It’s Memorial Day Weekend and all the major lakes and streams in the area have plenty of catchable-size rainbow trout for the anglers who want to escape to the cool pines of Rim Country. Expectations are high for the thousands of campers who brought their fishing gear with the hopes of having trout for supper.
With the intense summer angling pressure, the Tonto Fish Hatchery provides thousands of fish weekly for the recreational angler. Most of the local waters have very little natural reproduction.
This past week I took my annual trip to the hatchery accompanied by a group of students from the Payson Education Center. Much to my surprise, only one had been there previously, even though the hatchery is only 17 miles east on Highway 260.
No doubt, the feeding pool was the biggest hit where we spent almost an hour throwing food pellets into the water. Creating a feeding frenzy of lunker trout fighting for food can be a real thrill even for someone like myself who has been there many times.
We observed rainbows, browns, brookies and Apache trout that ranged from 2 to 15 pounds.
The thought of having one of these lunkers on a line was the focal point of most of the conversation. One of the students, Andy Bartusch, caught one of those 5-pound rainbows from Tonto Creek last year, compliments of the bonus fish program established by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Every weekly stocking of all the local trout waters will have a few incentive fish in the 2- to 5-pound category. When they are caught by a lucky angler, the news travels quickly which actually increases the interest in fishing many of these local waters.
As we continued the tour, we viewed many raceways filled with trout that would soon be in the streams and lakes of the Rim Country. Most of these fish were rainbows in the 9- to 12-inch category that would be transported by one of the stock trucks to many waters in northern Arizona. Rearing these fish from eggs to the time they are released is a highly scientific and a major operation by the eight-man crew who are led by John Diehl, hatchery manager of the Tonto Fish Hatchery.
This is the perfect place to take friends who are visiting and you will get a real appreciation for the program which keeps our lakes and streams filled with summer trout. Enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend in the Rim Country, God’s creation.