The annual Woods Canyon Lake Trout Tournament, which was last held May 1, has marked the unofficial beginning of the summer trout season on the Rim Lakes for more than two decades.
The Fall Classic Trout Tournament at Willow Springs has represented the end of the summer season on the lakes since its inception five years ago. The next tournament is scheduled for Oct. 16.
Longtime Christopher Creek resident Tracy Purtee serves as tournament director for both competitions.
Proceeds from the tournaments will be used to help complete a new Payson Community Christian School at 500 S. Mud Springs Road.
PCCS has received the proceeds, about $4,000 annually, for the past four years.
When Purtee first took over the Woods Canyon event, 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 tournament director of both events Purtee has plenty of fond memories of past events.
His most cherished recollections are of the 1996 Woods Canyon tournament when the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocked the lake just days before the event.
"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: about seven pounds.
The rules and schedule
This year's fall tournament will be held from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Willow Springs Lake located 32 miles east of Payson and north of Highway 260. Purtee said there will be PCCS signs posted to direct competitors to the lake.
The pre-registration entry fee is $20, due before Oct. 11. On the day of the tournament, the fee to enter will be $25.
Tournament day registration at the lake's store opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 8 a.m. Those who pre-register must also check in.
All entrants must be in possession of an Arizona fishing license and a trout stamp. Arizona Game and Fish Laws limit an angler to six trout per day.
Participants must fish Willow Springs Lake only. The minimum size trout that should be kept is 8 inches. The benefit will take place regardless of weather conditions.
The weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Since the weigh-in will be held at the dock, fishermen can opt to catch and release. Awards and prizes will be given out at a ceremony to begin at 4:30 p.m. near a motor home with a Payson Christian Community Christian School sign.
First, second and third place trophies will be awarded for the largest fish and total weight of fish caught in two categories -- No. 1 (rainbow and German brown trout) and No. 2 (large and small mouth bass). There will be similar awards given out for a 13-and-under division.
Entry forms are available at Payson Christian School, 501 E. Rancho Road, or by calling (928) 474-8050. Contact about the tournament can also be made through the school's website, PCCS@cybertrails.com.