Trout stockings have begun, "excellent" season predicted

Staff photo by Eric Lusk

Sam Travvis of Clarkdale fished with his friends and family over Spring Break.

"The trout season is starting at some higher elevation lakes," says Rory Aikens, who compiles the weekly fishing report for Arizona Game and Fish. "At the lower elevations, the water temperatures in most central desert lakes are warming up quickly into the magic 60-plus degree range.

"Bass fishing has broken loose at Bartlett, Pleasant, Alamo and Roosevelt. By the time you read this, all the others could be busting loose. Just pick your favorite lake and go.

"The only bad fishing decision right now is to stay home."

One of the popular spots right now in the Verde Valley is Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Scores of anglers have been enjoying success at the two new lagoons, which opened up about a month ago.

The lagoons were stocked with "a truck load" of trout on Monday of this week, said park manager Les Bovee.

"They are catching fish like crazy," he said. "I know (Thursday) at about six o’clock there were over 20 vehicles parked back there. We’ve had some bass caught and the catfish are going to start getting active."

John Cortinas of Clarkdale spent his Friday afternoon and evening parked at the middle lagoon, a red cooler by his side and two poles working the waters. He caught three fish early on, but experienced mostly nibbles after that.

"It’s pretty nice," he said. "They (the fish) are there, but they’re moody."

The first trout stockings at High Country lakes started last week. Arizona Game and Fish dropped about 4,100 pounds of rainbow trout into Lake Mary and another 3,600 pounds in Ashurst Lake.

Lynx Lake on the Prescott National Forest also was stocked with about 3,300 pounds of brown trout on March 2, with an additional 3,300 being added this week. This was done to combat a shiner problem at Lynx as well as to improve fishing on the 55-acre waters.

"Brown trout are more tolerant of warm temperatures and lower oxygen levels, which typically happens at Lynx in the summer," said Andy Clark, fisheries biologist at the Kingman regional office of Game and Fish. "We hope we’ll end up with some trophy trout in a few years."

Many lakes around Flagstaff and Williams as well as up on the Mogollon Rim and in the White Mountains have already experienced significant melting. Unless a late season snowstorm hits, the trout fishing should be good early on this season.

"Once the ice melts completely and water temperatures approach 45-55 degrees, trout will become active and offer great fishing," says Mike Lopez, a Game and Fish biologist based in Pinetop.

"The spring will be the best time to catch large hold-over trout that survived the winter."

For best early season fishing on the Mogollon Rim, anglers are encouraged to try Becker Lake and Nelson Reservoir near Springerville, Luna Lake near Alpine and places around Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside like Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low Lake, Scott Reservoir, Rainbow and Woodland.

Show Low Lake has "record-class" walleye, according to Lopez. "They should start hitting lures in May," he said.

Big Lake could become the hot spot for trout in April and May. It is stocked annually, Lopez said, with fingerling rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout. Game and Fish offers these tips for those fishing Big Lake:

o Rainbow trout can be caught with about any tackle, lure, flies or bait

o Brook trout will bite especially well on night crawlers or red wigglers fished on the bottom, but they will also take lures, flies and other baits.

o Cutthroat trout feed heavily on crayfish in the lake and can be caught on lures or flies bounced along the bottom.

o Apache trout are best caught using flies, but they will also take lures and bait, much like rainbow trout.

"Trout are not the only game fish lurking in the cooler waters of the White Mountains," Lopez said. "Bass and catfish are most often associated with desert lakes, but fishing for these warmer water fish in the mountain lakes can be good, even in the spring."

Locally, Oak Creek is scheduled to be stocked soon and the Verde River was stocked about two weeks ago between Clarkdale and Camp Verde.

At Dead Horse, anglers reported having the best luck in the middle lagoon using pink or green Power Bait and crawlers.

"I don’t know how the word got out so fast," Bovee said.

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