Arizona Fishing Is Hot and Cold


arizona fishing


Arizona fishing is hot... and cold. You get to do both.

Arizona fishing waters offer huge contrasts. Warm water desert lakes and cold high country waters are less than two hours apart. You can easily catch trout at Ashurst Lake all morning, and then drop down to Roosevelt Lake. There you can do some bass and crappie fishing in the afternoon and evening.



The photo above shows the fog drifting off Upper Lake Mary on a cool spring morning. Here we fished for pike. Later that day we were catching smallmouth bass at Apache Lake. I've also fished for stripers at Lake Pleasant on a hot desert night, and stopped by Ashurst Lake for a little morning trout fishing on the way home.

Our desert lakes offer great warm water angling. And our beautiful high country lakes and streams provide great cold water angling.





Fishing in the state's central and western desert lakes offers year-around sport, even in the very hot summer months.

Speaking of hot... when it gets too hot for day fishing, desert anglers often switch to nights and the early morning hours.

You can find more Arizona fishing information here.

Arizona fishing in the desert lakes offers lots of action and excitement. Healthy bass, catfish, and crappie populations are the rule.

But  you often need a boat and proper gear to fish the more remote parts of our larger lakes.


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Compare that with the smaller and very accessible cold water trout lakes and streams South of Flagstaff.

Arizona fishing in our high country waters is restful to your eyes and spirit. Although the lakes are smaller, they are rarely crowded.

Arizona fishing is better in the spring and fall seasons, but that's usually true all around the West. In our case it's true for both warm and cold waters.

In March, April, October, and November, while most anglers are looking to the desert lakes, a few are in the high country enjoying great trout fishing action.


arizona fishing


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Arizona Fishing South of Flagstaff also offers some huge northern pike... and beautiful scenery, with lots of color. 

The photo above was shot at Ashurst Lake before sunrise. Looking north, the snow-crowned San Francisco Peaks shine in the early morning light. The photo below was also shot at Ashurst... as the sun began to make it's colorful appearance.



Arizona fishing for trout and northern pike attract a lot of anglers. Cold water fishing South of Flagstaff offers you a choice of several lakes and streams, including:


  • Ashurst Lake
  • Coconino Reservoir
  • Kinnikinick Lake
  • Upper Lake Mary
  • Lower Lake Mary
  • Oak Creek
  • West Fork (of Oak Creek)


The Arizona Fishin' Holes publication (available at all Arizona Game and Fish Department offices) is full of the information every Arizona angler needs.

Arizona’s Official Fishing Guide arrives in time for the New Year

Arizona’s Official Fishing Guide is hot off the presses and ready for purchase online from Arizona Highways Magazine or at Costco stores.


This “official” fishing guide for Arizona was a joint project between Arizona Highways and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. It was the first major collaboration between Arizona’s iconic magazine and the state’s renowned wildlife management agency. The book should be available soon at all Arizona Game and Fish Department offices as well.


The Arizona Highways website offers several publications that anglers will find informative, interesting... and beautiful.





With two exceptions, all of the waters listed above are accessed from Lake Mary Road. This road runs south from Flagstaff to Clints Well, where it meets Highway 87.

Oak Creek and the West Fork. Highway 89A follows Oak Creek north of Sedona, through Oak Creek Canyon..

Ashurst Lake (pictured above) is a popular lake, for camping as well as fishing.

Coconino Reservoir is a small lake reached by a very rough road south from Ashurst Lake.

Lower Lake Mary often suffers from a lack of water, but can produce fast action for stocked trout in the early spring. The lake is full, and good fishing is happening now.




Arizona fishing in our local waters offer you a variety of fish, including rainbow trout, brown trout, northern and walleye pike, and even a few bass and crappie.

The links below provides more information.

These waters also offer a huge bonus. Most of them boast nearby campgrounds or day use areas that offer shade and cool breezes.

Fishing in the high country lakes South of Flagstaff offers a wonderful summer retreat to the cool mountains. One weekend per month is great medicine for desert dwellers.


Arizona Fishing News and Information

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April 17, 2014



Summer catfish stockings have returned


Beginning the week of April 20, channel catfish stockings will begin at the “non-core” Community Fishing Program lakes, which for the first time will include Yuma’s Fortuna Lake, Redondo Pond, Yuma West Wetlands Pond and Somerton’s Council Avenue Pond. Other non-core waters that will receive their first summer catfish stockings every two months (with catfish and bluegill coming in June) are Discovery Ponds, McQueen Pond, Pacana Pond, Granada Ponds, Roadrunner Pond, Eldorado Lake, McKellips Lake.

Twenty-two CFP waters received the first summer stocking of catfish on March 21, and a second stocking was completed on April 4. There was some higher mortality associated with the first stocking of the season, which is a normal springtime occurrence.



The catfish come from Arkansas, where they (and most of the country) experienced a particularly harsh winter. Some of the largest bluegill we’ve seen were stocked with the first load of catfish this year. It’s a prime time to grab the fishing poles, a comfortable chair, and the kids (not necessarily in that order), and hit the CFP lakes. Catfish will be stocked into 33 CFP waters during the next two weeks. Trout stockings will continue in Green Valley Lakes (Payson) until the Payson Wildlife Fair on Saturday, May 10.

New Community Fishing Program Manager

In addition to expanding the Community Fishing Program (CFP) waters in 2014, those who are familiar with the program know that Eric Swanson retired last December. Swanson led this nationally recognized fishing program for 20 years. That vacancy was recently filled by Scott Gurtin.

Gurtin has worked for the Department for 17 years in various positions – most recently serving the past six years as the state’s Hatchery Program Supervisor. “I’ve got big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively speaking,” Gurtin said.

Although smaller in scope and size than our Hatchery Program, the CFP stocks almost a quarter-million pounds of fish annually (about 62 percent as much as the Department's six trout-producing hatcheries), with plans to expand opportunities where it’s feasible. Gurtin will be busy visiting all the CFP waters while stocking in the coming weeks.

Gilbert to propose catch-and-release for Water Ranch Lake

The town of Gilbert is evaluating a proposal to modify Water Ranch Lake at the Riparian Preserve into a catch-and-release lake. As part of the town’s proposal, new catch-and-kieep fishing opportunities are being proposed for Freestone and Crossroads parks, in addition to the newly added CFP ponds at McQueen and Discovery parks. So far, there have been public meetings on March 19 and March 22, and approximately 50 comment cards have been received backing both sides of the issue.

Make sure your voice is heard. Tentative date for discussion by the Council is set for May 15, 50 E. Civic Center Dr. Gilbert, Ariz., 85296. If the proposal is approved by Town Council, new regulations would need to be approved by the Arizona Game and Fish Department Commission at its September 2014 meeting. Public comments will be solicited during that process as well.

Water Ranch is one of the most frequently visited and heavily fished lakes in the CFP. Under a catch-and-release strategy, stocking would likely continue, but at reduced frequency and numbers. Use of bait would likely change to mimic that of The Pond at Town Hall, which is artificial fly and lure, barbless hooks only.



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April 14, 2014

Grand Canyon National Park


Tagged Razorback Suckers Released in Grand Canyon



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April 6, 2014



2014 Arizona Fishing Regulations


PDF, 7mb



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April 5, 2014



Attention anglers: Tagged trout to be stocked into East Verde River


PHOENIX -- The Arizona Game and Fish Department is implanting radio tags into a small percentage of hatchery-raised trout that will be stocked into the East Verde River in order to examine stocked trout movement and fate.

These stockings will begin in April and coincide with the summer trout stocking schedule.

If you catch a trout with external tags (as pictured) you may keep OR release the fish. These fish are safe for human consumption.

If you catch a tagged fish, please call the number on the colored tag (623-236-7538) with the following information:

  • Location of the caught trout
  • Identification number on the colored external tag
  • Date the fish was caught

Tagged fish include a colored external tag (top), and radio tag with its incision (bottom).


Colored external tag with identification number (top) and phone number.


Radio tag


If you choose to keep a trout, please return the internal radio tag to any Arizona Game and Fish Department office or employee. You may consume the fish!

Currently, the Department can estimate catch rates (the number of fish anglers catch and keep). However, we cannot answer important questions such as: How long do trout live after being stocked? Do stocked trout move to a different area of the stream after being stocked? If they do move, do they move upstream or downstream?

These are important questions the Department will answer by using radio telemetry, which will help develop better stocking practices for improved angler use and satisfaction. So how does it work?

Each fish will have a unique identification number, which is printed on the colored tag and the implanted radio tag (see pictures). Each radio tag emits a beep, every two seconds, on a specific radio frequency. With a special receiver tuned to each specific radio frequency, we can locate each individually tagged trout. The signal can be transmitted about one kilometer. As we get closer to the tag, the signal, or beep, will get louder. With this equipment, the Department can locate exactly where each tagged fish is and determine how far the fish has moved, if and when the fish died, or if it was caught and removed from the stream. This allows us to study the fish, and anglers to enjoy catching and consuming them!

So remember, if you are fishing along the East Verde River and catch a trout with these tags, you may keep and eat the fish. Just call 623-236-7538 to report the catch, and please return the radio tag to any Department office or employee.



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April 1, 2014



Spring fishing has arrived in Northern Arizona


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Now is the time to get the tackle box ready, grab the fishing rods, and explore northern Arizona for some spring fishing!

A particularly warm and dry spring has arrived, and unfortunately it followed a mild winter. What does this mean for the fishing? It means that the Arizona Game and Fish Department is stocking northern Arizona lakes and anticipates that by late May or early June, as temperatures warm up and lake levels drop, water quality will diminish and conditions will be unsuitable for stocking fish. It is a good idea to check the fishing report for up-to-date stockings.

Ashurst Lake, Lower Lake Mary, Frances Short Pond, and Kaibab Lake are local waters that have received fish from Page Springs and Tonto Creek Hatcheries, two of the fish hatcheries owned and operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Frances Short Pond is located just northwest of downtown Flagstaff and is a great place to walk or ride a bike to and try your luck. Lower Lake Mary is about 8 miles from Flagstaff on Forest Road 3 and Ashurst is farther down the road about 12 miles. Kaibab Lake is near Williams and off Highway 64, just north of Interstate 40.

“Even with the lack of winter snow, fishing should be good for trout during April and May on most of our lakes,” said Chuck Benedict, an AZGFD fish biologist. Benedict added: “People like to visit Flagstaff and Williams in the summer and want to trout fish, but in reality the bass, pike, catfish, and crappie fishing are the best during the summer, now is the ideal time for trout fishing.”

Some tips to remember before heading out to fish:

  • License fees have changed. The new Fishing License now includes trout and two-pole privileges (no separate stamps needed) and costs $37 for residents and $55 for nonresidents. The license is now valid for one year from the day you buy it, not just for the calendar year.
  • Anyone 10 years and older will need a fishing license. Youth licenses now only cost $5 and are available for youth ages 10-17.
  • Review the 2014 Arizona Fishing Regulations; they are available online or at most license dealers as a booklet that you can throw in your tackle box. The regulations have all the information you need to fish in Arizona.
  • Some lakes have special restrictions or regulations: catch-and-release only, daily limits, or the type of bait allowed.
  • Do not transport live fish or bait. Illegal stocking is a big problem and impacts the department’s efforts to manage the state’s fisheries. In some cases, fish like northern pike and bass have been illegally stocked and have had detrimental impacts to trout fishing and native fish populations.
  • Trout fishing in northern Arizona is better in the spring than in the summer.
  • Summer fishing in Flagstaff and Williams is best for bass, crappie, northern pike and bluegill.

For more fishing information visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at



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February 24, 2014



Redear Sunfish World Record?


A pending world record, Arizona style, was yanked out of Lake Havasu on Sunday. Hector Brito's redear sunfish weighed 5.78 pounds. A steroid shellcracker, it was.


If you’ve never seen a 6-pound panfish, it’s time to head to Havasu, where the redear sunfish are likely benefitting from the invasive quagga mussels as a food source.

Brito (right) caught the redear sunfish at 11:30 a.m. and brought it to Bass Tackle Master in beautiful Lake Havasu City, where John Galbraith weighed it at 5.78 pounds on an Arizona Game and Fish-certified scale. It was 17 inches long. Brito caught the plump panfish by the chalk cliffs with a dropshot rig that included a No. 8 Aberdeen gold hook and a nightcrawler.

The record awaits certification by the International Game Fish Association.

The previous record, held by Bob Lawler, was 5.55 pounds in 2011. Redear sunfish have grown to trophy size in Lake Havasu. Redear sunfish in the 2-pound range and larger are regularly caught at this 19,300-acre impoundment on the Colorado River, formed by Parker Dam. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs.

Yeah, it’s a pending world record, but with the unprecedented sizes of redear that have been caught at Havasu, look for an even bigger one to be caught within the next couple of years, or even months -- redear bite better in May and June. Might as well make it your record.

“(Brito) said he thought it was a catfish,” Galbraith said. “I don’t know what the genetic potential is for redear. But this record fish was not even a spawning fish. There’s some out there that are in the mid-6 (pound range) easy.”

Galbraith said the redears have been getting exceptionally large during the past four years the lake has been infested with the invasive quagga mussels. (Be sure to clean, drain and dry your boat before leaving Havasu or any AIS-affected lake – it’s the law.) See more information on aquatic invasive species.

Crawdads eat quagga mussels, which could be another reason for the enlarged redear, as well as smallmouth bass. Redear, we assume, eat quaggas, although this hasn't been proven. These sunfish meander along the bottom of lakebeds seeking and cracking open snails and other shelled creatures with its thick, pharyngeal teeth and hard, movable plates in its throat that allow it to crunch exoskeletons.

Congrats to Mr. Brito on the record. Who’s next?



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January 19, 2014



Outdoor recreationists are reminded to avoid bald eagle closure areas during breeding season


Each year as part of its highly successful program to manage and conserve bald eagles in the state, the Arizona Game and Fish Department asks outdoor recreationists to help protect important eagle breeding areas by honoring the closure of 23 areas across the state. Various land and wildlife management agencies close the breeding areas for part of the year, beginning in December, to protect the state’s 55 breeding pairs of bald eagles. Some of the closure areas are located near popular recreation sites.

“Cooperation from outdoor recreationists during the breeding season is critical and has been a major reason that the population continues to grow. Bald eagles are very sensitive to even short durations of human activity during breeding,” says Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Bald Eagle Management Program. “Breeding areas that are closed and fail to result in successful reproduction will be reopened as soon as they are deemed inactive.”

The bald eagle was federally listed as an endangered species in 1978. Nationally, the birds recovered enough to be removed from the list in 2007.

In December, Arizona bald eagles begin rebuilding nests in preparation for laying eggs. During this time, land and wildlife management agencies enact the seasonal breeding area closures. Bald eagles nest, forage and roost at the rivers and lakes that have become some of Arizona’s most popular recreation spots, and this time of year can be challenging for the birds.

Game and Fish’s bald eagle management efforts are supported by the Heritage Fund, an initiative passed more than 20 years ago to provide for wildlife education and conservation through Arizona lottery ticket sales.


  • Statewide – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established a 2000-foot above ground level (AGL) advisory along the Salt and Verde river drainages. When traveling in these drainages or near riparian habitat statewide, aircraft should maintain a minimum of 2000-foot AGL to ensure compliance with state and federal law.


Verde River
  • Verde River below Sycamore Canyon Wilderness may be closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed. Contact Coconino National Forest, Sedona Ranger District, (928) 282-4119.
  • Verde River near Chasm Creek is closed to foot and vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 15. Floating through is allowed. Contact Prescott National Forest, Verde Ranger District, (928) 567-4121.
  • Verde River near Cold Water Creek, allows watercraft to float through but no stopping on the river or landing is allowed Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Prescott National Forest, Verde Ranger District, (928) 567-4121
  • Verde River upstream of the East Verde confluence is closed to vehicle and foot entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is permitted. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.
  • Verde River near Mule Shoe Bend, allows watercraft to float through but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.
  • Verde River below Horseshoe Dam is closed to vehicle or foot entry on the southwest side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on the southwest side of the river is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.
  • Verde River below Bartlett Dam is closed to foot or vehicle entry from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing is permitted. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480)595-3300.
  • Verde River at the Needle Rock Recreation area is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the east side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed, but no stopping in the river or landing on east side of river is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek Ranger District, (480) 595-3300.
Tonto Creek
  • Tonto Creek from Gisela to 76 Ranch is closed to vehicle, foot entry, and floating through from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.* Tonto Creek inlet to Roosevelt Lake is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 feet of the nest on land, and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.
Salt River
  • Salt River from Horseshoe Bend to Redmond Flat allows watercraft to float through, but no stopping in the river or landing is allowed from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Globe Ranger District, (928) 402-6200.
  • Salt River near Meddler Point is closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 feet of the nest on land, and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.
  • Salt River near Campaign Bay may be closed to vehicle and foot entry within 1000 feet of the nest on land, and to watercraft within 300 feet on water from Dec. 1 to June 30. Contact Tonto National Forest, Tonto Basin Ranger District (928) 467-3200.
  • Salt River below Stewart Mountain Dam is closed to vehicle or foot entry on the south side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact the Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, (480) 610-3300.
  • Salt River near Goldfield-Kerr Fire Station is closed to foot and vehicle entry on the north side of the river from Dec. 1 to June 30. Floating through is allowed. Contact Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, (480) 610-3300.

Crescent Lake

  • A portion of the entrance road may be restricted to a “no stopping zone” and a portion of land near the parking area may be closed to foot entry from April 1 through July 30. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville Ranger District, (928) 333-4372.
Greer Lakes
  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Springerville Ranger District, (928) 333-4372.

Lower Lake Mary
  • There may be no vehicle or foot traffic allowed on a portion of the north side of the lake from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30. Contact the Coconino National Forest, Mormon Lake Ranger District, (928) 774-1147.

Luna Lake
  • Luna Lake is closed to vehicle and foot traffic on the north side from Jan. 1 to June 30. The area adjacent to the nesting closure on the upper end of the lake is closed for nesting waterfowl from Feb. 15 to July 31. Contact Apache National Forest, Alpine Ranger District, (928) 339-4384.

Show Low Lake
  • A portion of the lake may be closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from approximately March 1 through July 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Lakeside Ranger District, (928) 368-2100.

Whitehorse Lake
  • A portion of the shoreline may be closed to foot entry from March 1 to Aug. 31. Contact the Kaibab National Forest, Williams Ranger District (928) 635-5600.

Woods Canyon Lake
  • A portion of the lake is closed to watercraft and a portion of the shoreline is closed to foot entry from April 1 through Aug. 31. Contact the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Black Mesa Ranger District, (928) 535-7300.


If you are visiting bald eagle country, an advance call to the local land management agency (USDA Forest Service district, etc.) or the Arizona Game and Fish Department may help you plan your trip to avoid disturbing bald eagles. By following these simple guidelines, we can all help ensure that our living wildlife legacy will last for generations to come:
  • Enjoy bald eagles from outside the closures, especially during critical nesting times (December to June). These areas are posted with signs and/or buoys, and many have daily nestwatch monitors. Anyone approached by a nestwatcher and asked to cease an activity or leave a closed area should comply. A few good places to see bald eagles without disturbing them (during December and January) are at Lake Mary and Mormon Lake near Flagstaff or on the Verde Canyon Train in Clarkdale.
  • Bald eagles protecting an active nest will let you know if you are too close. If a bald eagle is vocalizing and circling the area frantically, you are too close and need to leave the area quickly. Bald eagles incubating eggs or brooding small young should never be off the nest for more than 15 minutes.
  • Pilots should maintain the FAA-recommended 2,000-foot AGL advisory when flying over bald eagle habitat such as along the riparian areas of the Salt and Verde Rivers and Lakes such as Lake Pleasant, Roosevelt lake, and Alamo Lake. These areas are designated on the Phoenix Sectional Aeronautical Map. Special brochures for pilots regarding this advisory can be obtained by calling the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s nongame branch, (623) 236-7506.
  • Help from anglers is especially needed. Monofilament and tackle has killed two nestlings and has been found in two-thirds of all bald eagle nests in the state. Every year we remove this potentially lethal material from nests and/or entangled nestlings. Ospreys, shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds also succumb to this litter. Do not discard any type of monofilament along rivers and lakes, but recycle it at fishing stores. Keep your monofilament fresh; do not use old brittle line. Make sure to use the correct test line for the fish you are trying to catch. Also, do not cut the line when an undesirable fish is caught and return it to the water with the hook and line attached.
You can help bald eagle research and recovery efforts by reporting any harassment or shooting of bald eagles. Call the Arizona Game and Fish Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-352-0700 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement at (480) 967-7900.



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August 28, 2013



Arizona becoming destination for monster flathead catfish


PHOENIX -- The way some anglers look at Arizona as a fishing destination has begun to change since April when “Flathead” Ed Wilcoxson landed the heaviest recorded fish in the state’s history.

Word is getting out that The Grand Canyon State is home to many gargantuan flathead catfish.

Wilcoxson, after photos of his 76.54-pound flathead catfish taken out of Bartlett Lake were shared on fishing forums and media outlets across the World Wide Web, has received phone calls from interested anglers as far away as Africa, England and Australia. He said producers from the hit show “Duck Dynasty” on A&E requested Wilcoxson send them a short video of him fishing.

With Labor Day weekend just ahead, anglers can escape the heat and fish the night for this square-tailed catfish that may attain weights up to 100 pounds.

“I believe there’s bigger ones than (my record) out there,” Wilcoxson said. “I hooked two last year that absolutely broke me off. Even fishing as much as I do, it took me by surprise.”

Read more


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April 12, 2013



History made: Angler reels in state’s heaviest recorded fish

Eddie "Flathead Ed" Wilcoxson holds his state record 76.52-pound flathead catfish
PHOENIX – Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson was asleep on the fold-out cot of his 24-foot pontoon boat on Friday, April 12, when what would become a state record flathead catfish began taking drag at Bartlett Lake.


About 35 minutes later, at 2:37 a.m., Wilcoxson, 56, boated what Arizona Game and Fish Department officials verified is a 76.52-pound flathead catfish. It measured 53.5 inches in total length with a 34.75-inch girth.

It also became the heaviest recorded fish of any species in state history, topping the 74-pound flathead catfish caught in 1988 out of the Colorado River by Walter Wilson of Bard, Calif.

In addition, Wilcoxson’s flathead beat the previous inland waters state record held by Adrian Manzanedo of Florence, who in 2003 caught a 71-pound, 10.24-ounce flathead at San Carlos Lake.

“Everybody’s got the same chance I do,” Wilcoxson said. “You just have to get out and do it.”

Wilcoxson, of Surprise, was in the yellow cliffs area of Bartlett fishing in 35-38 feet of water over a rock pile. He caught the flathead using an Ugly Stik fishing rod, Okuma 45D reel, 60-pound braided line, an 18-inch steel leader with a SPRO Power Swivel and, as bait, a live 2-pound carp.

“I sleep out on the water 3-4 days sometimes,” Wilcoxson said. “Sometimes during Thanksgiving I’ll spend three weeks straight out there. Also, I fished 39 weekends last year.”

Bill Stewart, also of Surprise, was on the boat as well.

Wilcoxson owns the “AZ Fishing 4 Flathead Cat” fishing guide service. He said he received his new guide license April 1. “But I’ve been fishing Arizona my whole life,” he said.

He said he’d never caught one this big, although he did land one that weighed about 65 pounds.

“When it came close to the boat, I saw there was only one treble hook in the corner of his mouth,” Wilcoxson said, “so I backed off on the drag. If not, it would have ripped right out of his mouth.”

Wilcoxson said he and Stewart brought the behemoth in the boat with the help of a heavy-duty lip grabber.

In addition to flathead catfish, the 2,015-acre Bartlett Lake, located in the Tonto National Forest northwest of Phoenix, holds largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, channel catfish, carp and crayfish.

Bartlett Lake also produced the state record carp that weighed 37 pounds, measured 40 inches, and was caught in 1987 by Jonathan Gardner of Phoenix.

A USFS Tonto Pass is required to access Bartlett Lake.



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May 6, 2011

Arizona Game and
Fish Department

Sunfish caught at Lake Havasu could be world record


Robert Lawler of Lake Havasu on May 2 landed a huge 5.55 pound, 16.75-inch redear sunfish out of Lake Havasu.

You read that correctly – sunfish.

The behemoth panfish had a 19-inch girth. Lawler used a Texas-rigged 7-inch Power Worm. There’s no doubt it is a contender for a world record.

Right now, it's a semi-official Arizona state record for the Colorado River.

Oddly enough, these relatively small species feed on invasive quagga mussels. This guy must have been getting his fill.

The existing state record redear was caught Feb. 16, 2010 at Lake Havasu by a California angler and it weighed 4 pounds 2.24 ounces and was 15.5 inches long.

John Galbraith of provided the photo.

To learn more about big fish records in Arizona waters, fishing tips and more, visit

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March 2, 2011

Arizona Game and
Fish Department

Historic first-ever state record Gila trout caught at Frye Mesa Reservoir



PHOENIX – The historic first-ever Gila trout record in Arizona was caught on Feb. 28 from Frye Mesa Reservoir following the stocking of these colorful native salmonids into the reservoir near Safford on Feb. 27.

Robert Woods of Flagstaff caught a 19¼-inch, 3.35-pound Gila trout at Frye Mesa Reservoir on Feb. 28 and brought it 

into the department’s Flagstaff regional office for verification.

It’s not only the standing state record right now, it is also the first-ever record for this native fish.

“Angling history is seemingly being made each time we turn around. These are exciting times for anglers in Arizona,” said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young.

Here’s what’s been happening.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission on Feb. 4 created the first-ever season on native Gila trout at Frye Mesa Reservoir on the Pinaleño Mountains in southern Arizona. It’s a 1-fish limit though for these trout – catch more and you can be cited (some already have been).

“Arizona has never had an open season on Gila trout. They were thought to have been extirpated from the state before we had regulated fishing seasons,” explained Young.

This has all been possible because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico had larger surplus Gila trout available that were not conducive for stocking in small recovery streams. Those larger Gila trout were stocked into Frye Mesa Reservoir last week on Feb. 27.

That’s not the only unique angling aspect to the proposal.

Mt. Graham is now the only mountain on the planet where you can fish for native Gila trout, native Apache trout, plus rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout. It’s now the Mt. Graham Grand Slam.

Remember, when it comes to Gila trout, it’s only one-fish per customer. Eight anglers have already been warned about exceeding this bag limit at Frye Mesa Reservoir.

“Basically it means you may have one fish in your possession, not one at home and one on your stringer. The reason we allowed for the harvest of one was so that anglers could turn in a state record or keep a unique trophy fish,” said Jason Kline, a fisheries biologist in the Tucson region.

Game and Fish officials are also encouraging anglers to practice catch-and-release on these natives – there are only so many to go around. "This is an incredible opportunity to catch a native trout. Please consider releasing these colorful native trout so that others can experience these remarkable angling memories."

However, Arizona is not the first state to have a season on Gila trout. New Mexico has had a limited season on Gila trout in specific waters.


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December 9, 2009

Arizona Game and
Fish Department

New state record striper caught during major winter storm


Angler reels in a fishing bonanza at Lake Pleasant

PHOENIX – While most people were huddled indoors out of the torrential rain on Dec. 7 while a major winter storm pummeled the state, John Davis was enjoying a fishing bonanza at Lake Pleasant, including landing a new inland state record striped bass.

“I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, they were hitting topwater all day long in the rain. It was really something,” Davis said.

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials say John’s monster striper weighed in at 28.58 pounds and measured 45.7 inches long. He caught the behemoth on a Zara Super Spook, which is a topwater lure.

What’s more, he was the only angler out there braving the storm, and reaping the benefits.

John said the behemoth striper actually hit the lure twice without being hooked, but came back a third time. John was amazed he could even land the fish – it ran like a runaway freight train, tearing off line and it took him some time to subdue the giant.

Davis would like to have the striper mounted, or at least have a replica of it created.

Davis, a Phoenix resident, routinely fishes Lake Pleasant, but said he has never seen such phenomenal topwater action before. “The stripers were in a feeding frenzy in Humbug Cove. I was getting multiple hits on my topwater lures, all day long. It was amazing.”

John said the sometimes it rained very hard, but the wind didn’t blow, so it wasn’t too bad out there. “Actually, it was kind of nice.”

It’s always nice when you hit the jackpot. John caught and mostly released around 50 stripers during his rain-soaked, day-long fishing bonanza.

Game and Fish biologists said research studies at Lake Pleasant have shown that the majority of striped bass congregate in the northern coves during winter, especially over submerged creek and river channels.

“The striper fishing at Lake Pleasant has really taken off the past several years. In fact, the striper bite last winter was pretty remarkable – anglers were routinely catching dozens of fish. It looks like we are off to a good start again this winter,” said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young.

Lake Pleasant has not always had stripers, but it is the only lake in the state with white bass. However, when the Waddell Dam was raised in the early nineties, Central Arizona Project water from the Colorado River began being pumped into this popular desert reservoir on the Agua Fria River. Eventually, striped bass from the Colorado River got into the lake.



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