With the pumps working at Washington Park, the East Verde River is flowing at a healthy clip; creating at least 20 miles of quality trout waters from the pump station to well below East Verde Estates. The deep pools are filled and numerous eddies are created by major outcroppings of rocks that frequent the upper stretches. With a regulated steady flow of water, trout fishing will continue to improve, provided certain factors are addressed.
The water temperatures will be maintained well within the optimum range for cold water trout of 60 to 70 degrees even during the hottest months of summer assuming that the pumps continue to bring water from Blue Ridge Reservoir. This richly oxygenated water creates the best possible habitat for a flourishing trout population. With numerous food sources available, some of these trout could grow at a rather rapid rate during the summer months.
A stream of this proportion with gravel bottoms in many places along its course is also perfect for some natural reproduction, which only creates a healthier cold-water fishery. A wild rainbow trout has an even more striking color scheme and tends to be more difficult to catch with shadows, vibrations, and any other foreign movements, often retreating a fish to the closest hiding place. A trout that is raised in a wild river environment has specific learned traits of survival that makes it even more wily to catch by an angler.
Because of intense fishing pressure, it is necessary to replenish this stream on a weekly basis with hatchery-reared trout from the Tonto Fish Hatchery. All of the major crossings receive an ample supply of catchable rainbows that seldom spend much time in the river! The stock truck attracts attention and tends to create a caravan of anglers who are anxious to put fish on their stringer. Not many fish make it down or upstream from the traditional planting locations.
Besides the crossings, the Tonto Fish Hatchery employees also stock other spots along the river, which helps to somewhat spread out these rainbows for better fishing the entire length of the upper stream. More than 750 rainbows are planted weekly to satisfy the increasing demand on the river. The word is out that the East Verde is flowing hard, and this information encourages Valley visitors to come for the day or weekend in hopes of catching a few trout. Not only do they wet a line, but many frequent our stores, restaurants, and motels which greatly benefits the local economy.
Every year there are a few holdover trout that make it through the combat fishing of the summer. They will put on a few inches in girth and length because of the fertility of the East Verde with aquatic life. These fish during the spawning time are not capable of reproducing any wild trout because they are sterile from the hatchery. Again, we have over legislated to the point that most streams and lakes in the Rim Country are not allowed to naturally reproduce trout. Trout fishing is basically a “put them in, take them out plan.”
One reason for the sterilized rainbows is that if they were allowed to reproduce they would be in direct competition with the roundtail chub or other native fish. As a point of reference, the roundtail chub co-existed with various species of trout that had been stocked in our streams since the 1930s. The greatest predators to these fish realistically are raccoons, otters or blue herons and not the rainbow. Incidentally, there are two species of trout that are considered indigenous or native to Arizona which are the Gila and Apache trout, maybe they are a fit.
The good news is that we have a blossoming year-round cold-water flowing stream in the East Verde River that has the potential of being a much better trout fishery provided there are a few changes. There will be ample water and habitat to expand the trout fishery for the general public. I believe wholeheartedly that if this was put to a vote of the Arizona citizenry, an expanded cold-water sport fishery on the East Verde River would win by popular demand. This would mean Arizonans deciding what is best for Arizona and not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency or any other federal bureaucracy.
Catching fish catches on and sells fishing licenses, especially to the next generation.
This weekend, take a friend fishing and enjoy the great outdoors, God’s creation.