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Fishing in the Grand Canyon

By Dean • August 4, 2021

Whether you are an amateur or avid fisherman, casting a line out into the mighty Colorado is a fun and enjoyable activity on a river trip. However, it does require some additional planning and equipment. Here are a few tips and tricks.


Guests 15 years of age or older must have a fishing license. You can purchase one online through Arizona Game and Fish or in Marble Canyon, AZ the morning of your trip. Licenses cost about $55 per license for non-residents. If you are planning to purchase a license in Marble Canyon, they are sold at both the Chevron and Trading Post and are cash only.

Fishing Conditions:

Fishing is best in the first 60 miles or so downriver from Lees Ferry and when the Colorado River is running clear. If the river is thick with sediment and muddy, you will have limited success. The river becomes muddy when we get rainfall over the side streams and tributaries that empty into the Colorado River. Two of the largest tributaries merge with the Colorado River near Lees Ferry and at river mile 60. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish throughout the Canyon. The Canyon is home to many brown and rainbow trout as well as carp.

3 day trips don’t leave too much time for fishing since you’re only on the river one night. Any trip 6 days or longer will provide more opportunities to throw out your line.

Things to note:

There are native and endangered species that you need to watch out for, primarily the Humpback Chub and the Razorback Suckers. If you do catch these fish, be sure to release them as the National Park Service is attempting to bring these fish populations back. Anything else you might catch is yours to clean and eat. Check with the guides to see if they are able to cook your fish before you keep it.

The main restriction is that you can’t fish from the boats. Fishing is typically done from shore at camp in the mornings and evenings. Try to pack only essential tackle needs as storage is limited on the rafts. We also ask that you don’t bring live bait as it’s difficult to store.

Be aware of birds and other creatures in the canyon, they love to get into equipment and lures while on shore (and they are smarter than you think!).

Gear Tips:

Most any fishing pole (fly rod or spinning rod) will work, as long as it is collapsible. Even mini fishing poles will work: Collapsible kits with a bag are great. You can also consider bringing a rod storage tube as poles can get scuffed up a bit when stored on the rafts.

For rod and reel: The best lures have been large, fluorescent orange z-rays, small daredevils with a spot of orange or bright red, and different colored worms. The Mepps Plain Lure Assortment Kit has worked great while in the canyon. Corn, imitation salmon eggs, cheese, etc. are allowed and have been successful in relatively clear water. Another recommendation has been for an assortment of KastMaster and Panther Martin spinners with lots of gold and silver.

For fly fishing: the best setup is a San Juan Worm with a Zebra Midge tied to the hook. You can also use smaller nymphs. Bring a few different lengths of tapered leaders to allow for differences in where you’d be fishing (directly from shore or on an outcropping with a deep eddy).

Have a reel good time!