Some monsters weigh between 5 to 10 pounds
The Arizona Game and Fish Department is stocking four lakes in different parts of the state with larger-than-usual rainbow trout this week to give anglers an even better reason to be on the water over the 4th of July weekend.
Some of the “incentive” trout weigh between 5 and 10 pounds and all of the fish are at least 50 percent larger than those normally stocked by Game and Fish, with all of them longer than 15 inches.
“There’s no better time than now to head to our cool and scenic high-country lakes and experience the thrill of catching some of these large, feisty fish,” said Scott Gurtin, Game and Fish hatchery program manager.
The four lakes being stocked are Woods Canyon Lake on the Mogollon Rim, about 30 miles east of Payson; City Reservoir near Williams; Rose Canyon Lake on Mount Lemmon near Tucson; and Fain Lake near Prescott.
“With fish this large, we usually sprinkle them in over an entire summer of fish stockings across all the lakes we stock,” Gurtin said. “This week our normal fish stockings continue, however, we’re stocking a large number of these incentive-size rainbow trout into the four lakes.”
A valid Arizona Fishing License (some licenses require a trout stamp, too) is needed to try for these large fish, and one can be purchased either at license dealers, at Game and Fish offices, or online at www.azgfd.gov/eservices/licenses.shtml. Children under 14 are allowed to fish for free.
This time of year the trout tend to go to the deeper, colder water. Even the newly stocked incentive fish will head for that deep water as well. The best way to catch these fish is to drop your line and bait as deep into the lakes as possible. You’ll want to use a light test line as these trout are fairly smart and will see the line in the water. Try a spinnerbait or a large night crawler worm to get their attention. These larger fish tend to go for bait-type fish as opposed to the average fly bait.
Gurtin added that there are many other high-country lakes and streams offering good fishing opportunities, cool temperatures and outstanding scenery. “Fishing is a great way to get outdoors and spend quality time on your own or with friends and family,” he said.
To learn more about where to go and other aspects of fishing in Arizona, go online to www.azgfd.gov/fishing.
Sidebar Story: Best strategies for trout fishing Arizona’s high-country lakes
The following trout fishing tips were provided by Mike Lopez, fisheries program manager in the Arizona Game and Fish Pinetop office. Although these tips are for Woods Canyon Lake, many of them apply to fishing most of Arizona’s high-country lakes right now.
Water temperatures in Woods Canyon are still fairly cool, measuring 62 F recently. Normally we recommend that anglers fish in deeper water this time of year when the lakes start to warm up, but Woods Canyon Lake is moderately high in elevation and had a long winter. When water temperatures increase, trout normally go deeper to find cooler water. With all this in mind, anglers should start fishing in moderately deep water (10-12 feet), then try different depths if they are not catching fish.
Fishing early in the morning or late in the day, just before dark, is better than fishing in mid-day, especially if the sun is shining bright. Trout generally have two peak times that they feed this time of year, once in early morning and once in late evening, although a few will feed sporadically through the day. If the sky is overcast, fish will feed longer into mid-day and in shallower water than when the sun is shining.
Boat anglers are currently having much higher success than shore anglers at Woods Canyon Lake. Boat anglers should try trolling Super Dupers, Crickhoppers, small Rapalas, or cowbells (tipped with a piece of worm) anywhere from mid-lake to within 40 feet from shore in 10-12 feet of water. If trolling close to shore, please keep to the far shoreline so that you do not cross the lines of shore anglers. There are boats for rent at Woods Canyon Lake.
For anglers that are shore fishing, fish off the bottom with a nightcrawler or Power Bait (orange, chartreuse, or green are currently working well) about 60 feet out from shore. If the sky is overcast, fishing the same baits under a bobber may also work. When fishing off the bottom with a nightcrawler, it often helps to inject air into the worm so it floats off the bottom a foot or two and will be conspicuous to cruising trout. Adding a nugget of Power Bait or small marshmallow to the same hook will also float a nightcrawler off the bottom.
Fishing with lighter lines and appropriate-sized hooks (4- to 6-pound test line and #8-#6 hooks) will get more bites when bait fishing. However, anglers wanting to be prepared for large incentive fish in the 1- to 8-pound range may want to bump up to 6- to 8-pound line and #6-#4 hooks. Also make sure your drag is set appropriately.
An angler that does hook into a large incentive-sized trout should play the fish and allow it to wear itself out. Don't try to crank it straight in or it may break your line. If the trout makes a strong run, let it make its run while maintaining a tight line, using the flex of your rod to cushion the head shakes and bursts of speed. When the trout slows down, start reeling again. It is okay to lose line to a large running fish, that is how they tire out. Just plan to regain that line when the trout wears out. The key is being patient.
When the trout is finally brought to shore or to the boat, do not lift the fish out of the water by the line, which risks breaking the line. Use a dip net at that point, or grab the trout by the gill cover if you don't have a dip net. Just watch out for the hooks. If you plan to release the trout, cradle the tired fish with your hands instead of grabbing under the gill cover.
If you do catch that once-in-a-lifetime trout at Woods Canyon Lake, take some photos to preserve that memory. Also consider getting the trout weighed on a certified scale. There are currently no entries for big-fish-of-the-year for rainbow trout. A list of certified scales can be found on page 37 of the fishing regulation booklet, and the entry form is on page 36.