It is trout fishing time in Payson. All three Green Valley lakes were stocked for the first time this season on Tuesday by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Our lakes are part of the Community Fishing Program. Because of our cooler temperatures, the Payson lakes are stocked with trout a full month before the Valley lakes. The Green Valley lakes will be stocked every two weeks through early to mid-May.

Many anglers are successful with PowerBait, corn, worms, and mealworms. Small spinners work well too. I prefer to target the trout with flies.

I fish with wet flies under an indicator. Depending on which lake and depth I am fishing, my fly may be anywhere from three feet to six feet below the indicator. I like beadhead flies in size 12-18 that sink rather quickly to the desired depth.

Other times, when I see the trout sipping bugs off the surface, I switch to a small dry fly to match the midges prevalent in the lake. The most fun is when the trout are in an aggressive mood and will pounce on a quickly stripped wooly bugger a foot or less under the surface.

When I fish the lakes, I cover a lot of water. It is not uncommon for me to fish all three lakes in a few hours. I generally work around the big lake in about an hour and a half. I like to target the drop off where the water looks darker than the shallow water. Trout, as well as the other fish in the lake, will often cruise along the drop off. They will move into the shallows briefly to feed, but like the security that the deeper water provides.

The daily bag limit for trout in our lakes is four fish. During trout season, that can sometimes happen quickly. If you would rather extend your fishing time, please consider a gentle release of your trout. Barbless hooks help a great deal with a safe release. It is also important to protect the slime on the fish by using wet hands instead of a rag when holding the fish.

Better yet, a net works well paired with barbless hooks. Often, when the fish wiggle in the net, my fly has already released from the fish and I don’t even have to touch the trout. If you are using bait and the fish swallows the hook, cut the line just outside of the mouth. As long as the fish isn’t bleeding, the hook will not cause any problems for the fish.

Do not toss trout back in the water as you might a bass or bluegill. They often go belly-up after a battle on the rod. It is important to hold them upright gently in the water, while moving them back and forth so that water passes through their mouth and gills. They will usually swim off when they have revived after a minute or so.

You can purchase licenses online at www.azgfd.gov or locally. The resident fee is $37, which allows you to fish the community waters as well as all the lakes and streams (except reservation lakes and streams) in the state. If you are just planning to fish Green Valley lake or other community lakes in the state, there is a Community Fishing Program license for $24. Anglers 10-15 can fish for $5, and kids 9 and under fish for free. They are good for a full year from date of purchase. Your license fees pay for the hatcheries, stocking, and other work to enhance fishing all year across the state.

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