Don’T Let This Be The One That Got Away

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We caught a glimpse of fish futures in Rim Country. And it was THIS BIG! No. Really. Maybe not Moby Dick. But, you know, big.

Of course, one always discounts the story of an excited fisherman by about 50 percent, with a faint smile and the suggestion of an eye roll.

But we’re seriously intrigued by the possibility of developing Rim Country’s reputation as the best place to go fishing in Arizona — leastwise, the best place the Valley’s sweltering masses can get to easily on the weekend (please bring cash — or limber credit cards).

Consider a couple articles in today’s Roundup.

First, local tourism officials are schooling like hungry pike behind the April FLW Outdoors bass tournament at Roosevelt Lake. Organizers figure the April 16-18 tournament will draw about 200 professional anglers and eager tag-alongs, who will show up a week before the event.

The tournament should interject at least $683,200 into the local economy, according to some estimates.

As it happens, Roosevelt Lake ought to produce some of the best bass fishing in the country this spring — since the rise in lake levels last year submerged a lot of shoreline vegetation. The combination of nutrients and cover should by this spring have produced a bumper crop of itty bitty fish and a bounty of big-itty-bitty-fish-eating bass.

Organizers are working with Rim Country businesses to put together a “Bass Tackle Bag” for those 400 participants, with coupons, souvenirs, discounts and keepsakes — to make sure all those fishermen come into town to swap stories and exercise credit cards. Businesses interested in putting their own bait in the bag can contact Mary McMullen at the Payson Recreation and Tourism office, (928) 474-5242, ext. 7 or mmcmullen@ci.payson.az.us.

Meanwhile, the Payson Flycasters Club has formed a Trout Unlimited chapter, partly to strengthen the push to improve fishing in the East Verde River and Tonto Creek.

Already, the U.S. Forest Service plans to essentially remodel Tonto Creek, to make more trout pools.

Meanwhile, the Salt River Project’s push to get more water out of the Blue Ridge Reservoir, into the East Verde and down to its reservoirs could provide that stream on the outskirts of Payson with a more reliable flow of water.

So suppose native Gila Trout or Apache Trout were introduced into stretches of the East Verde in fishable quantities. Rim Country could promote itself as the ultimate fishing destination, with one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, pine-shaded Tonto Creek and perhaps a more reliable East Verde, where anglers could catch fish found only here.

It’s an alluring possibility.

Survey after survey shows that the outdoor experience is the single biggest tourism draw for Rim Country visitors. A 2006 national study found that 30 million Americans fish and spend $42 billion annually on the habit.

So come on, guys. Let’s not let this be the opportunity that got away.

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