Sometimes it’s so tough to drive by a lake for another destination, which may be a few miles further where you are planning to go fishing for the day. That is exactly what is necessary when Bear Canyon Lake is the goal — it is nine miles beyond Woods Canyon Lake, further down the Forest Road 300=, or more commonly called the Rim Road.
Bear Canyon Lake is a 60-acre impoundment slightly above 7,500 feet elevation surrounded by a dense forest of pine, spruce and fir trees. It is extremely picturesque and does not have the crowds of the more popular Rim lakes located just off the highway. Nine miles of gravel road limits the number of summer campers and anglers, which provides a bit more solitude for those willing to drive the additional distance.
This is a lake that has a unique history with the type of fish that inhabited its waters. In the 1990s it had a catchable population of arctic grayling that were stocked by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as fingerlings. Brook trout were also in abundance along with a healthy population of rainbows, which made it a fly-fisherman’s delight. It was possible to catch all three kinds of sport fish on an outing without changing the pattern of a fly!
The rainbow trout now dominate these waters with frequent stockings throughout the summer. On any given day in the early morning or late afternoon it is possible to see hundreds of surfacing trout looking from the south shore to the dam at the other end of the lake. A float tube or small kayak is perfect to reach some of these offshore fish because a back cast is virtually impossible with steep banks and trees to the water’s edge.
The two parking lots are approximately a quarter of a mile away from the water, but there are safe trails down the steep decline. A few small car-top aluminum boats will be on the water, but that is definitely a two-man operation with a lot of physical labor. The best method is to take a float tube and leisurely enjoy the day, then huff and puff back up to the parking lot at day’s end.
Bank fishermen can be successful by using PowerBait, spinners or casting a fly with a bubble to get a bit more distance.
Bear Canyon Lake will produce trout all summer in the 10- to 12-inch category with an occasional 14-inch-plus rainbow finding its way into someone’s creel.
The entire journey from Payson is about an hour to go the 44 miles. It is certainly worth it occasionally. Go the extra nine miles and enjoy a different lake right here in Rim Country. The short hike to the water may even give you a little exercise, which is always good for the body.
This weekend take some time and go fishing in God’s creation, the Mogollon Rim country.