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Arizona’s Fish Species

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All images on this page courtesy Arizona Game & Fish Department.

Sport Fish Species in Arizona

Apache Trout

Found only in White Mountain lakes and streams and are one of two trout native to Arizona. 

They are easily caught fishing wet or dry flies, worms or salmon eggs. The same techniques used to catch rainbow trout work very well on Apache trout.

Artic Grayling

Grayling are found in Lee Valley Reservoir and a few small high mountain lakes in the White Mountains. They spend most of the year in the lake then "run" up stream to spawn in the spring. 

Grayling are caught on both wet and dry flies. A Royal Coachman or a black or brown Woolly worm often work very well.

Bigmouth Buffalo

Found only in Apache and Roosevelt Lakes. 

These fish are rarely caught by rod and reel, but successful anglers have used small hooks hidden in dough balls. In addition to angling, bigmouth buffalo may also be taken by bow and arrow, crossbow, snare, gig, spear and speargun as long as none of these methods are practiced within two hundred yards of any boat dock or designated swimming area.

Black Crappie

Black crappie are far more abundant than white crappie and are found in most of Arizona's major warmwater reservoirs. Black crappie (and White crappie) are attracted to submerged brush and trees and generally travel in schools. Spawning is often in open water, typically over mud, sand or gravel bottoms. Males guard the nest, and young after the eggs hatch. Generally mature in second or third year of life, rarely live more than 6 to 7 years. 

Effective bait and lures are minnows, small jigs, silver spoons, spinners and flies fished along shorelines around submerged brush piles and fallen trees.

Blue Gill

Bluegill are found in most reservoirs or ponds below 4,000 feet elevation and rarely occur in streams and rivers. They are prone to stunting and large populations of tiny bluegill are common. 

Bluegill will eat anything they can get into their mouth. Worms are an anglers favorite bait, but bluegill will take, small poppers, flies, small spinners and jigs. Bluegill are gregarious, so when you catch one, there are usually more in the same place.

Brook Trout

Brook trout are found in colder streams and lakes in the White Mountains. They reproduce in streams but are most often found in lakes stocked by the Department. Like brown trout, brook trout are fall spawners and are easily caught near the shore during fall spawning runs. 

They are easy to catch, especially in the early spring or late fall when cold water temperatures keep the fish very active. They are caught on wet flies, small spinning lures and worms.

Brown Trout

Brown trout are found in streams and some lakes in the White Mountains and around the Mogollon Rim country. They reproduce naturally in streams and are often associated with deep under cut banks and pools choked with woody debris. 

Brown trout may be caught on the same tackle and baits as rainbow trout, but are often more difficult to catch. The best time to catch large adult brown trout is in fall during spawning.

Channel Catfish

Found in most warmwater lakes and rivers. Inhabit deeper stretches of rivers and streams with moderate current. Spawns from April through early June.

Effective baits are waterdogs, liver, blood bait, shad, shrimp, anchovies, homemade stink baits, hot dogs, minnows and worms. Contrary to myth, the "whiskers" are harmless to touch and used only to smell, taste and feel as it forages for food. However, the dorsal fin and pectoral fins have a sharp spine which can inflict a painful wound.

Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat trout are rarely found in Arizona's streams, but widely occur in the White Mountain lakes which are stocked by the Department. They prefer the same habitat as rainbow trout and are found in similar areas.

The same techniques used to catch rainbow trout work well for cutthroats. They may be caught on a variety of flies and artificial lures but a live nightcrawler is hard to beat. Use light line and small hooks!

Desert Sucker

Abundant in the Bill William's, Gila, Salt and Verde River systems. Prefer rivers or streams that have deep and quiet, rocky or gravely pools. Intolerant of lake conditions created by dams. Spawning is from February to early July; Eggs are deposited and fertilized in gravely areas.

Fish on the bottom, in deeper pools of rivers and streams with worms or crickets.

Flathead Catfish

Found in the lower Colorado River near Yuma, Gila River, Salt River, Verde River systems and reservoirs. Found near cover, in deeper, slower moving pools of rivers. Often congregate in swift water below dams to feed on live fish. Flatheads spawn in spring or early summer, building nests in caves, depressions under rocks or undercut banks.

Live sunfish or carp, fished close to the bottom of deep pools or in swift water below a dam is effective.

Green Sunfish

Found in most warm water lakes and streams in Arizona and even in a few trout lakes in theWhite Mountains and Mogollon Rim. Prefer lakes with rocky substrate and piles of rubble, but can be found around brushy banks and cliffs.

Because of their highly predaceous and pugnacious nature they are one of the easiest fish to catch. They are always hungry and readily bite on small worms and insects.

Largemouth Bass

Found in the Colorado, Gila, lower Salt and lower VerdeRivers and their associated reservoirs. A warm water fish that prefers clear water with structure and cover. Generally, bass move to deep water during the day and return to the shallows to feed at night. Bass spawn from March through June.

Largemouth bass are caught on a variety of baits, both natural and artificial. Depending on the time of the year, bass can be caught in shallow water with a surface lure or deep with jigs or plastic worms. An angler should think structure when bass fishing. Bass concentrate around submerged trees, aquatic vegetation and underwater drop-offs.

Northern Pike

Found in LakeMary, MormonLake, StonemanLake, and LongLake, south of Flagstaff. Prefer shallow water and areas congested with aquatic weeds. Spawn just after ice thaws; Adhesive eggs simply scattered over the bottom or onto vegetation.

Effective lures and bait for pike are "LARGE" spoons, spinners, plugs or waterdogs. Fishing with minnows is unlawful in LakeMary, MormanLake, StonemanLake and LongLake. Northern pike have sharp teeth, so many anglers use a wire leader to prevent the line from being cut.

Rainbow Trout

They are stocked in most lakes and streams where water temperatures do not exceed 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Effective baits are worms, salmon eggs, powerbait, corn, cheese, marshmallows, artificial lures and flies. The number one key to successful trout fishing, is to use light line (4 to 6 pound) and small hooks (10-14 sizes), and small sinkers.

Redear Sunfish

Found statewide in warm water lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Prefer clear lakes with some aquatic vegetation; relate to deep bottom structure.

Redear seem to reject baits that offer resistance such as lead weights and bite gently. Fish with worms on the bottom, without weight or bobber, and simply allow the bait to lie motionless. Periodically move the bait a foot or so.

Roundtail Chub

Found in moderate-sized, perennial rivers throughout the state. Fish occupy pools and eddies, often concentrating in swift swirling water below rapids.

Roundtail chubs readily take artificial lures and bait and put up a strong fight. Effective lures and bait include, small spinners, spoons, flies, worms and crickets. Fishing with ultra-lite tackle and light line is an exciting way to fish for roundtail chub on an Arizona river.

Smallmouth Bass

They are abundant in the Verde River, Black River, ApacheLake and to some degree in Roosevelt Reservoir and LakePowell. They prefer rocky habitats in streams and lakes with clear waters.

Effective lures for smallmouth, are those that resemble minnows, plastic worms and streamer flies. Live baits include minnows, hellgrammites and crayfish. One of the best smallmouth fisheries in the State is the Black River.

Striped Bass

Found throughout the Colorado River between LakePowell and the Mexican border and more recently in LakePleasant. Prefer open, clear water. Spawn in spring over shallow, rocky areas in a lake or in the fast moving waters below dams.

Stripers can be caught on shad, anchovies, "cut" bait, spoons, plugs, jigs, crankbaits, and streamer flies.

Tilapia

Found in the Salt and Gila rivers and in the network of canals and ditches in farming areas between Phoenix and Yuma. Often stocked in canals and artificial lakes for algae and vegetation control. Isolated populations exist at AlamoLake, LakePleasant, and RoperLake. Mortality results from exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fish during warmer months, with small worms, crickets and dough balls on small hooks (size 12). In addition to angling, tilapia may also be taken by bow and arrow, crossbow, snare, gig, spear and speargun as long as none of these methods are practiced within two hundred yards of any boat dock or designated swimming area.

Walleye

Found in LakePowell, SaguaroLake, CanyonLake, ApacheLake, LakeMary, ShowLowLake and Fool's HollowLake. Bottom oriented fish, due to their sensitivity to light, prefering to stay in deep water during the day, moving to shallow waters during the night. Spawn in spring, in relatively shallow water, over clean gravel or rocky bottoms.

Because of light-sensitive eyes, walleyes feed more actively early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night. Effective lures and baits include, minnows, nightcrawlers, jigs, spinners and minnow imitating plugs. Fishing with minnows is unlawful in LakePowell, LakeMary, ShowlowLake and Fool's HollowLake.

White Bass

Found only in Imperial Reservoir on the Colorado River and Lake Pleasant. Prefer clear, open waters. Spawn in large groups, in April or May, generally over rocky or rip-rap type areas.

Effective lures are spinners, spoons, jigs and shad type crank baits. During a feeding frenzy, they will strike practically any shad imitating lure tossed into their midst.

White Crappie

LakePleasant is the only lake where white crappie are occasionally caught. More tolerant of warm, turbid waters than black crappie. Spawn in spring to early summer, usually near cover such as submerged brush or rock. Males guard the nest, and young after the eggs hatch. Generally mature in second or third year of life, rarely live more than 6 to 7 years.

Effective bait and lures are minnows, small jigs, silver spoons, spinners and flies fished along shorelines around submerged brush piles and fallen trees.

Yellow Bass

Found in theSalt River Reservoirs (Apache, Canyon, and Saguaro) and LakeMary. They are a schooling fish like white bass, but yellow bass relate to bottom structure more than white bass. Spawning habits and times similar to white bass.

The most effective lures and baits are jigs, spoons, spinners, small crankbaits, minnows and worms. Fishing with minnows is unlawful in LakeMary.

Yellow Bullhead

Widespread; Found in the lower Colorado River, Salt River, Verde River, Apache Lake, Roper Lake, Parker Canyon Lake and Mormon Lake, to name a few. Prefer clear water, rocky-bottomed, intermediate-sized streams and shallow areas of warmwater lakes.

Often overlooked by anglers, but can be easily caught with worms, nightcrawlers or crickets, fished on the bottom, at night.

Yellow Perch

Found in Stoneman Lake. Prefer clear water with moderate, aquatic vegetation. Spawn in spring; The eggs are extruded in a ribbon-like, gelatinous string, which is deposited over vegetation or woody debris. The parents do not guard the eggs or fry.

Schools of perch can be located by trolling or drifting lures or bait close to the bottom. Popular lures and baits include, small jigs, spinners, worms, crickets and grubs. Fishing with minnows is unlawful in StonemanLake.

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