Fishing in Arizona’s White Mountains

“Is it hot enough for you today?” This is the obligatory question that Valley residents often ask one another during the sweltering days of summer. But friendly greetings in Arizona’s White Mountains often start with, “What’s got the fish biting today?”

Just over three hours from the deserts of Phoenix and Tucson, the White Mountains are home to cool summer climes and fishing nirvana. The White Mountains are a true fisherman’s paradise. In fact, several state fishing records have been set in many of the area’s pristine freshwater lakes and streams. Trout are the most prevalent species, with rainbow, brown and brook trout the most abundant. The White Mountain Apache trout is found on the West Fork of the Black River, one of the few areas in Arizona and the only place in the world where these trout exist.

Peaceful, cool fishing in Arizona's White Mountains

Peaceful, cool fishing in Arizona’s White Mountains

Truly talented anglers, or perhaps the lucky, may also find themselves hooking some large- and small-mouth bass, catfish or even sunfish. In fact, several long-standing state fishing records have been caught in this region. Using only a worm and his trusted fishing pole, a 9-year-old boy landed a huge Apache Trout, weighing in at nearly six pounds, at Hurricane Lake. This youngster’s catch has held the record since it was set in 1995. Better yet, the young man set this record from shore without using a boat!

From novice to experienced, all anglers in the White Mountains enjoy dramatic pine and fir forests, dotted with dramatic aspens. The scenery is the perfect backdrop for any fishing, whether you are reeling them in or not. The landscape may be the reason that, throughout the year, fishing never stops. Late spring, summer and fall angling is popular across the region. Winter ice fishing varies from lake to streams and is not for the faint of heart. Boats are generally restricted to electric motors or canoes.

Before dreaming of your big catch, make sure your paperwork is in order. A valid Arizona fishing license is required at all state lakes and streams. Licenses are managed by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish and can be purchased online at or from an approved dealer. If you are going to cast away on a lake located on the White Mountain Apache reservation, tribal fishing licenses are also required. They are easily purchased throughout the area at sports shops, convenience stores and gas stations. Fishing license prices vary upon status of residency—yes, Arizona residents catch a break—and age of angler. There are fishing licenses valid for one day and up to one full year. It is best to fish with the appropriate documents tucked safely in your tackle box. Fines can be quite steep for those caught without valid paperwork.

With a fully stocked picnic basket and your trusted fishing pole, you might just be one of the lucky ones who knows just how to answer the question, “What’s got the fish biting today?”

mgt6AdminFishing in Arizona’s White Mountains