Lake Pleasant Fishing Guide

Great fishing destination at Lake Pleasant in Phoenix, Arizona.

If you live in Phoenix, Arizona, and would like to try fishing, you can visit Lake Pleasant, an hour’s drive from that city. It is an artificial lake built in 1927 on the Agua Fria River. A deep lake channel characterizes it with various coves and fertile river arms. This lake is situated between the villages of Speculator and Lake Pleasant. It is both a cold and warm water fishery, and its large size and remarkable depth are perfect for recreational fishing. 

Lake Pleasant belongs to the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, a large recreational area that straddles the northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. It serves as a primary recreational hub for Phoenix’s northwest metropolitan area. Of course, the cornerstone of this regional park is Lake Pleasant, a 40km² artificial lake. Lake pleasant is habitat for various fish species like striped bass, white bass, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and many others.

Short History of Lake Pleasant

There was no Lake Pleasant before, save for the Agua Fria River. Then, the Carl Pleasant Dam got constructed in 1927, which gave birth to Lake Pleasant. Its original surface area then was 15-km². 1n 1994, the Waddell Dam was completed, tripling the surface area of Lake Pleasant while submerging the older Carl Pleasant Dam. 

The lake reached its full capacity in 2005. Agua Fria River still feeds the lake. Yet, the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct, constructed in 1973, diverted water to the lake from the Colorado River and became the primary water source for Lake Pleasant. Lake Pleasant then became valuable for both irrigation and recreation purposes.

As the Lake Pleasant grew in surface area, it also became a fertile habitat for various fish species, including the Florida-strain largemouth, crappie, striped bass, white bass, and catfish.

Lake Pleasant has produced state records for the white bass species. The white bass in Lake Pleasant has a good story behind it. It started in the 1960s, during which time the Arizonan Game and Fishing Department began stocking Lake Pleasant with white bass for added fun for the state’s anglers. However, not one of the stockers ever showed up for several years on stringers. 

The department has almost considered the project a failure. Yet, all of a sudden, there were catches reports of white bass. Nowadays, you can catch white bass in locations like Humbug Creek, where the water often turns a bit frothy due to white bass chasing shads. 

Aside from record white bass, you will also catch record-breaking largemouth bass and white crappie at the lake. Yet, you will indeed find catching bluegill at the lake the best fishing experience there. 

Environment and Topography of Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant exhibits cyclical depth fluctuations, which means its depth changes from day to day. The water of the lake rises and falls. Hence, islands may appear and disappear over time. This means you will see timber sink and emerge from the surface, and fish tends to move well from one point to another. 

Over the years, the lake has changed, and it has tripled in size since the New Waddell Dam got built. At present, Lake Pleasant is already 10,000 acres in area and about 200-foot deep. Underneath the waters lies the old dam. 

The lake and the surrounding areas constitute the Lake Pleasant Regional Park. You will also find the Hohokam Puebloans village not far from the lake, inhabited by the Hohokam Indians long before the dam got built. The park covers around 9340-km², consisting of a mountainous desert landscape. The north view of the Lake Pleasant includes the Bradshaw mountains.

The surface area of lake Pleasant consists of three water zones. The water is clear near the marina and dam, where the CAP canal’s mouth gets located. Besides, the water there is highly oxygenated. Near the old, submerged dam, the middle lake is replete with small islands, coves, and reefs. The water there is deep and clear. The third zone includes drainages and upstream channels. Besides, the water covers the submerged vegetation and forest and is nutrient-rich, shallow, and turbid.

Main Entrance and North Entrance

State Route 74 is two miles south of the main entrance to Lake Pleasant. Access Lake Pleasant via the Castle Hot Springs Road. This main entrance offers access to its visitor center, staff headquarters, a ten-lane boat ramp, and the campgrounds (Desert Tortoise and Roadrunner). 

You can also access the park from its north entrance, situated three miles beyond the main park entrance via the Castle Hot Springs Road. Furthermore, you can find there two restroom facilities, a four-lane boat ramp, a shoreline camping site, and a picnic area.

Falling and Rising Waterline

Many people thought before that the falling and rising of the waterline of the lake would be detrimental to the aquatic environment and fish in that lake. Yet, instead of hurting the marine environment, it rather enhances it. During autumn, CAP water gets delivered into the lake, which, in turn, raises its water levels. 

This new water supply floods the established vegetation, further enriching the lake’s nutrient levels. This water level remains stable during the spring, allowing the bass to spawn. 

As the end of the spring comes, the water level begins to fall because of the higher downstream demands. This diminishing water level readily exposes shoreline plants, bushes, and grasses to allow new foliage and covers for fish. This water-level cycle gets repeated annually. This changing water level implies that the honey holes of anglers will change more often from day to day. 

Thus, it will be a great challenge if you want to load up a stringer because of this changing waterline. Besides, due to the rising and falling of the waterline, you may find islands where there were none before. Moreover, fish keep moving to forage in new locations because of this ever-changing waterline.

Fishing Opportunities 

The falling and rising of the lake’s waterline expanded the fishing experience of fishers and anglers. As the water rises, fishers are now provided with new excellent spots to start catching fish. Strategic structures that were once difficult to find become available due to rising water. 

Auspiciously submerged timber and brush and flooded vegetation offer nutrient-rich covers for the food chain. Some of the favorite spots of anglers include the Humbug Creek, Castle Creek, Honeymoon Coves, and Cole’s Wash. 

Popular Fish Species of Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant’s aquatic environment has greatly enriched itself over time. At present, you will find an array of fish species thriving in its waters. Anglers also have experienced great catches, including trophy-size yields at the lake, and the variety of fish species has dramatically increased. You can catch largemouth bass, black crappie, channel catfish, bluegill, white crappie, tilapia, red-ear sunfish, striped bass, and white bass. 

Besides, there are a few good fisheries in the lake that harbor brown trout, chain pickerel, smallmouth bass, as well as yellow perch. These small fisheries have improved in the previous decades due to the introduction and growing smelt population. 

You will also occasionally catch walleyes, though walleye fishing in the lake has declined slightly. New walleye stocks have been introduced into the lake to replenish its population. 

However, the lake’s smelt population has dramatically increased, and this population is sought after by ice fishers. Besides, there is a sizeable brown trout population, but they are quite a challenge to catch. You will also catch largemouth bass in the weedy locations of the lake. The smallmouth bass, however, can be found anywhere in the lake.  

Useful Fishing Tips at Lake Pleasant

The temperature of the lake usually varies from season to season. Over the year, the temperature ranges from 8°F to 75°F, and according to the tourism score, it will be best to visit the lake from June to August for warm-weather activities. The rule of thumb is the warmer the lake’s water is, the shallower the different locations of fish species will be. Yet, year-round, you can fish at the lake. 

You can catch striped bass in deep waters, circling deep standing timber or along drop-offs to the river channels. They usually enter the shallower waters during spring. 

On the other hand, largemouth bass fishing is best during the transitional season between winter and spring. You will find them heavily feeding in shallow waters during warming trends. The largemouth bass would usually spawn when the water temperature crosses the 60°F point.

Although the introduction of striped bass has impacted the largemouth and crappie population, you will still find tons of crappie in the lake. Spring is the ideal time for catching crappie and get a good bite around brush and timber from the months from February to May. 

Catfish fishing also thrives in the lake. The Agua Fria Arm is best for catching catfish, though you can still catch them anywhere in the lake.

You can likewise catch white bass in the lake’s open waters. They spawn during spring, and you can catch them alongside crappie. Castle Creek is the best target place for white bass. You can use spinnerbaits to cover lots of water and fish at varying speeds. You can also drag a worm or use a split-shot rig setup if you’re a non-boater fisherman.


If you want to while away your time away from the maddening monotony and crowd of the city, you can always visit Lake Pleasant. Lake Pleasant is remarkable for its beauty and surrounding. Besides, you can try your hand at many recreational activities available at the Lake Pleasant Recreational Park. 

But most significantly, you can try your hand at fishing there. Lake pleasant maintains stocking policies of having approximately 29,000 walleyes, 2,100 lake trout, and brown trout. This stocking allows anglers to enjoy and succeed in getting bigger catches in the lake.

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