A movie star pulling up in a stretch limousine would not have drawn more attention than the Arizona Game and Fish Department's trout stocking truck in the parking lot of the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area along the Lower Salt River recently.
Questions and fish stories abounded. "How many trout are you stocking?" "Is this the second or third stocking?" "Why don't you stock more fish, after a week they are all caught?"
Actually, it was the second winter trout stocking along the popular stretch of river. The weather may have been in the mid-eighties, but the water was cold enough to numb the legs of those without waders.
Jim Warnecke, Mesa regional fisheries program manager, patiently responded to all the questions from the anglers and the media present. "Yeah, pretty much all the fish we stock are caught by anglers within a week or so, that's why we stock every-other week," he answered time and again.
At Phon D. Sutton, the stocking truck cannot get next to the river, so the biologists have to carry the fish down to the water in large buckets. Even before the first load hit the water, anglers were lining the banks. The recreation area provides excellent shoreline access from the confluence of the Salt and Verde rivers down to the Granite Reef Dam.
One angler told about catching a two-pound largemouth, a couple of suckers, and five trout that morning, adding that he practices catch and release.
Further down the river, the stocking truck was backed to the side of the river. A long tube was attached to the back of the truck. Water and trout shot out like a fire hydrant gone berserk. Eleven hundred more trout entered the calm-flowing river near Granite Reef. Trout began rising almost immediately. Anglers began trying their luck. Warnecke also explained that the department has winter trout stockings at Canyon Lake, which is another popular fishery. Trout are being stocked at Canyon Lake this week. For those who want to head to slightly higher elevations, trout are also stocked along the Verde River from Cottonwood to Camp Verde, and in Oak Creek, and Beaver Creek.
For those visiting the state or who have just moved here and not established residency yet, there is a four-month nonresident fishing license for just $22, and a trout stamp is not needed.