I am not much for making New Year’s resolutions, but I still set goals for places I want to fish when spring rolls into early summer.
When the ice leaves the lakes and the water warms at the 9,000 ft. plus elevation, the big trout cruise the shoreline and feed after a long winter. This window of opportunity lasts just a few weeks and being on the water is a must if big trout are your fancy.
1. Big Lake: When the paved road AZ 273 is open after the long winter from Highway 260, the word spreads quickly as anglers are eager to try their luck for cutthroats, rainbows, and brookies.
This is a shallow, fertile lake and with extreme cold temperatures and heavy snow there will probably be some fish die-off. Although, the trout in this lake did amazingly well last year with very little mortality even with above average snowfall. My prediction is that it will be another banner year for Big Lake.
2. Sunrise Lake: This body of water is on the White Mountain Indian Reservation and will require a $9 daily fishing permit for a five-trout limit. Anglers who launch a boat or kayak will cover much more water and often have better results than the shore fishermen, but there is an additional $5 daily charge. This is a shallow, fertile lake where many three- to five-pound rainbows are lurking, waiting for their next meal.
3. Ashurst Lake: An often overlooked trout lake located on Anderson Mesa southeast of Flagstaff can be a real sleeper and harbors some healthy rainbows and German browns.
The landscape is dotted with junipers and a few wind swept ponderosas, but in the distance the San Francisco Peaks add to the view. This is another fertile lake that draws attention to anglers when the bite is on.
It does not attract as much fishing pressure because of the four-mile rough road that will dislodge any equipment not securely tied down. In addition, the boat launch needs repair with a very shallow approach making it rather difficult. Although, on the right day, it is still worth the trip.
4. Reservation Lake is another top prospect for catching quality rainbows, brookies, German browns, and Apache trout. It is located on the White Mountain Apache Reservation and requires their $9 daily fishing license and a $5 boat permit.
The journey is definitely a two-day adventure where it would be wise to include Big Lake or Crescent Lake in the fishing plans.
Heading toward Big Lake on AZ273 there will be a right turn to a gravel road FS116 and an additional five miles on a winding mountain road will take you to the lake.
5. Bear Canyon Lake: This 60-acre reservoir at 7,500 ft. elevation may be the most picturesque of all the Rim lakes and have the least fishing pressure.
The lake is stocked frequently during the late spring and summer with rainbow trout, and during the early morning and late afternoons they put on quite a display feeding on the surface insects. It is considered a walk-in lake where a quarter-mile path on a steep trail from the parking lot will put you at the water’s edge.
It is common to catch rainbows up to 14 inches because they have had time to grow in this lake because of less fishing pressure. This 44-mile journey from Payson is well worth the trip.
There are many other lakes and streams that I hope to visit in 2020.
May the new year give you the opportunity to enjoy and fish the Arizona high country, God’s creation.