Just about any morning in the Valley, the men at the fishing lakes swap stories. As they tend to their rods and reels, they talk of the fish that got away and the fish caught and eaten.
This week, anglers in Scottsdale and the East Valley are abuzz with the news of big fish. Real big fish, like rainbow trout 2 feet long and weighing upwards of 4 pounds.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department, which stocks 20 urban lakes across the state, slips an extra portion of large “incentive” fish into the waters every January.
“It’s a late holiday gift to our fishermen,” said Eric Swanson, head of the department’s Urban Fishing Program.
About every two weeks during the winter, the lakes are replenished with “stocker” trout, each measuring 10-12 inches. But this time, a few fish were whoppers; Swanson believes there’s a massive 7-pounder swimming somewhere out there.
The fishermen at Scottsdale’s Chaparral Lake on Thursday morning hadn’t yet caught one of these monsters.
They wondered if the trophies were “confused” by the move from their Colorado hatcheries, or if they had been fed just before they were let loose here. Cormorants, fisheating birds, also were blamed.
Still, the men’s interest was piqued, much like how a trout reacts after it sees a tasty-looking mayfly.
“Maybe I might start using my lures again,” said Harold White, a 64-year-old winter visitor from Michigan. “I’m using my PowerBait now, and I’ve got three hits and caught one.”
At Riverview Lake in Mesa, avid fishermen Chad Watkins and Justin Lawson discussed the best ways to prepare a trout for eating.
“Foil, lemon, butter, garlic, onion, salt and pepper, on a grill,” Watkins said.
Added Lawson: “Once they come off the grill like that, you grab the tail, shake and the whole bone just falls right out.”
Then they began reminiscing about the time they witnessed two fellow fishermen turning their catch into ceviche, a marinated seafood salad, right there on the dock of Red Mountain Lake.
Although the Arizona Game and Fish Department publishes a cookbook, Swanson noted what else besides a big meal awaits the fortunate angler: glory.
The Big Fish-of-the-Year awards have a special category for urban entries.
In fact, the 2006 winner for rainbow trout caught his soon after the special January stocking; the 25-inch, 7-pound, 15 3/4-ounce beast was landed in Payson’s Green Valley Park.
Anyone who wants to cast a line to land a trophy fish must have a 2007 urban fishing license.
These licenses cost $18.50, and are good for the year at all Urban Fishing Program lakes.
The licenses can be purchased at Arizona Game and Fish Department offices, many sporting goods stores, Wal-Marts, online at azgfd.gov, or
by calling (800) 705-4165.