Tourney Kicks Off Trout Season For Rim Lakes

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Students at Payson Community Christian School will once again reap the benefits of the Annual Woods Canyon Lake Trout Tournament. Now in its 22nd year, it will be May 7.

"All monies from this will be used to purchase school equipment," tournament director Tracy Purtee said.

PCCS has received the proceeds from the tournament, which amounts to about $2,000 annually, for the past five years.

When Purtee first founded the high country angling competition, it was to benefit the Kohls Ranch/Christopher Creek Fire Department.

Purtee said he opted to change the tournament's beneficiary to PCCS when the fire department began receiving tax assistance.

In addition to benefiting a worthwhile cause, the angling showcase will mark the unofficial beginning of trout fishing season on Rim lakes.

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 6-pound Rainbow," Purtee said. "That's one of the biggest that's been caught."

The tournament also produced the largest stringer of fish, about 7 pounds, 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)."

Bass have also proven to be an elusive species even though there is a prize for biggest large and small mouth caught.

"We didn't have any of those caught last year," Purtee said.

The rules and schedule

This year's tournament will be held 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the lake, located 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 preregistered before May 1. 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 preregister must also check in before beginning to fish.

Due to the size of the lake, the tournament is open only to the first 100 anglers to register.

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 Woods Canyon Lake only and there can be no prefishing from April 28 to the day of the tournament. The minimum size trout that should be kept is 8 inches. Also, 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 most popular baits in past tournaments have been power baits and Ford Fender trout lures, Purtee said.

The post tournament weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Since the weigh- in will be held at the dock house, fishermen can opt to catch and release. Awards and prizes will be given out at a ceremony beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the lake parking lot.

"Look for a motor home with Payson Community Christian School sign," Purtee said.

Entry forms are available at Payson Christian School (501 E. Rancho Road) or by calling (928) 474-8050.

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