List of Fish Species in Alamo Lake 2023 [Updated]

Pond Informer is supported by its readers. We may earn commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

List of Common Alamo Lake Fish Species

Alamo Lake, Arizona
Alamo Lake has a surface area of 3,500 acres and is a great spot for crappie and bass fishing. duroc2006, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reservoirs are man-made, multipurpose lakes built for functionality, though they often become sites of leisure for the residents of neighboring communities. The construction of the Alamo Dam was completed in 1968, creating an impoundment that served to control flooding in the Bill Williams River basin and to provide water storage. Not long after, in November 1969, the Alamo Lake State Park was opened to the public.

An oasis bordered by arid, mountainous terrain, Alamo Lake offers camping, hunting, hiking, and wildlife viewing at the Alamo Lake Wildlife Area. An array of fauna can be spotted around the reservoir, from scaly reptiles like Sonora mud turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense) and desert spiny lizards (Sceloporus magister), to furry herbivores like javelinas (Tayassuidae) and desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii). Along the lake’s banks, visitors can enjoy budding wildflower shrubs, including saltcedar (Tamarix spp.), arrowweed (Pluchea sericea) and seepwillow (Baccharis salicifolia). To wrap up a long day of sightseeing, visitors can spend the night enjoying crystal-clear stargazing.

Alamo Lake sits 75 miles (120.7 km) northwest of Phoenix and covers a surface area of 3,500 acres (14.2 km2). The reservoir’s pristine waters hold a little-known secret— the Atlantis of Arizona sits at the bottom of the lake! The ruins of the long-abandoned ghost town, Arizona Crossing, were intentionally submerged in Alamo Lake during its initial filling. In addition to its historical value, Alamo Lake is one of the best spots in Arizona for bass and crappie fishing. Two boat ramps are available to anglers— the Main Ramp to the south of the lake near the dam, and the Cholla Ramp along the western shoreline.

Here is a list of the top fish to see at Alamo Lake!

List of Fish Species in Alamo Lake

1) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass were stocked in Alamo Lake after its construction and there has been a healthy population ever since. Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Central America

Though known for their aggressive temperament and status as a “top predator” in many lakes, largemouth bass occupy different habitats and niches in Alamo Lake depending on their age and size. Small, young fish live near the shore in the protective cover of underwater foliage, hiding from predators, which are, ironically, usually adult largemouth bass!

Small bass feed primarily on shad and aquatic insects, while adults include other sunfish in their diets. Juvenile fish hunt by chasing prey, but larger adults have stocky bodies that are more cumbersome in the water. As such, they employ a sit-and-wait strategy known as ambush predation, whereby they wait patiently for food to cross their path, grasping at it stealthily. Medium-sized fish that are at a lower risk of predation but can still swim freely pursue shad in the lake’s open, limnetic waters.

Largemouth bass are the most sought-after species in Alamo Lake, which is the venue for regular bass-fishing tournaments. This species was stocked between 1968 and 1969 after the reservoir’s construction and has maintained a healthy population since. They are found in shallow waters most frequently during the spring spawning season, when they can be taken by buzz bait, spinners, and crankbaits. Though largemouth bass make a mouth-watering fried fillet, the Arizona Game and Fish Department advises against consuming bass harvested from Alamo Lake due to mercury contamination.

2) Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)

Redear sunfish
Redear sunfish suck up bottom-dwelling mollusks with their tiny mouths. Clara Dandridge / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Redear sunfish get their name from their black gill covers, which are rimmed with vivid scarlet in males or orange in females. Like other sunfish, redears have laterally compressed bodies and a long dorsal fin with anterior rays and posterior spines. Their sides are usually mottled with dark green to black, sometimes forming a pattern of vertical bands.

Redears are also called shellcrackers due to their peculiar diet. While most sunfish utilize an assortment of prey items, redears have an insatiable appetite for snails! They use their tiny mouths to suck up these bottom-dwelling mollusks, which they then pulverize with a unique set of complementary muscles and teeth in the throat (pharynx). Though gastropods are the primary source of sustenance for redear sunfish, they also eat insects and other fish.

3) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

There are no catch restrictions for bluegill at Alamo Lake. McCartney M Taylor / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Bluegills are one of the most populous sunfish species in Alamo Lake. Though never formally stocked, this prolific spawner has managed to colonize and thrive in the reservoir, and is now a favorite panfish among anglers. Bluegills, and to a lesser extent redears, are key forage species for sustaining largemouth bass populations.

They spawn in colonies in April and May, when males dig disc-shaped nests in sand or gravel no greater than 6 feet (1.8 m) below the surface. During this time, a single female can produce up to 60,000 eggs!

Bluegills reside near the shoreline and in backwater sloughs where water is sluggish and less than 10 feet (3 m) deep. They hide in vegetation, where they readily bite at any minute bait that fits in their mouths. Because of their abundance, willingness to bite, and tendency to school, bluegills are excellent beginner-friendly fish. Furthermore, anglers can harvest as many bluegills as they like from Alamo Lake!

4) Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

Green sunfish in hand
Green sunfish can quickly multiply if their populations are not managed. Mark Eanes / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Green sunfish are native to the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River, though they have been transplanted across the United States since the early twentieth century. Their introduction has frequently occurred in the accidental mixing of green sunfish with stocked bluegill, and ecological repercussions often follow.

Green sunfish easily outcompete native species for territory and food. They are antagonistic and drive out small fish from protective refuge, while also competing with bigger fish for prey due to their sizeable mouths. They also consume the eggs of other species, and their populations can spiral out of control because they tend to crowd if left unmanaged.

Green sunfish regularly hybridize with other lepomids, so identifying them can prove challenging. The body of a green sunfish is lined with rows of lustrous, turquoise spots, which become haphazard in arrangement towards the caudal (tail) fin. Waves of this brilliant turquoise also decorate the fish’s cheeks. The fins are lined with yellow-orange, and a round black patch marks the rear base of the dorsal and anal fins.

5) Hybrid bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus x L. cyanellus)

Hybrid bluegill
Hybrid bluegills are usually used as a tool to control lepomid populations. moxostoma / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Hybrid bluegills, also called greengills or hybrid sunfish, are one of the many crosses produced by green sunfish. They occur when a male bluegill mates with a female green sunfish, creating offspring with intermediate characteristics. Their bodies are not as compressed as the bluegill’s, but also not as long as the green sunfish’s. While parents have pelvic fins that are dusky yellow and partially or completely transparent, those of hybrid bluegills are bright yellow-orange at the base and opaque.

Hybrid bluegills seldom occur naturally and are usually stocked as a management tool in lakes at risk of lepomid overpopulation. Most hybrids are male, limiting the chances of natural reproduction. Even when they do spawn, as with most hybrid animals, their offspring have low chances of survival. Hybrid bluegills are also superb for supporting recreational fisheries because they readily take artificial lures, grow to considerable sizes quickly and have a high catch rate.

6) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)

Black crappie
Black crappies usually build nests and spawn when water temperatures reach 60 °F. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Black crappies are one of the most stunning species in Alamo Lake. Also known as calico bass for their striking pattern, black crappies have pale-olive, slab-sided bodies covered in irregular black mottling that extends through the fins. They have 7 – 8 spines on their dorsal fins, small, pointed heads, and wide, gaping maws that they use to gulp down threadfin shad first thing every morning.

Black crappies move in schools, making them easy to spot and fish for. They occupy gentle, clear waters where, like many sunfish, they associate with aquatic plants, as well as areas with vertical structures like tree trunks and boulders. When water temperatures reach 60 °F (15.6 °C), black crappies build nests in mud and gravel for spawning. Black crappies breed in tightly-packed colonies, with nests less than 23.6 inches (60 cm) apart. This doesn’t mean that crappies are welcome to explore each other’s nests, though, and males dutifully defend their eggs and freshly-hatched young from invaders.

As with largemouth bass, the Arizona Game and Fish Department discourages eating any black crappie collected in Alamo Lake.

7) Tilapia (Oreochromis spp.)

Blue tilapia
Tilapia are a widely cultivated species and are stocked in Arizona to control algae. Brooke Smith / CC BY 4.0

Native to Africa

Tilapia is a staple in aquaculture internationally and is the most widely cultivated fish species — farmed in over 85 countries. Tilapia was brought to the United States in the 1950s and 60s for aquariums, food potential, and freshwater weed and insect control. It has become the fourth most-eaten seafood in the United States and the second most-consumed fish in the world! Most of the tilapia sold as food in the US is imported from Asia, Central America, and South America, where farming is more productive due to tilapia’s adaptations for tropical life. In Arizona, tilapia are stocked to control algae.

Though previously categorized as a single genus, Tilapia, the common name tilapia now refers to dozens of species split between numerous new genera, including Heterotilapia, Sarotherodon, and in Alamo Lake, Oreochromis. Though they are cichlids, tilapia bear striking resemblance to sunfish. Their size is similar at 4 to 18 inches (10.2 to 45.7 cm), and they have deep, brown-gray bodies with a heterogeneous spined and rayed dorsal fin. They can be differentiated from sunfish by their disconnected lateral line, which appears as two separate lines. The front portion extends backward from the head to above the tail peduncle, while the second section sits well below, running forwards from the base of the tail.

8) Yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis)

Yellow bullhead in hands
Female yellow bullheads can lay up to 4,000 eggs, which are then guarded by males. Alina Martin / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Bullheads are a small type of catfish, identified by their more round, robust shape and slightly convex tails. They have bright yellow undersides that dissolve into brown on their backs. Their bodies are free of spots or have very little. Yellow bullheads grow up to only 6 – 14 inches (15.2 – 35.6 cm) and rarely exceed 3 pounds (1.4 kg). They are short-lived when compared to other members of the catfish family, with a lifespan of only 4 years.

Yellow bullheads inhabit the warm, calm, shallow areas of the lake. Unlike other catfish that prefer clear water, yellow bullheads are capable of thriving in clouded conditions with low oxygen levels. As such, they are far more tolerant of pollution than their relatives.

They spawn in May and June, when nests are constructed by both parents near submerged objects. Females can lay up to 4,000 eggs, which are guarded fiercely by males. After 5 – 10 days, young yellow bullheads are liberated from the protection of their eggs, and they subsequently form a tightly-packed, ball-shaped school until they reach 1 inch (2.5 cm) long.

9) Black bullhead (Ameiurus melas)

Black bullhead
The black bullhead has a curved anal fin with 19 – 23 rays. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Black bullheads appear remarkably similar to their yellow relatives, though they can be distinguished by their slightly-notched tail fin and curved anal fin that possesses only 19 – 23 rays. Like all catfish, black bullheads have four pairs of sensory, whisker-like barbels attached to their mouths. Anglers are often cautioned to be wary of the stinging barbels of black bullheads (and other catfish), but these harmless protrusions are only used to detect food. One pair is attached to the top of the mouth, two pairs under the chin, and the longest pair drapes from the corners of the mouth. The barbels of black bullheads are dark, short, and stout, with the longest pair not reaching the pectoral fins.

Though a bullhead’s barbels are harmless, they do have a dangerous defensive mechanism. A black bullhead’s dorsal and pectoral fins each have one large spine that is stiffened and erected when the fish feels threatened. This adaptation serves to protect bullheads from predators, though it can also pierce the skin of anglers and cause an acute stinging sensation from the spines’ venom. Though painful, being cut by a black bullhead’s spine is harmless to humans.

10) Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)

Flathead catfish in hand
At Alamo Lake, flathead catfish are the largest ictalurid game fish. Clara Dandridge / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Flathead catfish can reach sizes four times as large as bullheads, and small bullheads may even become dinner for their hulking cousins. They are ambush piscivores that indiscriminately hunt sunfish, carp, bass, shad, and even other catfish. They have scaleless, slimy skin covered in taste buds that allows them to detect food, even when water visibility is low. Though generally preferring sluggish waters, flathead catfish sometimes congregate in the swift tailwaters of the dam to catch their next meal. Despite their ability to hunt in murky waters and their genus name Pylodictis, which translates to “mud fish”, flathead catfish prefer clear, clean surroundings.

Flatheads are the largest ictalurid game fish in Alamo Lake, growing up to 39 inches (99 cm). They are a challenging catch because of their gargantuan size, solitary nature, and inclination to lounge in deep waters during the day. Landing a flathead is definitely worth the work, as they are renowned as the most delectable of all catfish species. They are unlikely to bite usual catfish baits but can be taken using live bait that imitates their prey.

11) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel catfish
Anglers can catch 10 channel catfish and flathead catfish combined each day at Alamo Lake. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Channel catfish were stocked in Alamo Lake immediately after the construction and filling of the reservoir was completed in March 1968. They have yellow-brown pigmentation like the flathead catfish but can be identified by their convex head, sporadic freckles, and overhanging upper jaws that help them suck up food from the bottom of the lake.

Channel catfish spawn from April until June, when temperatures reach 75 °F (24 °C). During this time, males transform from their typical yellow to a slate hue, much like that of the blue catfish. They make nests in hollow logs, bank cavities, or holes in the mud, where females deposit masses of up to 50,000 sticky eggs. Young channel catfish are light gray and turn yellow-brown as they age, though some rare albino individuals retain a faint pink shade in adulthood.

The combined creel limit for flathead and channel catfish in Alamo Lake is 10 fish per angler. The Arizona Game and Fish Department advises adults to limit their weekly intake of channel catfish from the reservoir to 2.4 ounces (68 g) or less.

12) Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense)

Threadfin shad in hand
Threadfin shad can be found in the upper water column, which is known as the photic zone. Clara Dandridge / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Though tiny, threadfin shad are one of the most important species that live in Alamo Lake, as the balance of the reservoir’s delicate food web rests heavily on their shoulders. Threadfin shad are invaluable to anglers, not as a sport fish, but because they are a major forage fish for the majority of the piscivores in the lake, including largemouth bass, bluegills, green sunfish, and catfish. With so many fish hunting them down, threadfin shad have developed an adaptation to protect themselves — their undersides are lines with a row of spiny scales called scutes that make swallowing them difficult. Their pursuers have long overcome this obstacle, however, and are always sure to eat threadfins head-first, since scutes are only sharp when passed over from back to front.

Threadfin shad depend on light to feed, and thus occupy the lake’s photic zone within the top 5 feet (1.5 m) of the water column. They have two methods of obtaining food depending on its size. Threadfin filter small food like phytoplankton and tiny zooplankton from the water using their gill rakers, while bigger zooplankton like copepods are actively hunted and caught in their mouths.

13) Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)

Although mosquitofish are used as biocontrol agents, they can cause adverse consequences on native fauna. Sam Kieschnick / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Native to the southern United States, mosquitofish have been introduced across the country and around the world to control mosquitoes and the pathogens that they host. Mosquitofish disrupt a crucial part of the mosquito’s lifecycle by eating their aquatic larvae. One mosquitofish can eat hundreds of mosquito larvae per day.

Though the use of mosquitofish as biocontrol agents seems like a brilliant idea in theory, it has had many adverse consequences on native fauna. Mosquitofish do not only eat aquatic insects, but also compete with other fish for zooplankton and crustaceans. They also consume tadpoles and are suspected to have contributed to the decline of the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana chiricahuensis) in Arizona. In fact, mosquitofish seem to eat anything that can fit in their mouths, including their own young — sometimes as soon as they are born!

14) Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Common carp underwater
Common carp can attain weights of 2.5 – 3.5 kg in the first few years of their life. Jordi Casanovas / CC BY 4.0

Native to Asia

Common carp are enormous, stocky fish, which, along with the goldfish, belong to the Cyprinidae, the most diverse family of all freshwater fish and one of the largest families of all vertebrates. Their fins are burgundy, and one barbel sits at each corner of the mouth. The common carp’s body is completely covered in large, golden, plasmoid scales that have three layers to shield them from the bites of predators. These scales are so important to carp, that even though they were intentionally bred to be scaleless for easy food preparation, carp naturally evolved to regain their scales in only 100 years

Common carp were spread across the United States as a game fish and control agent for freshwater weeds, though like the mosquitofish, their introduction has had unintended effects on the habitats in which they are established. Common carp have extraordinary growth rates, and will continuously increase in size during warm seasons as long as food is available. Within only a year of life, carp can attain weights of 2.5 – 3.5 kg. Common carp may be used as live bait in Alamo Lake, but excess bait must not be released into the water, and should instead be buried far from the lake.

15) Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Goldfish underwater
More than 300 goldfish forms exist, but they all belong to the same species. Mitch Van Dyke / CC BY 4.0

Native to Asia

Though these adorable fish are known for being aquarium staples, goldfish have become established in the wild in all states except Alaska. They were originally domesticated by the Chinese 2,000 years ago as an ornamental species, and have since been transported to ponds across the globe. The goldfish is believed to be the very foreign first fish species brought to North America, with its introduction traced back to the seventeenth century.

Goldfish are famed for their numerous breeds, available in endless shapes and colors. Though over 300 forms of goldfish exist, they all belong to a single species, Carassius auratus. Goldfish in the wild are typically elongated, with thick bodies shaped like the carp, though much smaller at only 5 – 10 inches (12.7 – 25.4 cm). The pigmentation of wild goldfish is much more muted than what one would find in a fish tank, and they are usually a faint gold or brassy color. The next time you see a goldfish, try to identify the sex by observing the anal fin— the margin of a male’s anal fin is concave, while a female’s is convex.

16) Red shiner (Cyprinellus lutrensis)

Red shiner in hand
Red shiners are not particularly fussy; they can be found in many areas of the lake and can tolerate a variety of water conditions. Adam Cohen / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States

Red shiners are a tiny cyprinid, accurately represented by the genus name Cyprinella which translates from Greek as “small carp”. These 3-inch (7.6-cm) fish have yellow-green backs, silver sides, and white-tinged fins. From May to September, males develop bright red fins and heads, and shimmering blue-purple sides with a vertical pink band behind the head. Red shiners spawn opportunistically, making use of underwater logs, sunfish nests, or even simply releasing eggs in open water while fish are swimming!

Red shiners are not particular in either their habitat or their feeding preferences. They can be found basically anywhere in the lake, from stagnant waters to flowing currents. They can also tolerate murky waters and siltation. Red shiners primarily feed on small crustaceans and insects, though they also feast on the eggs and juveniles of other fish.

17) Golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)

Golden shiner in hand
Golden shiners cannot tolerate turbidity and do not like to be in areas with a strong current. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Golden shiners can be identified by their extremely deep bodies and comparatively small heads. Their dorsal and anal fins are sickle-shaped, while the caudal fin is deeply forked. All fins but the dorsal fin are tinged orange, with pigmentation the brightest on the pelvic fins. Golden shiners are the only members of the genus Notemigonus, and are the only minnows whose undersides are scaleless between the pelvic and anal fins.

Though adult golden shiners are hard to miss with their gleaming gold scales and colorful fins, juveniles look almost like an entirely different species. Superficially their appearance is completely different from adults— narrow and dark silver— though, upon closer inspection, the characteristics defining the species can be observed. Much like adults, young golden shiners have short, posterior dorsal fins and a convex lateral line that dips downwards at the center of the fish’s profile.

Unlike the red shiner, golden shiners prefer backwater habitats with lots of flora and are not likely to occupy areas with significant current. They are also intolerant of turbidity.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.