If you're looking for a shot at some big trout while escaping the Valley's record heat, now is the time to visit the Mogollon Rim country.
Late spring-early summer fishing at Chevelon Canyon Lake usually produces some large brown trout, plus large holdover rainbow trout. You need to be aware that the lake is situated in a deep canyon. Vehicle access to the dam and water's edge is not available. A somewhat strenuous downhill, quarter-mile hike to the nearest point of water is necessary.
The trout possession limit at Chevelon Canyon is six fish. However, the lake has a slot limit and trout 10 to 14 inches must be released immediately. This fishery is artificial lure or fly only.
Other good trout waters on the rim are Woods Canyon Lake, Willow Springs Lake, and Bear Canyon Lake.
"Black Canyon Lake has recovered from the Rodeo-Chediski Fire quicker than expected. The zooplankton and benthos invertebrates rebounded incredibly fast to high densities, resulting in fast-growing trout," said Mike Lopez, an Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist based in Pinetop.
Anglers were having good success last year catching stocked trout and a few larger carry-over trout from the previous fall's stocking. Those conditions are expected to remain this year. The fish should be found throughout the lake and at all depths early in the season, but look for them to suspend as the lake stratifies in the summer months.
Lee Valley Lake was drained last fall to remove unwanted fish species. The lake will be restocked this spring with catchable Apache trout and Arctic grayling, depending on how much the water level comes back up during snowmelt. Check the department's weekly fishing report or call the Pinetop regional office at (928) 367-4281 as the season progresses to get current updates on Lee Valley.
Trout are not the only game fish lurking in the cooler waters of the Rim country. Bass and catfish are most often associated with desert lakes, but fishing for these warm-water fish in the mountain lakes can be good, even in the spring.
Knowledgeable bass anglers will find some great bass fishing on the Rim. Bass populations can be found at Willow Springs Lake, Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low Lake, Rainbow Lake, and Woodland Lake, as well as in Lyman Lake near St. Johns. A 10-pound largemouth was caught from Willow Springs Lake last summer by a Valley angler. Small lures and angler stealth are the keys to success in these clear high-country lakes.
Channel catfish are abundant at Fool Hollow Lake, Show Low Lake, Rainbow Lake, Scotts Reservoir and Lyman Lake.
According to Lopez, the best fishing in the state for lunker walleye is also found in the Rim country lakes. Try Show Low Lake or Fool Hollow.
BIG FISH NIGHT DERBY
For anglers who like warm weather fishing, it's that time of the year when fishing after dark is very enjoyable as well as productive. And if you enjoy a little competition, the Big Fish Jackpot derby is underway again for 2004.
Alternating between Canyon and Saguaro lakes, the Wednesday night catch-and-release events are conducted 6-10 p.m. and the entry fee is $25 with an 80 percent payback.
The next event is tonight on Saguaro Lake. For more information, including the full derby schedule, stop by Liar's Korner at 9529 E. Apache Trail in Mesa or call (480) 986-2515.
The Arizona Flycasters Club will meet at 7 p.m. April 8 in the Sunnyslope Community Center, 802 E. Vogel Drive in Phoenix. Chris Baiker and Matt Baker will present a program on Urban Lake flyfishing. For information, call (480) 497-9008.