City. The 450 miles of shoreline make up this area, and there’s a 25-mile long lake to fish too. The Park’s location is perfect for those who prefer the comfort of a hotel and plenty of amenities to the bare necessities of wilderness camping.

Fish species that can caught in the Park’s waters include:

In fact, the Park is widely regarded as an outstanding largemouth impoundment and boasts the reputation as one of the very best smallmouth lakes in the whole country. Four to five-pound largemouth catches are the norm here.

While you can claim that your fishing skills are responsible for a trophy fish catch, the hundreds of bundles of brush that are placed throughout the lake to offer prime bass habitat may also have something to do with your success!

4. Big Lake

Big Lake Fishing

If trout fishing is your bag, you have to take a trip to the northeast of the State up into the White Mountains. Here you’ll find Big Lake, located just a few miles to the south of Greer. Described as “Arizona’s best-kept secret”, this location is widely regarded as one of the best trout fishing opportunities in the whole world!

Species you can expect to find here include:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Brook trout
  • Cutthroat trout

If you’re planning on making your visit to trout fishing heaven an overnight one, there are several campgrounds right on Big Lake. Remember this is a mountain location, and it can get chilly at night here, so come equipped accordingly.

The on-site store sells fishing licenses, bait, and tackle, and you can rent boats here too.

5. Riggs Flat Lake

Riggs Flat Lake

Riggs Flat Lake is a reservoir that is located in the spectacular Pinaleño Mountains, about 40 miles southwest of Safford. This is a beautiful spot for a day’s fishing, with stunning views and a man-made lake that’s just teeming with various species of trout.

Located at the end of the Swift Trail, Riggs Flat Lake is only 11 acres in size, and it’s usually very quiet here. Chill out and enjoy a peaceful day’s fishing the cold waters in solitude, surrounded by meadows and alpine forests. Most visiting anglers like to fish from the shoreline, but small boats are permitted on the lake if you prefer to fish on the water.

During the summer months, you’ll find the following species of fish in abundance in this lake:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Brook trout

You’ll find the exact location of Riggs Flat Lake at this Google Maps link.

There’s a small campground here, but RV access is limited to vehicles less than 22 feet in length, due to the switchback road that leads to the site. Note that there is no fresh, drinking water available here, so you’ll need to bring your own supply.

6. Lees Ferry

Lees Ferry Grand Canyon

A visit to Lees Ferry is an absolute essential for all keen fly fishermen. Lees Ferry is a 13 mile stretch of the Colorado River, which lies within Marble Canyon just outside of Page.

There’s a well-equipped campground, offering drinking water, flush toilets, fire pits, bathroom sinks, and trash collection. Note that there’s no natural shade here, and days can be blisteringly hot from spring through fall. Shade cover is provided on the campground.

You’ll find the location of Lees Ferry at this link.

The very best time to come fishing at Lees Ferry is during the spring runoff season. However, at any time of year, you’ll find an abundance of rainbow trout, some measuring in at 22 inches!

The waters here are clear as crystal. Fish the shallows surrounded by towering cliffs of red, orange, and pink, take a boat or hire a licensed guide who will show you around hidden jewels in deeper blue water.

7. Oak Creek

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon is another extremely popular fly fishing location in Arizona, especially during the summer months, and is also wonderful for beginners and kids to try their hand at the sport.

The location has lots of catch-and-release spots in Oak Creek Canyon, as the Oak Creek River itself (just on the outskirts of Sedona) is well-stocked with rainbow trout. It’s a good idea to hire a guide to show you the prime fishing places.

Other fish species that abound here include:

  • Brown trout
  • Largemouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Walleye

Make your journey to Oak Creek Canyon via the Scenic Drive, a 14-mile journey along Route 89A between Flagstaff and Sedona. As well as the great fishing at Oak Creek, the scenery is breathtaking.

The road winds through oak and pine-forested hills, taking you some 4,500 feet to the top of the Mogollon Rim and its amazing backdrop of red rocks and cliffs.

8. Lake Mead

Lake Mead

Located between Arizona and Nevada, Lake Mead National Recreational Area is home to a 290 square mile body of water. The 700 miles of shoreline that surround the largest reservoir in the US is the perfect place for a peaceful, undisturbed day’s fishing.

There are numerous species of fish to hunt here, including:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Striped bass
  • Channel catfish
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie

You’ll also find rainbow trout in Lake Mohave, which is nearby. If you want to pursue the really big specimens, check out Willow Beach from where fresh stocks of fish are release from the hatchery every Friday!

Cottonwood Cove and Katherine are the perfect spots for those in search of bass. Trophy fish over 40 pounds have landed here!

The resort is open for fishing 24/7. You can choose from shoreline angling, fishing from a boat, or from one of the area’s three piers if you prefer, which makes this place one of the best fishing destinations in The Grand Canyon State.

For those wishing to camp overnight, there are several campgrounds around the reservoir, but always check the website when planning your trip, because certain camping areas are sometimes closed due to flood risk.

9. Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Lake Powell (located here) is one of Arizona’s northern reservoirs and is also a very popular year-round fishing hangout. This jewel of the Colorado River is teeming with large specimens for the angling enthusiast to treasure.

The shoreline extends for over 1,800 miles, surrounded by spectacular red-rock mountains. When the reservoir is full, it’s almost 86 miles long and has over 90 side canyons to explore. You can spend many enjoyable hours fishing from the shoreline, or rent a powerboat if you want to explore further afield. For an informed fishing excursion, hire one of the knowledgeable guides.

Fish species you can expect to reel in here include:

Although the fishing is good here all year, spring and summer are likely to be the most productive times for all these species.

10. Dogtown Lake

Dogtown Lake

Dogtown Lake (located here) is a quiet, medium-sized body of water seven miles southeast of the town of Williams. This peaceful, uncrowded location is a really good place to fish for trout, especially during the fall.

This spot would make a great place for a family vacation trip. There’s plenty to do here – hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking through the location’s tree-clad hills and stunning natural scenery are all popular pastimes. It’s also not far to the Grand Canyon from here.

As well as trout, you’ll find crappie and channel catfish in numbers here. Fish from the shady tree-lined shore, or take to the water by kayak, canoe, or motorboat (single motors of one horsepower or below are allowed.)

There are no fewer than 50 campgrounds in the area. All the sites are readily accessible and are level with back-in and pull-through options for RVs. Water faucets, garbage bins, and restrooms are provided, but there is no dump station at the facility.

Best Fishing Locations in Arizona: Conclusion

Arizona offers a unique combination of good fishing and stunning scenery, making it the perfect destination for family vacations. Much of the fishing action happens in man-made reservoirs or lakes, but there are opportunities to fish natural waterways from the shoreline or a small boat or kayak.

Note that Arizona is a desert state, and temperatures typically exceed 800F during the summer months. Many of the fishing locations and their neighboring campgrounds do not have much natural shade, so be sure to bring plenty of fresh water and a fishing umbrella or shade sail.

Arizona’s well-stocked fishing grounds and truly spectacular scenery make this State one destination that should be on every leisure angler’s bucket list.

The Out sider

See Also

Related Reads

Recent Posts