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  • Big Lake is one of Arizona's highest-altitude angling destinations and features fishing that leaves you wondering if it's the 9,000-foot altitude or the fishing that leaves you breathless.

    Big Lake came to be in 1930 when a dam was constructed on the East Fork of the Black River. Part of the old Apache National Wildlife Refuge, it was originally intended as a water fowl project. Because the dam was only 10 feet high at that time, winter kills were common. To remedy the situation the Arizona Game and Fish Department doubled the height of the dam and by 1965 the lake was full.

    Anglers who prefer artificial lures might start with a Z-Ray. gold or silver finishes with some sort of red or orange coloring work extremely well. When you troll, a limit is almost a certainty if you use a brown Wooly Worm on the end of cowbells. Wet flies are a pretty good bet.. -G.J Sagi, from the travel handbook Fishing Arizona

    Big Lake also has Brook Trout and Cutthroat Trout. You can also expect to catch a great deal of craw dads if you want some appetizers. I caught a 5 gallon bucket full of them one time with my two buddies. We put some cheese and a rock in a square of gauze and tied it to some fishing line. The craw dads get there claws stuck in the gauze. You can eat them or use them for bait. -Tom
    • Big Lake is 50-percent ice-covered and there is minimal fishing from shore -- boats are not able to be launched.
  • GPS:
    The gps for Big Lake trail is Latitude: 33° 53' 4.80"N Longitude: 109° 24' 54.88"W
    Phone Numbers for more information::
    Game and Fish (928)367-4281
    Restrictions/Season of Use:
    Big Lake is open from May to November
    Road Conditions:
    Paved to dirt
    Land Ownership:
    Big Lake is owned by the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
    Ranger Station/District:
    Pinetop Game and Fish (928)3674281 or the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest at (928)333-4301
    The elevation at Big Lake is 9000 feet
    Max Surface Acres:
    Average Depth:
    The depth at Big Lake 26 ft
    Bag Limit:
    There will posted signs for bag limits on Rainbow and Apache trout
    Boat/Engine Restrictions:
    You can only have a 10 horse motor on this lake
    Boats to Rent:
    You can rent boats at Big Lake
    Big Lake has a several nearby campgrounds
    Barrier free Access:
    Trailer Spaces:
    Yes. Big Lake is a great place to bring a trailer
    Launching Area:
    Water Skiing:
  • Located in the White Mountains, Big Lake is south of Springerville off the 273. Go west on the one of the exit to get to the lake. There are a few different roads to take to the west depending on what side of the lake you want to land on. Be sure to check ahead if your going in the winter because many of the road close do to ice. The Lake is at 9,000 feet you it is fairly common. There is snow mobile access though in the winter and most of the roads are paved.
  • Several campgrounds are present right at Big Lake. Boat rentals, fishing licenses, and bait/tackle are available at the Big Lake store. There are several boat ramps around the lake.

User Comments

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  1. AGFD bio
    Big Lake has rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and brook trout, but does not have Apache trout. It is the best place in Arizona to catch a cutthroat trout.

    Big Lake is in the East Fork Black River watershed, but not actually on the East Fork as suggested in the text.

    Several campgrounds are present right at Big Lake. Boat rentals, fishing licenses, and bait/tackle are available at the Big Lake store. There are several boat ramps around the lake.

    There is no such thing as a White Mountains pass, as suggested in the Lake Details. You can come and go at Big Lake with no charge; the only charge being for the campground use.

    I usually use 4 pound line for all my trout fishing, but sometimes go up to 6 pound for Big Lake, since this lake grows rainbows and cutthroats up to several pounds on regular basis. Fish with a small lure in the spring and fall when the water temperatures are cool and the fish are active. Then change to bait in deep water, or trolling in very early morning or late evening, in mid summer when the water temperatures are higher and the trout are sluggish.
  2. Sandra Bohannan
    What pound test is recommended for trolling as well as anchored fishing? Any suggestions on test brand/color etc., would be appreciated. Any additional advice welcome! Thanks kindly!