The local trout streams within a 30-mile radius of Payson have received their first spring stocking of catchable rainbows and will continue throughout the summer. Popular waters like Tonto, Christopher, Haigler, Canyon and the East Verde will be visited by the Tonto Fish Hatchery on a regular basis providing thousands of catchable rainbow trout in the 9- to 12-inch range. Each of these waters will also receive bonus or incentive fish, which will tip the scales at 2 to 3 pounds to certainly add excitement for the locals as well as the visiting anglers from the Valley.
Most of the Rim lakes are still not open because of lingering snow and numerous downed trees that need to be removed from the access roads. Until this is remedied, the urge to catch a trout might be best satisfied by visiting some of these streams. Believe it or not, they can hold some mighty big fish, and many more in number than most anglers realize.
These streams are fed by numerous springs along the Mogollon Rim that have been recharged by abundant winter snowfall creating healthy trout waters rich in oxygen, cool temperatures and a favorable pH. Trout stockings will very likely continue all summer long because of these advantageous conditions, even in the marginal waters of the East Verde River. If the pump is turned on above Washington Park as proposed, then the East Verde will be a fishable stream and will continue to be a popular summer destination for visitors to the Rim Country.
These easy-to-reach streams are within a 30-minute drive from town, while Canyon and Haigler are an hour away on some gravel and dirt roads. With the longer daylight hours of late spring and summer, all can be reached easily after a full day of work. These streams are perfect mid-week destinations for a couple of hours of fishing prior to the weekend crowds. The more popular deepwater pools will always hold fish and are easy for the beginning angler of any age to wet a line.
Any simple spin casting rod and reel can be mastered with a few trial and error casts. The easiest setup is a split shot squeezed on the line about a foot above a number 12 hook with a small ball of power bait molded on the barb and covering the shank. Maybe the most proven bait over the decades is the garden worm threaded on the hook, although this might be a squeamish affair for a beginning angler. Another inexpensive and effective bait is to tip the hook with a couple of pieces of whole kernel corn. Some fishermen get creative and combine these baits into a colorful presentation that might attract a less hungry trout.
If you go, remember to leave the stream a cleaner place. Take a daypack with a plastic sack and make a point of picking up any discarded litter. This could be a real teaching moment if your children see you doing more than your part on the next outing. Our local trout streams are such a valuable resource for everyone to enjoy.
All of these waters are accessible to children and are the perfect places for a couple of hours of fun after school and work. Any child under the age of 14 does not need a fishing license in Arizona and has a creel limit of three fish on the local Rim waters. Introducing your children to stream fishing creates another opportunity for a family outing, and may be the answer for, “there is just nothing to do.” I adhere to that old adage, “the family that plays together has a better chance to stay together.” This weekend, take your children fishing, and enjoy God’s creation.