Williams is a small Arizona town with big fishing potential.
This popular gateway to the Grand Canyon is located on the famed Route 66 and just under an hour west of Flagstaff.
What it lacks in population and city life, you might say Williams makes up for by having so many excellent fishing holes in and around town.
Tucked amid the Kaibab National Forest, the area is punctuated with small reservoirs, some not much bigger than a city lot and others large enough that a boat will get you to the best fishing.
Without further delay, what follows are some of the best fishing spots near Williams. We’ve listed them alphabetically for ease of use.
Brown and rainbow trout are some of the major draws for anglers at this lake near Williams.
The lake also supports warmwater game fish, including largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie and bluegill.
The rainbows are usually stocked as legal-sized fish in the spring. They may join brown trout that might be stocked as younger fish during the fall and grow over the winter months.
Spring is the top time of year if you’re after trout, although holdovers will perk up again when the weather starts to cool in the fall.
Bass, panfish and catfish will help provide action during the summer. The channel cats are occasionally stocked here to boost the fishing prospects, according to AZGFD.
A good place to start your trip is the Cataract Lake County Park at the west end of the lake. The Forest Service also has a day-use fishing and picnic area at the east end.
Ice that might form her in the winter is typically unsafe to walk on.
The lake is just five minutes west of Williams on Cataract Lake Road, which goes under Interstate 40 to the lake just on the other side.
This small reservoir in the forest just south of Williams is nicely stocked with rainbow trout and often channel catfish in the spring or early summer when fishing is best.
Trout fishing may perk up again in the fall as the water cools off again.
Brown trout also have been stocked here at times, and the lake also is home to smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and green sunfish that will bite best in warmer months.
There is parking and the easiest bank access at Buckskinner Park on the north end of the lake next to the dam. You can launch a small boat, but only electric motors are allowed.
To get there, just head south on S. Sixth Street to the lake. That road to the reservoir is likely to be closed during the winter when fishing is at its slowest here.
This lake southeast of Williams offers some very good trout fishing in a pretty Ponderosa pine forest.
The lake is nicely stocked throughout the spring and usually several times more in late summer. Younger brown trout also have been planted here at times in the fall so they can grow to catchable size by the following season.
Spring to early summer and perhaps again when the weather starts to cool again heading into fall should be productive for trout.
The reservoir also has populations of warm-water fish, including largemouth bass, black crappie and bluegill.
The lake is about 50 acres in size, perfect for kayaks and electric-powered boats. Gas motors are not allowed. Bank access also is available.
Overnighters can reserve a campsite at Dogtown Lake Campground, which is open seasonally. Day use is available at Davenport Hill Trailhead on the east end.
The roads into the lake may be too snow-covered at times for winter access.
This little trout lake is a fun spot to catch and release rainbow and brown trout in a forested setting a half-hour drive and quarter-mile walk southeast of Williams.
You can only use artificial flies and lures here, with a single-point, barbless hook. You may not keep any trout to promote a strictly sport fishery with larger trout.
The deeper east end of this lake isn’t much bigger than a football field.
You’ll get there on E. Prairie Edge Road, then Fire Road 11, and finally, a walk through the woods to the lake shore. Those roads may be impassable during periods of heavy snowfall.
J.D. Dam Lake
This small reservoir in the Kaibab National Forest is managed as a catch-and-release trout-fishing water.
You have a shot at catching good-sized rainbow, brown, and even tiger trout (a sterile hybrid of brook trout and brown trout).
It’s located about 4 miles from the previously mentioned Elk Tank and about a 40-minute drive southeast of Williams. It has similar rules requiring artificial flies and lures with single, barbless hooks.
You can drive pretty much right up to J.D. Dam Lake.
This beautiful high-elevation lake is a fishing and camping favorite in this part of Arizona.
The 85-acre lake is generously stocked with trout from early spring into September. The heaviest plantings are in the spring when trout fishing for rainbows and browns will be at its annual best.
You also can catch largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie and bluegill at Kaibab Lake, which is in the Kaibab National Forest northeast of Williams. The channel cats are sometimes stocked.
The lake is close enough to the Grand Canyon to make a pleasant base camp for travelers from about May through September.
And it’s just 10 minutes from Williams for any supplies you need during your stay beyond what the small concessionaire offers lakeside.
Visitors can launch a boat or fish from shore or a fishing pier.
Check the Kaibab Lake Campground webpage for seasonal camping information.
This small forest lake in the Kaibab National Forest is managed for large brown trout.
Anglers must use artificial flies and lures only, and a barbless single hook.
Middle Lake is in the same general area as previously mentioned Elk Tank and J.D. Dam lakes, about an hour outside of Williams.
Expect a short hike through the woods after traversing Forest Service roads.
This is another small fly fishing pond in the Kaibab National Forest.
It’s managed for large catch-and-release trout fishing.
Perkins Tank has at times been stocked with hatchery-reared brown, brook or rainbow trout and even Arctic grayling at times. Exactly what is stocked may vary from year to year.
The Northern Arizona Flycasters assist AZGFD with the management of the 3.5-acre pond.
Perkins Tank is a short hike off East Prairie Edge Road about a half hour southeast o Williams.
Santa Fe Lake
This small reservoir offers easy fishing near the southern edge of Williams, with quick access via S. 4th Street (Perkinsville Road).
The lake is stocked with keeper rainbow trout in the spring and a bit smaller brown trout in the fall, as the latter can grow during the colder months into nice-sized fish by spring.
Catfish also are often stocked here, especially during the spring.
You might also catch include black crappie and yellow perch in the lake, built as a steam engine-filling spot back in the day.
Small boats are allowed on the 3-acre reservoir, but only non-motorized watercraft or those powered only with single electric motors.
Parking and an unimproved launch area are located near the dam at the north end of the reservoir.
Stone Dam Lake
This small reservoir about 16 miles west of Williams has populations of largemouth bass, channel catfish and panfish such as crappie and bluegill.
The 10-acre lake is fairly undeveloped, but you can carry a small watercraft to the shore to launch during daylight hours, as long as you don’t have a gas motor on it.
The lake has been stocked at times, though not during the summer months when water conditions are too warm.
To get there, take Interstate 40 (Route 66) west to Exit 149. Take 6E to a left turn at Forest Service Road 6E. The latter is an unimproved road of less than a mile to the lakeshore near the dam.
This lake, a 40-minute drive from Williams, these days is most popularly fished for warmwater species such as largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.
AZGFD halted trout stocking in the lake because it tended to get too warm and is focusing on making it a spot where anglers can catch larger bass.
The lake, which is in the Kaibab National Forest, hosts the White Horse Lake Campground.
While boats are allowed, the only legal motor is a single electric model.
There’s a boat launch at the north end of the lake, and bank anglers can get just about anywhere on a trail that encircles Whitehorse.