With steep rock walls, long, sloping points, and an abundance of vertical timber, Alamo Lake is the kind of place that can keep an angler busy for a lifetime.
It’s one of the best fishing destinations in Western Arizona, though it’s often overshadowed by nearby lakes Havasu and Mohave.
Alamo Lake is best known for its bass fishing, and tournaments are a common occurrence. It’s also one of Arizona’s best crappie lakes and an underrated catfish spot.
Created with the completion of the Alamo Dam in 1968, Alamo Lake is a midsized reservoir on the Bill Williams River, just below the confluence of the Big Sandy and Santa Maria rivers. The lake spans a little over 3,500 acres.
Alamo Lake is about 90 feet deep at full pool—relatively shallow compared to some of Arizona’s large reservoirs—though its level has been known to fluctuate wildly. Lake levels are most consistent from winter into spring, and the lake typically falls to its lowest level in late summer.
It’s not only a productive fishing lake but a beautiful one. Surrounded by rugged desert hills, the lake is situated just north of the Rawhide Mountain Wilderness, and the distant peaks make a fitting backdrop for a day of fishing at Alamo Lake.
The spawning season for many fish species coincides with the period when the hills around Alamo Lake bloom with spring wildflowers. It’s not uncommon to see bald and golden eagles circling overhead while mule deer and wild burros graze nearby.
Alamo Lake is a generally oval-shaped reservoir (albeit one with numerous coves and cuts along the bank). It’s oriented northeast to southwest, with the dam to the southwest and the upper end of the lake to the northeast.
As you get your bearings here, keep in mind that water clarity often plays a huge role in the fishing on Alamo Lake and that the amount of sediment in the water varies seasonally and from one part of the lake to another.
At times Alamo Lake can look like a chocolate milkshake at its uppermost end, while at the same time having upwards of 15 feet of clarity down by the dam.
Another thing to keep in mind: thick, woody cover is the norm on Alamo Lake. You’ll lose some fish and probably a few lures among the brush and timber.
It’s a good idea to use somewhat heavier line than usual, and choose lures with weedless hooks whenever possible.
Alamo Lake harbors an abundant population of largemouth bass. Bass measuring 12 to 16 inches and weighing a pound or two are most common, but there are big bass out there too.
Alamo lake kicks out enough 5-pound bass to keep things interesting, and even a 10-pounder shows up every now and then. Overall, though, fishing here is more of a numbers game.
And as is often the case on Arizona lakes, the best time to fish is spring.
Largemouths in Alamo Lake typically start out the late winter/early spring period around drop-offs that lead to shallow flats. Look for them between 20 and 40 feet.
As spring progresses and the water warms up into the 60s—usually in March—bass will spawn in less than 10 feet of water, primarily along south-facing banks on the northwestern shore of Alamo Lake. All the cuts and washes along the northwestern shore can be great this time of year and continue to be productive into summer.
Post-spawn largemouths often spend the late spring and summer months moving up and down main lake points, feeding in relatively shallow water in the morning and evening, and seeking out shade at midday near rock walls, ledges and pieces of timber that cast a shadow.
Speaking of timber, Alamo Lake has a lot of it. No matter the season, standing timber is always worth a few casts. There are several large patches of timber out in the middle of the lake that are frequented by bass.
There are a lot of ways to fish that timber. When the upper branches are exposed, as they often are in summer and fall, try tossing a tube jig, wacky-rigged Senko, jig, or Texas-rigged creature bait close to the trees and let it sink.
Scooting a weedless frog or a buzzbait across the surface can draw explosive strikes as well. There’s not much aquatic vegetation in Alamo Lake, so bass tend to hold tight to timber and brush.
Early and late in the day, topwater action is often where it’s at.
When water is high, the trees may be mostly or completely submerged. That being the case, try retrieving a swimbait over the treetops or tickling the tips of the branches with a spinnerbait.
Threadfin shad make the biggest part of the bass’ diet in Alamo Lake, so broadly speaking, shad-imitating lures do very well. During pre- and post-spawn, try shad-pattern crankbaits along points, ledges and drop-offs.
Fat crankbaits with a bit of chartreuse seem to work very well here. Some days, crawfish patterns are better. You never know. Alamo Lake does have a lot of crawfish in it, and bass have been known to target them, as well as juvenile bluegill.
As great as Alamo Lake can be for bass fishing, there are times when it’s even better for crappie. In fact, it’s one of the very best crappie lakes in Arizona. This lake offers a chance to catch incredible numbers of crappie, and there’s also a solid shot at trophy-sized fish.
Early in the season, crappie tend to be fairly deep. Look for them in 30 to 40 feet in winter from February into March.
But in spring, crappie flock toward shallow brush to spawn, and Alamo lake offers consistently good fishing in 10- to 20-foot depths from late March through May.
The heat of summer can make catching crappie challenging, but there’s another period of good fishing from fall into early winter. As the lake cools and its levels rise, a lot of crappie are caught from October into December.
The mid-lake areas of standing timber are great places to find crappie as well as bass. Slowly trolling live minnows and small jigs over submerged timber is highly effective.
Roadrunner jigs and Beetle Spins account for a lot of big crappie as well, especially when there’s some stain to the water.
That being said, coves, cuts and washes all along the shoreline of Alamo Lake are filled with trees and brush that can hold crappie. These fish love woody cover, and they have a lot of options to choose from here.
Practically any brush pile has potential during springtime. The best approach is to motor from one area of brush to the next, and slowly troll over each one until you start getting bites.
Once you do, switch from trolling to casting. Live minnows and various small jigs can be effective. Some days, a gradual stop-and-start retrieve works best. Other times—especially when there’s a little chop on the water—suspending your bait beneath a float works better.
Alamo Lake can get a bit windy, so use caution, especially when fishing around timber at the surface. Some anglers use a drift sock to keep their boat in place. It can also be a lot of fun to explore the shallow coves in a kayak or float tube.
One area that’s always worth a few casts is the buoy line just off the shore at Alamo Lake State Park. There’s a series of buoys and several brush piles near the Cholla Boat Ramp, and some days you don’t have to go any farther than that to catch crappie.
The chunk-rock shoreline along the dam at the southwestern end of the lake is another prime fishing spot.
The Bill Williams Dam is an earthfill dam, and its entire length is lined with large rocks that attract fish. It’s common to catch a mixed bag of bass and crappie here.
Catch More Crappie
Check out these articles to get the most out of your crappie fishing time in Arizona:
There are plenty of channel cats in Alamo Lake. Although this lake isn’t particularly known for producing giant catfish, you can catch consistent numbers of smaller fish here.
Expect most of the catfish to weigh a pound or two, which is perfect for eating, along with the occasional fish in the 5 to 10-pound range.
Channel catfish are bottom-feeders by nature. They hunt using their senses of smell and taste much more than their eyesight and will often gobble up any smelly, natural bait that catches their attention.
Chicken livers, nightcrawlers, shrimp, shad, anchovies and various dough baits are all effective. Use a sinker to keep your bait close to the bottom.
Catfish provide some of the best shore fishing opportunities at Alamo Lake. They’re most active at night, and many anglers target them from dusk until well after dark.
Cats tend to bite well at night any time from spring through fall, but spend their days amid thick cover in deep water.
The cuts and coves along the northwest shore of Alamo Lake are some of the best catfishing spots. In spring when the water is up, look for them near any of the little feeder creeks that enter the lake in this area.
The deepest cove on the lake is known as Andrews Wash, and it’s on the western shore near the dam. This is a great area to find catfish, as they can easily transition from deep midday haunts to shallow night time hunting grounds via the steep drop-offs and ledges in this area.
There are some good spots along the southern shore too, between Chai Cove and Spencers Wash. This stretch has a lot of submerged structure, including flooded trees, rocky drop-offs and even some old road beds.
Catch More Catfish
While Alamo Lake is a very solid destination for catching good numbers of channel cats, we’ve compiled the very best catfish fishing lakes and rivers in Arizona for you to check out.
And, of course, if you want to catch catfish, you’ll be wanting to read up on all the best baits and techniques for catfish fishing.
Other Fish Species
Alamo Lake has populations of several additional fish species. While not as sought-after by most anglers, these other fish can also be a lot of fun to catch.
Alamo Lake is a great “mixed bag” fishery, where you never know just what will be on the end of your line.
Bluegill and Sunfish
Alamo Lake has a substantial bluegill population, along with smaller populations of green sunfish and redear sunfish.
Though they seldom exceed a pound in weight, bluegill and sunfish bite readily and put up a great fight on ultralight tackle.
Look for bluegill and sunfish around any of Alamo Lake’s timber and brush piles, along the buoy line near the Cholla Ramp, and around the chunk-rock shoreline of the Bill Williams Dam.
Live nightcrawlers are often the best bait, but various small jigs are also effective. Pick up more bluegill and sunfish fishing tips in our simple angling guide.
Tilapia and Carp
Originally native to Africa, tilapia were introduced to Alamo Lake and a handful of other Arizona lakes in the 1960s. Wary and shy biters, they are seldom caught by hook and line, but occasionally bite on small dough balls.
Dough balls are also great bait for carp, which can often be seen patrolling shallow water in Alamo Lake, often exceeding 20 pounds.
Tilapia and carp are among the few species that the Arizona Game and Fish Department allows bow fishermen to target legally.
Planning Your Trip
Spring is arguably the best time to fish at Alamo Lake, especially for bass and crappie. That being said, summer mornings and evenings can also be productive, and there’s often a solid fall bite.
Because it’s over 2 hours from Phoenix—Lake Pleasant and the Salt River lakes are considerably closer—Alamo Lake doesn’t get as many tourists or pleasure boaters as other lakes in Arizona, many of whom continue west to Lake Havasu. Most people who come here come here to fish.
Directions to Alamo Lake
Alamo Lake is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix.
The quickest route is to head west on I-10 and then take exit 81 for Salome Road. Turn right onto US-60 East in Salome, and then hang a left on 2nd street in the community of Wenden. 2nd Street becomes Alamo Road, which eventually leads to Alamo Lake State Park.
Bank and Boat Access
The primary access to Alamo Lake is through Alamo Lake State Park, which offers three boat ramps, plenty of bank fishing access, several campgrounds, restrooms and ample parking on the southeastern shore of the lake.
The Main Ramp and nearby High Water Ramp are located toward the southwest end of the lake, not far from the dam. The Cholla Ramp, which is often the last usable ramp during times of low water, is located farther up the lakeshore.
Aside from the Dam Overlook and the park’s few facilities, the entire shoreline of Alamo lake is undeveloped. It’s all open to shore fishing, though steep banks limit access in some areas, and you need to be willing to hike a bit.
There are no marinas on the shore, and fuel is not available on the lake. The closest place to gas up is Salome, about 40 miles south.
Know Before You Go
Alamo Lake offers desert fishing at its finest. That’s a unique experience that can be a lot of fun, but it also requires some caution on the part of anglers.
Daytime temperatures often reach the 80s as early as March at Alamo Lake, and triple-digit highs are common by May. Remember to bring sun protection and plenty of drinking water, no matter what time of year you visit.
Navigating the lake by boat also necessitates some caution. There are a lot of trees, brush piles, and other potential hazards. Water levels fluctuate frequently, and standing timber is often invisible despite being just inches below the surface.
That’s part of the reason you don’t see a lot of Jet Skis and other personal watercraft here. But it’s also one of the reasons the fishing is so good. It’s a trade-off that ultimately benefits anglers, even if it forces you to slow down a bit.