Pirch-Don Heizer Holds Rainbow From Big Lake Submitted

Don Heizer holds a healthy rainbow trout caught at Big Lake.

Let’s go fishing” is a common utterance by someone who enjoys the challenge of getting a fish to strike and the thrill of the battle of bringing it to the net.

That can happen anytime during the day or night, but there are windows of prime time when a game fish like a bass or trout is more susceptible to being caught.

The reduced light period of early morning and late afternoon are two of these windows of opportunity offering an angler a definite advantage.

The first hour of daylight and the last hour before dark, game fish have a tendency to be on the prowl cruising the shallows looking for their next meal. A trout will leave the shadows of a hiding place or the deepest depths and become active in the top one foot of water whether it’s in a lake or a stream.

I saw this happen a couple of weeks ago in a small cove on the backside of Big Lake in the White Mountains. There was absolutely no activity in this area during the afternoon, but by 6:30 p.m. there was a feeding frenzy of rainbows, cutthroats and small brookies all near the surface slurping every small insect in sight. A person needs to see this to appreciate the number of trout that inhabit many of our high mountain lakes.

Of course fishing during the prime time periods calls for long drives during the nighttime hours whether in the early morning or leaving the water as darkness swallows the lake or stream.

The season is another factor in determining when to fish with the hope of catching a trophy trout. Most trout lakes have a 20- to 30-day period when the last surface ice melts, where there is a definite feeding period after the long winter.

During this window the fishing can be good all day. As the water warms with extended daylight of early to mid spring, fishing can be spectacular.

This has just occurred at a number of high country trout lakes from 6500 feet in elevation all the way to 9500 feet at the base of Mount Baldy. The higher the elevation the later this phenomenon occurs, so it is possible to follow the warming cycle from early spring into late June. When in pursuit of trophy trout it is likely one will fish a variety of lakes in Arizona.

Most of the fish caught at this time of year are stocked trout from the previous two seasons. They have taken on wild fish tendencies, are extremely good fighters and are delicious table fare whether grilling or baking. A freshly caught 16-inch rainbow or cutthroat baked with your favorite seasoning or sauce surpasses anything offered by the finest restaurants anywhere.

The early spring bite can be a bit harsh on the anglers with cold temperatures, wind and even an occasional snow flurry. The key is to dress accordingly, with multiple layers of warm clothing that can be shed as the daytime temperature warms. With the water temperatures being so cold, it is wise to wear a life jacket and be prepared for any calamity.

As the lake water warms and the grasses and algae grow, the big trout become less aggressive and go to the deepest areas of the lake. But, they will go on the prowl in the shallows in the early morning and late afternoons and can be tricked into striking a fly or other bait.

Likewise, in the fall as the daylight hours shorten and the water temperatures cool, there is another short window of opportunity to catch big trout. This will happen until the lake freezes over and the snow begins to fall. Most anglers have put their fishing equipment away in exchange for the hunting rifles and archery equipment in pursuit of deer and elk.

By going early or staying late even the most popular trout lakes will have few fisherman on the water, and you might have your own private trout waters in the serenity of the early morning or late afternoon.

This weekend share the memories of hooking a big one by taking a friend fishing in God’s creation, the Rim Country.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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