I sit — where I shouldn’t — on the shores of a high country lake, squandering my time. So much to do: Deadlines, stories to write, overdue bills.
But the wind is cool, the clouds are high, the lake is clear. Sunset soon: I can feel it gather as the planet spins. Deep breath. Let it out. Let my warm-blooded frenzy settle. Live in the now.
Heck. At least I’m not a fish.
Not in Fool Hollow Lake, at any rate.
Now, I know: You’re thinking fish have it easy, reveling in neutral buoyancy. So cold blooded and serene yet also wide-eyed and placidly astonished all the time. Just hanging out — living the easy life.
Sure — except for the predatory pike and the wobegotten walleye.
Fool Hollow just outside Show Low has them all — as do many of the high country lakes of a certain altitude. You wouldn’t think it, sitting here on the bank watching the cloud shadows drift across the riffled surface, but it’s hell down there. A hell of our own making, I might add.
Human beings made all but one of Arizona’s lakes — with our dams and our diversions and our bass boats. Then we created our own little artificial worlds so we could satisfy our need to go fishing and blow the afternoon guilt free (well, nearly guilt free).
So we dumped the most eclectic assortment of fish gathered up from all over the planet in most of these little lakes — especially in the mid-altitude lakes like Fool Hollow with a temperature range sufficient to blend trout, channel catfish, sunfish, black crappie, bass, pike and walleye all in one place. The state park has showers, a campground, boat ramp, five fishing platforms, a fish-cleaning station, hiking trails — you name it.
It also has northern pike — the Jaws of freshwater lakes. Heck, pike are so mean they ought to have their own theme music.
A handful of fishing addicts and their Game and Fish enablers conspired to dump pike into a handful of Arizona lakes. The biggest pike on record are like 5 feet long and weigh 60 pounds. They’re ambush predators — who hide themselves on the bottom and wait for a mouthful of just about anything to come along — mostly fish, but crayfish, frogs, ducks — whatever. Usually, they have the good sense to target critters about half their size.
But I read about one pike that choked to death trying to swallow head first another pike just a bit smaller than he was. Now, that’s ambition.
Actually, pike have nasty eating habits. They sit motionless for long periods of time until someone tasty mistakes them for a rock. They’ve got sensors in their jaws and along their backs to locate lunch in the mud and pick up the vibrations of passing fish. They explode into motion, chomp down with their needle-sharp, backward-pointing teeth in the middle of their hapless prey, then deftly flip their wounded victim around so they can gobble them head first. That all sounds pretty bloodthirsty until you consider the aerodynamics trying to swallow a fish half your size starting with the tail.
The biggest problem pike have seems be other pike — since they eagerly gobble up their own young given half a chance. Some observers have suggested sometimes pike form “wolf packs” and hunt in little groups of cold-blooded assassins.
Mind you: That’s just the pike. Fool Hollow also harbors walleye — named for the disconcerting cat-like gleam of their eyes when hit by a flashlight.
Walleyes can get to be 2 or 3 feet long and weigh up to about 20 pounds. They’re also hard-core predators, who feed with special enthusiasm at night and during choppy, stormy days —maybe so they won’t run into any pike and lose their happy position on the food chain.
Oddly enough, all this scaled mayhem makes me feel better about sitting on the banks as the sun dwindles, ignoring my deadlines and duties.
Because here’s the thing about editors: They ruin your leads, they’ll send you to town council meetings, they’ll even fire you now and then.
But they’ll hardly ever swallow you head first.
Fall Fishing Recommendations from Arizona Game and Fish Department
Woods Canyon and Willow Springs lakes on the Rim get stocked until nearly the first snowfall, including big incentive trout in July.
Show Low Lake in the Pinetop-Lakeside/Show Low area were heavily stocked all spring, with lots of success with trout, walleye, and bluegill from the fishing piers and boats.
In the higher elevations, Big Lake is just fair for rainbow and cutthroat trout, but Crescent Lake has a lot of stocked trout. Carnero Lake is very good for fly anglers from float tubes and pontoons.
All lakes are accessible and full. Boat ramps are all accessible, except at Bear Canyon and Chevelon Canyon lakes where there are no traditional boat ramps. For more information, call the Pinetop Office of Arizona Game and Fish at (928) 367-4281.
Bear Canyon Lake: Fishing is fair to good for stocked trout. Try Power Bait and night crawlers. Hike-in lake, but best fished from a float tube or kayak.
Black Canyon Lake: Fishing is fair for stocked trout. Contains illegally stocked largemouth bass and green sunfish, which fisheries managers hope you’ll catch and keep.
Chevelon Lake: Fishing is fair. Steep-sided, hike-in lake. Try flies and lures as storms move in, but don’t get hit by lightning. Artificial flies and lures only and you must immediately return to the lake trout in 10- to 14-inch size range. Bag limit for other sizes remains at six.
Willow Springs Lake: Fishing is fair to good. Try Power Bait, night crawlers and small lures. This lake also has largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and crappie — keep all you want of those — no limit.
Woods Canyon Lake: Fishing is fair to good for stocked trout, including 1- to 8-pound incentive fish stocked in July. Fish biting well on slowly trolled, small Rebel crankbaits, Crickhoppers, spinners, and cowbells with an attached worm or fly. Trolling Super Dupers or cowbells is popular here. Store sells a range of supplies and rents boats.
Becker Lake: Fishing is fair for large rainbow trout. Try nymphs and small midges. Two-trout bag limit. Use only artificial lure and fly, barbless hooks, no bait.
Big Lake: Fishing is fair to good. Try spinners such as Rooster Tails, Panther Martin and Crickhopper lures as well as wooly bugger and wooly worm flies, and the usual night crawlers, Power Bait and salmon eggs. Also try deep-water areas of the lake, trolling with cowbells and lures tipped with a night crawler. Bank anglers should fish off rocky points near deep water. Has a store and boat rentals.
Carnero Lake: Fishing is very good for rainbow trout. Fly fishermen are catching stocked rainbow trout on small nymphs. Best fished from a float tube, canoe or kayak as bankside weeds are very thick.
Clear Creek Reservoir: Fishing is poor for trout, but good for bullheads, sunfish and bass. Try night crawlers and spinners for trout, and night crawlers on the bottom for the rest.
Concho Lake: Fishing is poor due to low lake levels.
Fool Hollow Lake: Fishing is fair. Some anglers have caught 15-inch trout with night crawlers and Power Bait. Others have been getting catfish at night on chicken liver and night crawlers. For bluegills and black crappies, try night crawlers and small jigs off the west and east side fishing piers. Some bass and walleye are being caught on lures.
Greer Lakes: Fishing is fair at all Greer lakes (Bunch, Tunnel and River), but watch out for low water levels which have closed several boat ramps. Try Power Bait and night crawlers on the bottom early in the morning and late evening. Boat anglers should try small lures or cowbells with an attached lure, fly or bait. River Reservoir also contains illegally-stocked yellow perch, which can be caught easily by kids fishing a small piece of night crawler under a bobber.
Hulsey Lake: Fishing is fair. Trout have been caught on Power Bait and night crawlers. There is a short hike down to this small lake.
Lee Valley Reservoir: Fishing is fair. Apache trout and grayling had been biting on beadhead nymphs, Prince nymphs, Hares ear, zug bugs and small peacock ladies. No bait fishing allowed — lures and flies only with a two-trout bag and possession limit, and a minimum size of 12 inches.
Luna Lake: Fishing is poor following fish kill in mid-July due to high pH levels. Try fishing early in the morning and late in the evening, when trout will be most active, in 8 to 10 feet of water. This lake normally stratifies in the summer, producing areas of no oxygen in the deepest portions, so don’t fish too deep if fishing on the bottom with bait. Store and boat rentals available.
Lyman Lake: Fishing is fair for catfish, largemouth bass, sunfish and walleye. The park has many campsites and other amenities.
Nelson Reservoir: Fishing is fair. An algae bloom has forced many fish to stay deep, so try worms, Power Bait and salmon eggs in the early morning and late evening.
Rainbow Lake: Fishing is poor due to algae blooms and rising pH levels. A few bluegills, catfish and bullheads are being caught off the fishing piers.
Scott Reservoir: Fishing is fair. The lake was last stocked with catchable-size rainbow trout in May, and 1- to 7-pound channel catfish were also stocked on May 19.
Show Low Lake: Fishing is fair. Anglers are catching trout, walleye, bass and bluegills on night crawlers from the fishing piers, and on lures and cowbells with worms from boats. A few channel catfish are also being caught.
Woodland Lake: Fishing is poor for trout, fair for bass and catfish. Try night crawlers or Power Bait early in the morning and late in the evening for trout, bass and catfish. A 5-pound largemouth bass was caught last week on catfish bait.
White Mountain streams: Most streams had been running high from heavy monsoon storms in late July, but have dropped down to near normal flows. Access roads to all streams are open. Most streams will not be stocked this week or next.
East Fork Black River: Fishing is fair to good. Apache trout stocked regularly. Try drifting worms through pools and spinners, Rapalas or streamers for the resident brown trout.
Little Colorado River-Greer: Fishing is fair to good. Catchable-size Apache and rainbow trout stocked regularly. Wild brown trout are also present.
Sheeps Crossing: Fishing is fair to good, but road paving on Highway 273 from Sunrise to Forest Road 87 will cause delays.
Silver Creek: Fishing is poor to fair due to monsoon flooding, which interrupted stocking. Silver Creek is currently open to lures, flies and bait; with a daily bag and possession limit of six trout from April 1 through Sept. 30. The upper section is closed to fishing at this time.
West Fork Black River: Fishing is fair to good. Apache trout stocked regularly. Drift worms through pools for stocked trout or worms, spinners or streamers for resident brown trout. Upper reaches, from Hayground Creek to the Apache Indian Reservation boundary, are open to catch-and-release fishing only, with artificial lure and fly.