Now that summer rainbow fishing is a pine-scented memory, don’t stash away your favorite trout fishing gear – the increasingly popular fall-winter trout stocking season is ramping up in sunny Arizona.
“While anglers across the nation are getting their ice-fishing gear out of hiding, Arizona anglers are blessed with abundant winter fishing opportunities in shirt-sleeve weather that is the envy of shivering anglers across North America’s more snowy environs,” says Rory Aikens, the fishing report editor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Please keep in mind that if you don’t already have an Arizona fishing license this year, the 2011 fishing licenses are on sale for half-price starting Nov. 1. Plus, a four-month nonresident fishing license can cut across calendar years (and it’s a great bargain).
Many of Arizona’s winter trout stockings are located in mid-elevation habitats, several are convenient to metropolitan areas, and there are even some intriguing possibilities along the mighty Colorado River as it flows along Arizona’s northern and western borders.
Aikens points out that this month, trout already have been stocked in many of the lakes in the Prescott area and in streams tumbling into the Verde Valley. Trout stockings also began in southern Arizona lakes, such as Parker Canyon, and when the chilly nights of November arrive, more southern waters will be stocked as well. A super fishery to experience is Patagonia Lake with its iconic arched footbridge. Patagonia Lake State Park is also in the heart of Arizona’s wine country.
Goldwater Lake, Fain Lake, Lynx Lake, and Mingus Lake near Prescott have all been stocked with rainbows, and during the second week of November, Watson Lake will get its first trout installment of the winter. “Last year was the first time in decades we were able to stock Watson Lake. It’s really a beautiful fishing location amidst the boulder-balancing countenance of the Granite Dells.”
In the Verde Valley, both Beaver Creek (see picture above) and West Clear Creek are being stocked with trout this week. The remarkable Oak Creek is routinely stocked throughout winter. During the second week of November, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the Verde River between Cottonwood and Camp Verde will be stocked with feisty rainbows.
“Come sweet November, the fabulous Lower Salt River near Phoenix (see pic on right) will be stocked with rainbows, creating one of the Southwest’s most unique seasonal trout fisheries where bald eagles soar over giant Saguaros and secretive mountain lions sneak down to drink,” Aikens says.
Canyon Lake along the famed Apache Trail is also stocked with trout in winter. This long, thin river-like lake is surrounded by steep canyon walls just made for peregrine falcons and sure-footed bighorn sheep that seem to defy gravity. You might even want to catch a sight-filled paddle-wheeler ride on the Dolly Steamboat.
“This year, Game and Fish will also stock Apache Lake with trout, adding to the attraction of this remote and wild-like lake where every trip is a scenic adventure you’d expect to see on the pages of Arizona Highways or in a National Geographic TV special,” Aikens advises.
Tempe Town Lake is a perennial trout fishing favorite located near Arizona State University. “Even though it’s smack-dab in the middle of the Valley of the Sun, Town Lake is not part of our urban fishing program – you need a regular state fishing license to angle here,” Aikens advises.
Don’t forget that the urban program lakes are also stocked with trout in winter. There are a lot to choose from, including a unique one in the whispering pines of Payson.
But keep reading – there’s more you’ll want to know about.
“One of my favorite winter trout fisheries of all time is Willow Beach, which sits in the basalt-edged Black Canyon below Hoover Dam,” Aikens says. “Winter is a perfect time to rent a kayak or canoe to fish and explore this rugged desert canyon where geologic time seems to be suspended.”
Farther downstream you’ll also come across another interesting fishery along Casino Row in the Laughlin-Bullhead area.
“Last year, I routinely heard from anglers reeling in huge 6-pound trout from the strong currents of this river racing past glittering casinos where you can indulge in fabulous buffet feasts or catch a flashy show,” Aikens says. “Anglers can get enticingly spoiled fishing here.”
Also last year, anglers in the spectacular Topock Gorge were often treated to fat rainbows on the end of their lines, in addition to line-stripping smallmouth bass. You might even want to visit the Topock Marsh, where you’ll experience migratory waterfowl and visiting shorebirds such as snowy geese and snowy egrets winging across the startingly blue desert skies.
Last but certainly not least is Lees Ferry in northern Arizona between Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. Winter is traditionally the spawning period for this world-class wild rainbow trout fishery that provides the awe-inspiring gateway to the Grand Canyon.
“These crimson-sided rainbows are so gorgeous they could fit comfortably beside the colorful paintings of Monet and Cezanne hanging in the Musee Du Louvre in Paris. Catching them in the rushing Colorado River along the spectacular red sandstone cliffs of the Marble Canyon Gorge is simply an experience beyond compare,” Aikens promises.
For the full winter trout stocking schedule, visit www.azgfd.gov.
“This is a superb time of year to catch some water-dancing rainbow memories,” Aikens says, “With any luck, maybe I’ll see you out there.”