Colorado River Northwest
Colorado River (Davis Dam to I-40 Bridge) – Rating:
Summertime on the Colorado River can be summed up in one word: “HOT.” With daytime temperatures regularly reaching 115 degrees, it can be rough on even diehard anglers. Extreme daytime temperatures often mean high fish activity after the sun goes down. With higher water temperatures, a fish’s metabolism is in high gear and they’re forced to eat all the time. Some fish species like largemouth bass and channel catfish don’t mind water temperatures into the low 80s. But striped bass actively seek cooler water temperatures during the summer months. This means largemouth and catfish can often be found fairly shallow during the summer, especially at night. Stripers, on the other hand, will stay just under that warm layer of water that forms in lakes during summer. Sunfish like bluegill will spawn in June and both channel catfish and flathead catfish spawn into July. Catfishing can be less fruitful during the first several weeks of the catfish spawn. So if your favorite catfish hole is seemingly stingy during late June and into July, this may be why. The cats will come back strong during late July and on through the fall. Sunfish are usually grouped up again by late June, and usually will hit anything like a worm or corn with authority.
Flows fluctuate quickly in the stretch of the river. Many anglers prefer not to navigate the river when less than one unit is being released from Davis Dam. Check the projected releases before your trip.
Lake Mead – Rating:
As of mid-May, the lake level was at 1,083 feet. This is a couple feet higher than it was last year at this time. Summer fishing at Mead can be phenomenal. Almost anyone can spend a summer night anchored off a point on the main lake and catch a few striped bass and channel catfish. However, if you do your homework, you can catch an ice-chest full of stripers and cats in a night. What do you look for? Like I mentioned, stripers like to stay in the cooler water during summer. They are constantly on the move and love to ambush threadfin shad from below almost like a shark hunts seals. So you want to find a spot that has deep water real close to a shallow reef or point. The shad will feel safer on the shallow point and the stripers can still ambush them from the deep water. Fishing under a crappie light during dark nights will concentrate the shad and stripers around you. Cut anchovies and squid is typically the bait of choice, though mackerel and shrimp can work well too. Channel catfish are often found just off those same areas mentioned and they also like to eat anchovy and squid. Mead has a large population of 5-7 pound channel cats, as well as an occasional 10-13 pounder. Water levels are very low at Lake Mead, so night fishing can be hazardous. Be sure to find your spot and figure out where all the hazards are during the daylight. The average striper coming out of Lake Mead is right at a pound, though 2-3 pounders are not uncommon.
Lake Mohave – Rating:
Mohave elevation has come up and is stable around 642. The summer forecast for Mohave is a good one for stripers. Early summer anglers have had good success in most areas fished, from off the back of houseboats to anchored along steep cliffs. Many of the same strategies mentioned for Mead work at Lake Mohave. Striped bass at Lake Mohave are a little larger on average than their upriver cousins in Mead. Largemouth and smallmouth bass in Mohave are fewer and farther between than in Mead; however, these fish can be quite a bit larger (3 to 5 pounds). Mohave smallmouth move up to spawn earlier that the largemouth. But many largemouth tend to stay shallow during summer. Because Lake Mohave is so clear, being quiet and sneaky in your approach to potential largemouth haunts is critical. Very long casts help as well. Lake Mohave has a very good population of channel catfish as well. The backs of coves at night can yield nice stringers of catfish using anchovies. Willow Beach is known for record stripers during summer. These big fish are drawn to the area because of stocked rainbow trout. Any trout imitation lures trolled or cast has a chance at hooking a 30-60-plus pound striper. Often the biggest fish are caught during the hottest part of the day. Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery stocks 12-13-inch rainbow trout at Willow Beach every week. Trout fishing should remain good at Willow Beach several days after a stocking.
Lake Powell – Rating:
Lees Ferry – Rating:
Colorado River Southwest
Alamo Lake – Rating:
Just like the weather, the largemouth bass fishing should be hot this summer on Alamo Lake! Throughout the entire spring, Alamo Lake has probably had the best bass fishing in the entire state. There were several reports from the spring of 5-fish bag limits with more than 20 pounds of bass and I wouldn’t expect much to change during the summer. The past October’s survey was dominated by bass of less than 10 inches but there should be plenty of larger bass available to catch. The toughest part of catching the bigger bass in Alamo may be getting your bait away from the smaller bass or “wolf pack” as anglers have begun to call them. Water temperatures should rise from high-70s in early June to 80s by the end of August which should allow fishing to stay good throughout the entire summer. As the weather warms, the top-water fishing should pick up, which can be some of the most exciting action of the year. The best strategy for fishing bass would be to start fishing at the crack of dawn with top-water lures, then move to reaction baits, like crankbaits or spinnerbaits, then fish deeper and slower with plastics such as drop shot rigs as the morning progresses.
Black crappie fishing should be continue to be good this summer, though it may not be as fast and furious as anglers experienced most of the spring. All spring there were numerous reports of 30 to 40 fish days of crappies ranging in size from 9 to 16 inches with the possibility of even larger fish. The best strategy for crappie fishing may be to night fish with lights to both catch good numbers of fish and get out of the heat of the day. Trolling jigs tipped with minnows or small crankbaits in 10-25 feet of water, especially near cover, should produce during the morning and late in the day. For something different, try anchoring in deeper water during the night, deploying underwater lights, which attract bait and crappies, and then using jigs tipped with bait to catch crappies.
Channel catfish will be good to excellent throughout the summer. Just anchor near cover and use any of the prepared catfish baits as well as chicken livers or stink bait, or other baits like hot dogs or shrimp.
There are other fish present such as bluegill, redear sunfish, tilapia and common carp that are a lot of fun to catch. Many types of baits should work for these species.
Lake Havasu and Topock Gorge – Rating:
The largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing should continue to be great. As with most of the waterbodies in the southwest portion of Arizona, the biggest issue with fishing on Lake Havasu during this period will be the extremely hot daytime temperatures. Fishing during the early morning or even night may be the best way to avoid the 100-plus degrees days. Lake Havasu continues to be ranked as one of the top-25 places to fish for bass in the country! Fishing was great all spring: Tournament anglers 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. Last year’s electrofishing survey conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife showed 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. Fishing should continue to be great as the water temperatures warm up from the upper lower 70s in early June to the upper 80s later in the summer.
To catch largemouth bass, use top-water lures such as frogs or walk-the-dog type of baits, or reaction baits like spinnerbaits or crankbaits in the early morning and then switch to jigs, crankbaits, or swimbaits as the day progresses. Some of the best plastic baits for Havasu are weightless Texas-rigged Ikas, Roboworms on a dropshot rig, or weightless Texas-rigged seinkos. For largemouths, it is generally best to fish around structure such as weedbeds, emergent vegetation, boat docks, or artificial habitat.
As the summer progresses, smallmouths will generally move deeper and will require anglers to fish different locations than largemouths. For smallmouth bass it is usually best to fish rocky points, ridges, shorelines, or canyons. Most people use top-water lures, lipless crankbaits or jigs in the mornings and evenings. During the day try crankbaits, plastic worms or “creature” baits such as fake crawdads. Many of the same baits work for both large and smallmouth bass.
Striper fishing was fairly tough throughout most of the winter and early spring, though it had been getting better during the late spring. We have been getting a few more reports of limits of stripers, though the limits have been tending to consist mostly of fish around 12 inches. There is still a chance of catching a 15-plus pound fish, but not as good as in years past. Using live shad for bait is a good bet any time of the year. As the summer progresses, stripers will probably be moving to deeper water and cooler water, as their temperature tolerances are not as high bass, sunfish, or catfish, so fishing on the bottom or trolling with live shad or cut anchovies should be a good bet. As always, when fishing early in the morning, always keep an eye out for “boils” or where birds are actively feeding is going to be your best bet for some exciting action for some fast and furious action. Use top-water lures, spoons, or swimbaits that resemble shad to take advantage of these boils. A good strategy to escape the heat during the day would be to night fish with dead bait for stripers. When doing this, anchor on a point near a drop off and fish with cut anchovies or threadfin shad. To increase your chances of success, bring some underwater lights to attract both bait and stripers.
The redear sunfish fishing in Lake Havasu should continue to be world class, and the summer should provide some great fishing! Lake Havasu continues to host the state and world record for redear sunfish with a monster of 5 pounds and 12.8 ounces caught back in 2014. Redear sunfish in the 2-pound range and larger are regularly caught: During our 2017 fall survey we captured several fish of more than 3 pounds. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, night crawlers, or small crappie jigs.
Channel catfishing is a great fishery in Lake Havasu that is generally underutilized by anglers. Lake Havasu has the potential to produce some very large fish; and in fact, a pending Colorado River catch-and-release record channel catfish was just caught in Lake Havasu in early May. Several fish of similar size were harvested during the ongoing, year round creel survey of Lake Havasu, which means this possible new record could be broken relatively quickly. Channel catfish are widespread in the lake and can be caught using nightcrawlers, anchovies, chicken liver, stink bait or about anything that “stinks.” Fishing for channel catfish will get better as the spring progresses and the water warms.
Flathead catfish are relatively uncommon in the upper part of the lake, but much more abundant in the lower half, especially in the vicinity of the Bill Williams River arm of the reservoir. Flatheads can be caught any time of the year but your best bet will be at night during May. For flathead catfish, it is best to use live bait such as bluegill or small common carp.
Large carp are abundant in the lake and can provide some exciting fishing. Twenty to 25-pound carp are not uncommon. Most people use canned corn or dough balls
Colorado River – Rating:
Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing should be better in the Parker Strip than it has been for several years. Our Region 4 aquatic wildlife program caught abundant bass in the 2 to 4 pound range in November of 2017 survey. As a general rule, smallmouth bass are more common in upstream stretch of river towards Parker Dam and decrease in abundance as you progress down the river, whereas largemouth are the opposite in that they are more common in the lower sections of river near Headgate Rock Dam and decrease in abundance as you progress upstream. The middle stretches should offer a multi-species fishing opportunity that few places in Arizona can match. Fishing for both species should pick up as the water temperatures warm up from March to May.
Largemouth bass fishing should be best in slackwater areas with aquatic vegetation such as Bullrush or around boat docks. There are many different techniques used for largemouth bass. As a general rule, most people will use top-water lures such as frogs, buzzbaits, or walk the dog type of baits or spinnerbaits in the early morning and then switch to jigs, crankbaits, or swimbaits as the day progresses. Using plastic baits that resemble worms, crawdads, frogs, or lizards often work well.
Smallmouth bass fishing should be best near slackwater areas, rocky points or docks. Many of the same baits and techniques used for largemouth bass will be effective for smallmouth bass as well.
Redear sunfish are also widespread but are most likely to be found around aquatic vegetation in slackwater areas. In the November 2017 survey we captured numerous redear to in the 1 to 2 pound range with a few close to 3 pounds. This underutilized fishery could provide lots of fun for anglers willing to try something different. Redear will bite on meal worms, nightcrawlers or small crappie jigs.
Colorado River (Imperial Divisions and Associated Backwaters) – Rating:
Largemouth bass fishing should continue to be very good in the Imperial Division of the Colorado River. During the Fall of 2017, the Arizona Game and Fish Department surveyed the backwaters of the Imperial Division, where we found abundant medium sized bass and several over 5 pounds, including a very nice bass that measured at 23.4 inches and 8.2 pounds! The general rule for electrofishing catch was the bigger and deeper the backwater, the more fish we would catch. This healthy population has the ability to produce 5-fish tournament bag limit of more than 20 pounds all summer long.
To target largemouth bass in the Imperial Division of the Colorado River, focus in the backwaters or near the mouth of the backwaters around structure such as weedbeds, emergent vegetation, tree stumps, brush, or boat docks. There are many different techniques used for largemouth bass. As a general rule, most people will use top-water lures such as frogs, buzzbaits or in the early morning and then switch to jigs, crankbaits, or swimbaits as the day progresses. Using plastic baits that resemble worms, crawdads, frogs, or lizards often work well. Fishing should continue to be good all summer long, even as the water temperatures creep into the low 90s in the backwaters late in the summer.
The summer is prime time for flatheads! The flathead catfish population of the Imperial Division continues to be very healthy and fishing should continue to be some of the best in the entire state. During the 2017 spring electrofishing survey abundant “eater” sized fish under 10 pounds and several trophy-sized fish of more than 40 pounds were sampled. Throughout the duration of our survey it was hard to find a stretch of river that didn’t hold a flathead or two, but flathead fishing will generally be best in slack water areas, deep holes, or near overhanging vegetation along the main channel of the river and the fishing will generally be best at night. Flatheads prefer live bait such as sunfish or small common carp. Be sure to bring some heavy tackle with you: an 89.2-pound river monster was sampled by electrofishing and released back into the lower Imperial Division of the Colorado River back in 2008.
Channel catfish are widespread in the main river channel and backwaters and will bite on nightcrawlers, chicken liver, stinkbait, or about any other “smelly” bait. They can be caught year-round but probably bite best at night.
Bluegill and redear sunfish are also widespread but are most likely to be found around structure in the backwaters or slack-water areas. Bluegill and redear will bite on meal worms, night crawlers or small crappie jig.
Mittry Lake Rating:
Mittry Lake can be a bit frustrating at times, especially for bass fishermen; the bass are sometimes finicky, and it can be challenging to bring any in on some days. Other days, the bite can be wide open. Changing weather, including wind, often brings on the bite. There are plenty of bass in the lake, with a few in the eight to 10-pound range, and occasionally larger. The department’s 2017 fall survey caught good numbers of bass of all sizes, indicating there should be plenty of bass for anglers to catch. Smaller bass should provide good fishing for anglers in the future. Bass should be active and in shallow water during this period. The most successful anglers will start fishing at the crack of dawn with top-water lures, then move to reaction baits, like crankbaits or spinnerbaits, then fish deeper and slower with plastics such as drop shot rigs as the morning progresses.
There is also a very healthy population of catfish in Mittry Lake. Channel catfish are the most numerous, but there are also a number of flathead catfish, which can reach weights of 30 to 40 pounds here, perhaps even larger. Flatheads prefer live bait such as sunfish or small common carp and fishing is best at night when the water temperature is more than 70 degrees. Channel catfish are widespread throughout the lake, and will bite on nightcrawlers, chicken liver or prepared stinkbaits. They are occasionally caught by bass fishermen on plastics, spinners and even crankbaits. They can be caught year-round, but nighttime fishing during the summer is probably the most effective.
Sunfish species are abundant in Mittry Lake. Bluegill and redear can be caught around structure such as docks, vegetation, or artificial structure using mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs
Yuma Ponds* (Fortuna, Council Ave., West Wetlands, Redondo) – Rating:
The fishing in all Yuma-area community fishing waters should be good from June until August. Bluegill sunfish were stocked in late April and channel catfish were stocked in April and May, and will be stocked again in June. Based on the small number of fish, we have been seeing harvested down here from April to May, there should be plenty of sunfish and catfish for anglers to catch throughout the summer. For bluegill, use mealworms, nightcrawlers, or small crappie jigs under a bobber. To catch catfish try nightcrawlers, anchovies, hot dogs, chicken liver or prepared stink baits fished on the bottom.
*Community fishing lakes