Trout Fishing In The High Country

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Although Woods Canyon is by far the most popular of the Rim country lakes, a weekend visit to the angling hot spot might be just the fix local anglers yearn for.

A June 4 outing to the man-made 52-acre lake located 36 miles east of Payson off SR 260 yielded a stringer of trout, hours of fun with the family and a cool respite in the pines.

A first stop for all visitors should be the old-time general store that is stocked with about everything anglers and campers forgot to bring from home. Items include sleeping bags, tents, traps, tables, chairs, charcoal, propane, wood, starter fluids, lanterns, clothes and souvenir T-shirts.

For our outing, which included my 3-year-old grandson Max, we opted to cough up $45 to rent a motor boat for four hours. The money proved to be well spent because it allowed us to troll fish and sightsee all parts of the lake.

Motorboats can also be rented all day for $80. Row boats are $25 for four hours or $35 all day. Deposits are required.

For those who don't want to rent a boat or don't have their own, fishing from the shore is a popular option.

The general store staff -- knowledgeable about fishing tactics and bait --s more than willing to share their expertise with visitors.

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Three-year-old Max Foster enjoys his first fishing trip June 4 at Woods Canyon Lake on top of the Mogollon Rim.

My son, Gerry, and I decided to follow the advice we received and try Zee Ray, Mepps Spinners and Crickhopper lures. The only live bait allowed at Woods Canyon are worms and we had some success with the granddaddy of all species -- the Canadian nightcrawlers.

Other popular baits anglers were using included Berkley Power Bait and Nuggets, salmon eggs and marshmallows.

Woods Canyon is stocked regularly with trout, mostly rainbows, but there are also a few brown, brook and cutthroats in the lake.

The largest fish ever taken from Woods Canyon was aptly nicknamed "Big Otto" and was caught July 26, 1999. According to game and fish records, the German brown weighed 10 pounds 11 ounces. Rumor has it that it took Don Hoaglund 45 minutes to net Otto on a 4-pound test line. Whether the tale is true or not is up for debate -- but it sure makes for a good story.

Before setting out for Woods Canyon in search of another Otto, be sure and purchase a license and your favorite sporting goods store. For those who forget, they are available, along with Arizona Game and Fish rules and regulation booklets, at the general store.

License prices have increased in the past few years but all fees go for a great cause -- to help AG&F provide plenty of good fishing opportunities around the state. A resident general fishing license is $18. A resident family fish license with a trout stamp is $28.50.

After a successful afternoon fishing at Woods Canyon, one of the real treasures of the outing is the home-cooked trout dinner.

A simple family recipe to clean the trout thoroughly removing both the head and tail. Inside the fish, place thin lemon slices and close the trout. Liberally salt with lemon pepper and garlic. Wrap in aluminum foil through on a few sliced onions and place over a camp fire for 8 to 10 minutes. The results are a light, tender and lip-smacking delicious dinner.

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