High Country Fall Fishing
By Diane Tilton, Education and Information Manager
As Summer draws to a close and temperatures cool down, trout fishing will be picking up in the White Mountains. Although any day with a line in the water is a good day, of course, it’s always better to get a fish in hand for dinner. Here are some great, easy-to-access fishing spots for Fall trout fishing.
Woods Canyon Lake
The Arizona Game & Fish Department built Woods Canyon Lake for aquatic recreation. Woods Canyon has easy access, close proximity to Phoenix and excellent visitor facilities. It’s a beautiful, canyon bound, deep lake with plenty of trout fishing opportunities. Woods Canyon Lake has produced a couple of winners of the Department’s “Big Fish-of-the-Year” Program in the rainbow trout categories, including a 10-lb. brown trout in 1999. Now, very few, if any, brown trout are present. However, tiger trout were stocked here beginning in Spring, 2016. Green sunfish can usually be caught easily from the shore.
Woods Canyon Lake is located close to the edge of the Mogollon Rim, approximately 30 miles east of Payson in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. To get to this scenic Rim lake from Highway 260, drive west about four miles on paved Forest Road 300 (the Rim Road), then turn north onto paved Forest Road 105 and proceed about a mile to the lake. Access is restricted in the Winter when roads are closed at the highway due to snow, generally from December to early April.
Woods Canyon Lake consists of 55 surface acres, with an average depth of 25 feet and a maximum depth of 40 feet. It lies at 7,510 feet. Because it is deep, the lake maintains good water quality and is stocked weekly from May through September with catchable rainbow trout. Tiger trout are stocked less frequently, based on availability of the fish.
Visitors to Woods Canyon Lake can enjoy a picnic area with restrooms and a boat ramp. There is also a concessionaire who rents boats, sells fishing licenses and bait and tackle and operates a well-stocked country store. There is a dump station about a mile from the lake. Campers can stay at one of four fee-use campgrounds. Spillway Campground has 26 sites, each accommodating a trailer up to 16 feet long. It fills quickly on weekends, owing to its proximity to the lake. Amenities here include barrier-free restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire rings and a campground host.
Aspen Campground, along Forest Road 105, is much larger -- with 136 sites -- and can accommodate trailers up to 32 feet long. It has the same amenities as at Spillway. The Crook Campground is mainly a group camping area, with two loops and a total of 26 sites. Usually, one entire loop is reserved for a group. Each loop has a large ramada with picnic tables. Finally, Mogollon Campground, located along Forest Road 300, has 26 units accommodating trailers up to 32 feet. Amenities are the same as at Spillway Campground. No reservations are taken for this campground. The campgrounds are open from April 15 to October 15, weather permitting. Get more camping information and reserve a site by visiting www.reserveuamerica.com.
If fishing for trout from shore, try Power Bait with garlic, worms or Roostertail spinner for rainbows. If you’re trying for a tiger trout, try Kastmasters, small Rapalas, Pather Martin spinners, or flies. Boaters can try trolling a Super Duper or tiny gold Kastmaster lures. The lake is loaded with crayfish; try fishing for large trout with spinners or lures that imitate crayfish patterns. Fish for green sunfish, along the rocky shore, with nightcrawlers.
Statewide fishing regulations apply. The daily bag limit is six trout (any combination) and unlimited for sunfish. Boat motors are restricted to single electric motors only.
Becker Lake is managed as a catch-and-release, trophy trout lake with special regulations. Located near Springerville, it also includes the 622-acre Becker Wildlife Area, where wintering bald eagles can be spotted most years in nearby cottonwood trees. Built around 1880, Becker Lake is one of the oldest reservoirs in the White Mountains. The Arizona Game and Fish Department acquired the lake in 1973. The lake is located at 6,910 feet. Easily accessible, it is a mere two miles from the center of Springerville, off the west side of U.S. Highway 60.
Becker Lake has 107 surface acres with a maximum depth of 21 feet and an average depth of 10 feet. It is located on a diversion of the Little Colorado River. The Department owns water rights in the lake so water levels can be maintained. The lake is stocked with sub-catchable rainbow trout in the Spring. Many of these fish survive the winter, reaching a good size the following Spring. It is open to angling year-round but usually freezes over the winter.
The lake has a boat ramp, dirt parking and barrier-free restroom. The Department has developed two hiking trails through the Wildlife Area. No camping is allowed at the lake but there is a private RV campground nearby.
Fish for rainbow trout and tiger trout, Little Colorado suckers and illegally introduced green sunfish, largemouth bass and channel catfish.
Becker Lake is catch-and-release only for trout and artificial flies and lures with a single barbless hook. Big fish lurk along the weed beds on the south end. Flies to try are midges, Prince Nymph, brown Montana stone and KP bugger. Using a boat or float tube are the best ways to fish here. There is limited opportunity for shore fishing and wading because of heavy vegetation. Spin fishermen can try Z-rays, small Kastmasters or Panther Martins with the treble replaced with a single barbless hook.
Remember that special fishing regulations apply at Becker Lake. Year-round angling is catch-and-release with artificial fly and lure with a single barbless hook. No bait fishing is allowed, and all trout must be released immediately. Boat motors are restricted to either single electric motor or 10 hp gas motors or less. NO TROUT MAY BE KEPT.
Silver Creek Hatchery was purchased by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in 1978. The site was previously owned by the Bourdon family. The facility includes an 840-acre wildlife area that is open to the public for fishing and hunting. This is a popular destination and has opportunities for viewing all forms of wildlife. There is an established trail along the creek but during wet weather the area is extremely muddy. Use caution while traversing the hatchery property. Some of the hatchery property is restricted and no public access is allowed. Areas closed to the public are marked by signs on the trail.
Rainbow trout are raised at Silver Creek. During the catch-and-release season, October 1-March 31, rainbow trout that are often 18 inches or larger can often be caught. This is a great spot to fish during the winter; the creek is fed from an underground stream and doesn’t freeze.
Silver Creek Hatchery is located east of Show Low about five miles on Highway 60. Turn north off 60 onto Bourdon Ranch Road for five miles to Hatchery Way Road. Turn east on Hatchery Way Road for 1/2 mile to the facility. There are bathrooms and one picnic table at the parking area.
During the catch-and-keep season, April 1- September 30, nightcrawlers and PowerBait work well. Try hiding upstream, where fewer people fish, or around some shade or cover. During the catch-and-release season, try a variety of flies including white bunny leeches, buggers, simi-seals, San Juan works, egg patters, shami leeches or zebra midges.
Special fishing regulations apply. Fishing opportunities on the hatchery property are split into two seasons. Catch-and-release only for trout from October 1 - March 31. Trout must be immediately released unharmed; no trout may be kept; artificial fly and lure only; single barbless hook only. From April 1– September 30, bait and barbed hooks may also be used and the limit is six trout in any combination.