The following information was compiled from personal experience, suggestions by people who actually know how to fish and the fishing report on Arizona Department of Game and Fish Web site.
Tonto Creek: Heavy stocking in most deep pools close to the road midweek. To escape crowds and have a chance at trout, work the stream downstream from Bear Flats, which is protected by a bumpy, steep dirt road from the crowds.
East Verde River: Try working the creek upstream from First Crossing on Houston Mesa Road, since the hatchery doesn't consistently stock the warmer downstream reaches of the stream. Warming water has also largely curtailed stocking of the lower stretches of the East Verde along Flowing Springs Road.
Knoll Lake: The long dirt road and remote location off Forest Road 300 means this regularly stocked lake has smaller weekend crowds and more fish than many of the more heavily fished lakes. Keep your eyes peeled for the pair of nesting osprey. The lake has a launch ramp for boats.
Bear Canyon Lake: The hike into this Rim Country lake, down steep switchbacks, protects it from some of the weekend crowds. Float tubers should do well at the steep-sided lake, which lacks campground or other facilities.
Chevelon Lake:Float tubes, canoes and kayaks are almost mandatory to fish this remote lake with a steep trail, but those difficulties can make the fishing here great and will thin even weekend crowds. Recent reports suggest success rates have dropped, but the lake is full with a good supply of moderate-sized trout.
Willow Springs Lake on the Mogollon Rim requires a short hike to reach a 250-acre surface acre lake that's one of the largest on the Rim -- and one of the most popular destinations for serious Payson fishermen who want to chill out and fish. Fishing reported good for the small stocker trout, slow for the larger fish that overwintered.
Black River (east and west fork): It will take two hours to get there from Payson, but the lush cool scenery, ample flows and stocked Apache Trout make the trip well worthwhile. A hike along the river can get an angler into some beautiful wilderness and thin the weekend crowds.
Black Canyon: Fishing reported fair to poor on this small lake with boat launching facilities, but is limited to electric trolling motors. Try worms, salmon eggs, Power Bait, lures and flies like peacock ladies, wooly worms and wooly buggers.
Woods Canyon Lake: Fishing reported fair to good in this small, easily accessible Rim lake, stocked weekly with rainbows. Try trolling KastMasters and Panther Martins and fishing the bottom during the day with Power Bait on slip sinkers.