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"The Arizona Game and Fish Department's catch-and-release Apache trout fishery along Silver Creek near Show Low is certainly a one-of-a-kind winter fishing opportunity you can't find anywhere else. The opening of this fishery each Oct. 1 has become a holiday-like event for dedicated Apache trout anglers," said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young.
However, Young added that most anglers are often amazed at the plethora of unique winter trout fishing opportunities Arizona offers, from an improbable desert river fishery near Phoenix and gas-tank-friendly urban waters to a renowned tail-water trout fishery that draws anglers from around the world. There is even a lesser-known fun stretch of river within casting distance from major gambling casinos.
"We even stock winter trout in two popular warm water fisheries Saguaro and Canyon lakes," Young pointed out. "Do you want a fairly solitary winter hiking adventure where you can fish shaded canyon pools for feisty rainbow trout? Just try Beaver Creek or West Clear Creek in the Verde Valley."
But it's tough to top the artificial lure and fly, catch-and-release-only golden trout experience at Silver Creek (barbless hooks only please).
This year, the hard-working Silver Creek Hatchery crew outdid themselves prior to opening day they stocked a couple of dozen Apache trout tipping the scales at around 3 pounds or so. It was line-stripping fun for anglers on opening morning even before the annual stocking took place later that day.
"It felt like Christmas morning when I was a kid," said one beaming fly angler who had the pleasure of fighting and then landing at least two of the trophy-sized golden beauties.
The early-bird anglers even got another treat at first light a majestic bull elk was waiting for them as an unofficial greeter at the end of their hike through the dewy grass to the upper pool on the Game and Fish Departments Silver Creek property.
But it wasn't all pure action, fun and golden adventure. A hard-working crew from Cabela's in Phoenix plunged into the hatchery ponds and helped to net, load, and then distribute the Apache trout and rainbows along this meandering creek barely one puddle-jump away from the Show Low Airport.
"There's no fishery quite like this," said Tim McGough, a Phoenix architect who comes to help out and fish on opening day each year. "This spring-fed creek is fishable all winter long. It's an amazing place to fish."
For those who aren'taware, the native Apache trout is Arizona' state fish. Although it is listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, anglers can fish for it in certain areas, such as Silver Creek, the Little Colorado River in the Greer Valley, plus the East and West Forks of Black River.
In fact, the White Mountains of Arizona is the only place on this blue planet where you can readily angle for pure-strain Apache trout.
Apache trout are also on the brink of making history they may become the first native fish in the United States to come off the endangered species list, thanks to a model cooperative recovery effort involving the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a long list of dedicated angling groups.
History notes notwithstanding, the anglers present on opening morning at Silver Creek did have one request dont tell anyone. Oops, the trouts out of the stocking net as it were. So go catch some golden memories at Silver Creek, Greer or the East and West Forks. Don't forget about the classic Apache trout fisheries on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
But as the season progresses, snow storms visit and higher elevation lakes ice-up, the spring-fed waters of Silver Creek will still be a viable Apache trout fishery worth experiencing.
This is also the leading edge of the Game and Fish Department's ambitious winter trout stocking program. For a list of what water is stocked when, visit www.azgfd.gov/fish and click on the "Stocking Schedule" link.
Other winter trout fisheries (most are stocked, some are not) include:
The Lower Salt River near Phoenix (start stocking the first week of November);
Saguaro Lake (scheduled for the second week of November);
Canyon Lake (scheduled for the third week of November); Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley (being stocked this week);
West Clear Creek in the Verde Valley (being stocked this week); Verde River between Camp Verde and Cottonwood (starting the first week of November);
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood (the first week of November);
Goldwater Lake, Lynx Lake and Fain Lake near Prescott (have already been stocked); Tempe Town Lake (first stocking the Tuesday before Thanksgiving); Lees Ferry in northern Arizona (the wild trout spawn typically starts in January);
Bullhead area of the Colorado River along Casino Row (already being stocked);
Willow Beach, the tail-water fishery in Arizona between Hoover Dam and Lake Mohave (already being stocked); Oak Creek Canyon (already being stocked); Urban Program lakes in greater Phoenix and Tucson areas (start stocking with trout the second week in November); Green Valley Lake (an Urban Program water) in Payson, first trout stocking the second week of October;
Cluff Pond, Dankworth Pond, Frye Mesa, and Kearny Lake in southeastern Arizona (stockings start in November);
Patagonia, Parker Canyon and Roper Lake in southern Arizona (stockings mostly start in November); Fortuna Pond in Yuma (stockings start in mid December). "Those anglers who hang up their trout fishing gear in winter are missing some of the most unique and exciting fishing adventures of the year," Young said. "Don't miss out on Arizonas winter trout.
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