The ban has ended, opening three Rim country lakes Bear, Knoll and Chevelon to anglers eager to test their mid-summer fishing luck.
At 8 a.m. June 27 National Forest officials in the Tonto, Apache Sitgreaves and Kaibab forests put an end to the forest closures that had been enacted one month earlier due to extreme fire conditions. The ban in Coconino National Forest ended June 25.
For anglers, the lifting of the closures means all of the most popular trout waters in the high country are accessible.
Also, Knoll, Bear Canyon, Willow Springs and Woods Canyon lakes were stocked just prior to the Independence Day holiday, creating four nice fisheries for visiting and local anglers.
Chevelon which is restricted to artificial lures and flies and has a slot limit in place (10-14-inches) was not stocked. However, the waters have not been fished in a while and should soon begin producing some lunkers.
The opening of the forests and stocking of the lakes is great news for anglers who have been lying in wait hoping the early monsoon's would end the forest closures.
Also, with cool, humid weather embracing the Rim country, trout should become more active resulting in better fishing opportunities.
The hot spots
Woods Canyon, located 34 miles east of Payson off Highway 260 on Forest Road 300 (the Rim Road) is easily accessible.
At the Christopher-Creek/Kohl's Ranch Firebells Benefit Trout Tournament in May, the lake produced several good stringers of fish. Bill Walton won the tournament, weighing in 60 ounces of rainbow and brown trout.
Top honors for the heaviest rainbow went to five-year-old Forrest Holquin for his 15.1-ounce lunker. The biggest brown, a 23-ounce fish, was caught by Gerald Posey.
Almost 100 fishermen entered the tournament and caught 347 trout weighing almost 143 pounds.
The most effective baits used in the tournament were corn, cheese, salmon eggs, Power Baits and flies. Experienced anglers say they have best luck using light line (4-6 pounds) and small hooks (10-14) and sinkers.
Located just off Highway 260, about 32 miles east of Payson, Willow Springs has a special attraction for some anglers because of its good-sized population of largemouth bass. In local fishing circles, it's rumored the cove opposite the boat ramp is a good area to fish for bass.
Those in search of trout usually fish the upper end of the lake trolling with cowbells. Night crawlers are also popular.
The most dedicated of fishermen choose Chevelon because of its artificial lures regulations and the fact it is the most fertile of the Rim lakes which produces fish of greater size.
Veteran anglers fish the shady spots where tall cliffs reach out over the water. Fishing is also good at the upper end of the lake where the creek flows in.
When first constructed, the lake was home to a species of salmon but none has been taken in recent years. The lake is located off Highway 260 about 31 miles east of Payson and another 22 miles north on dirt roads.
Knoll and Bear Canyon
Both lakes are located off FR 300 from Highway 260, on top of the Rim east of Payson.
With the recent stockings, angling opportunities should be good, but fishing quality is inconsistent due to ever-changing water levels.
Trolling with flies works well in the hot summer months.
Play by the rules
Before setting out on a fishing outing, anglers should review the 2000 Arizona fishing regulations, available at sporting good stores or any Arizona Game and Fish Department office. The pamphlet contains a summary of all regulations and changes made since last year. Tips are also provided on attaching bobbers, fishing with weights, tying knots, hooking live bait and lure techniques.