A day of trout fishing in the pines of northern Arizona could eventually help build a new Payson Community Christian School.
The parochial school, which is to be built at 500 S. Mud Springs Road, will reap the proceeds of the 21st Annual Woods Canyon Lake Trout Tournament May 1.
In addition to helping a worthwhile cause, the showdown at Woods Canyon annually marks the unofficial beginning of trout fishing season on Rim lakes.
PCCS has received the proceeds from the tournament, which amounts to about $2,000 annually, for the past four years.
When Tracy Purtee first founded the competition, it was to benefit the Kohl's Ranch/Christopher Creek Fire Department.
Purtee opted to change the tournament's benefactor to PCCS when the fire department began receiving tax money, he said.
As the founder and the tournament director, Purtee has plenty of fond memories of past events. His most cherished recollections are of 1996 when the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocked the lake just days before the tournament.
"They had cleaned out their breeders pond and put the fish in the lake," he said. "There was some big fish in there."
With Woods Canyon overloaded with lunker-sized trout, tournament fishing was at its best.
"A 12-year-old boy fishing from the shore with a bobber caught a six-pound rainbow," Purtee said. "That's one of the biggest that's been caught."
The tournament also produced the largest stringer of fish ever weighed in.
Although game officials won't be using breeder fish this year, they will stock Woods Canyon two or three times before the tournament.
A huge challenge this year will be to land an elusive brown trout.
"We haven't had a brown caught in the past four years," Purtee said. "And I give a trophy for the biggest brown (trout)."
The rules and schedule
This year's tournament will be from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the lake 30 miles east of Payson and north of Highway 260. For tournament newcomers, Purtee's best advice is to follow the signs to the lake and Woods Canyon store.
The entry fee is $20 per person if pre-registered before April 30. On the day of the tournament, the fee is $25.
Tournament day registration at the lake store opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 7 a.m. Those who pre-register also must check in.
Due to the size of the lake, the tournament is open only to the first 100 anglers to register.
All entrants must have an Arizona fishing license and a trout stamp. Arizona Game and Fish laws limit an angler to six trout per day.
Participants must fish Woods Canyon Lake only and there can be no pre-fishing from April 28 to the day of the tournament. The minimum size trout that should be kept is eight inches. The benefit will take place regardless of weather conditions.
Purtee estimates about eight past tournaments have been held in snowstorms.
"The worst one was when I first began sponsoring the tournament," he said. "It got so cold, I stopped fishing."
The weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Since the weigh-in will be held at the dock house, competitors can opt to catch and release. Awards and prizes will be given out at a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on the back porch of the store.
Entry forms are available at Payson Community Christian School (501 E. Rancho Road) or by calling (928) 474-8050.