Fall Fishing Forecast: White Mountains/Mogollon Rim
Editor’s note: This is the first of 5 regional Fall Fishing Forecasts. Check back each day this week for forecasts from the Central, Colorado River waters, North Central and Southeast regions. The following is a general description and quarterly forecast for fishing conditions in major public water bodies in the respective regions.
Bear Canyon Lake — Rating: GOOD
Bear Canyon Lake is steep, as well as deep. There is little shallow water, except at the upper end of the lake. Fish using small spinners and lures. If fishing off the bottom, avoid casting out too far where the water is very deep. Bait anglers should try fishing with a worm and bobber. Fly anglers using a float tube or kayak can find solitude at Bear Canyon Lake, especially on weekdays. However, fly-fishing from shore or wading is difficult because the tree line comes right to the water’s edge, and the water gets deep close to shore. Rainbow trout are stocked once in late September, and trout will survive several weeks after stocking. Water quality is good despite water levels being low.
Black Canyon Lake — Rating: POOR
After a poor winter and hot summer, Black Canyon Lake is quite low. The boat ramp and dock are out of the water, limiting boat access. About one-third of the lake is thick with weeds. Catchable-sized rainbow trout were only stocked during the spring, but may persist this year due to fire closures restricting access and angling pressure. Late summer water quality measurements were poor, suggesting fishing may not be productive until cooler temperatures and cloudy days decrease algae blooms.The lake also currently contains illegally introduced green sunfish and largemouth bass; anglers are encouraged to catch and remove these species to help control their populations. There is no limit for bass and sunfish here.
Chevelon Canyon Lake — Rating: GOOD
Because of the difficult access, this lake is popular with float-tubers. Its deep canyon and well-forested edges make this lake a cool respite during the summer. As fall progresses, watch out for spawning brown trout upstream of the lake. Try not to target fish on redds or step on redds in the stream. This lake has a great population of wild browns. Protecting spawning fish will allow these populations to thrive. Some lures to try are Kastmasters, Panther Martin spinners and Rapalas for stocked rainbows and wild brown trout. Fly-fishermen should try wooly buggers or wooly worms in black or brown colors, crayfish-colored patterns, and brown or black simi seal leeches, peacock ladies or other large streamers. Chevelon Canyon is stocked with fingerling trout in the spring and managed as a put-and-grow fishery. Lake levels are way down and launching boats will be difficult this summer. Chevelon Canyon Lake is a hike-in or ATV accessible lake only, with a two trout limit and artificial fly/lure only regulations.
Willow Springs Lake — Rating: GOOD
Lake levels are low this year, but boat launching is still good. As daytime temperatures cool, water stratification breaks up and trout disperse throughout all depths. Willow Springs is stocked with catchable rainbow trout weekly until the end of September and tiger trout were stocked in May. Large numbers of trout remain uncaught into the fall and continue to provide excellent opportunity for anglers. Try Kastmasters, small Rapalas or Panther Martins for either species. Shore anglers fishing for trout can try nightcrawlers or PowerBait. Green sunfish and smallmouth bass were illegally introduced to this lake. Try a small hook with a worm under a bobber, even during the hotter parts of the day.
Woods Canyon Lake — Rating: GOOD
Just like at Willow Springs Lake, water temperatures should be mixing and letting fish move freely into deep water. Large numbers of trout remain uncaught into the fall and continue to provide excellent opportunity for anglers. If fishing for trout from shore, try PowerBait or worms. Fly anglers may have luck on dry flies or small nymphs right at sunset. Boaters can try trolling a Super Duper or tiny gold Kastmaster lures. The lake is loaded with crayfish; try fishing for large trout with spinners or lures that imitate crayfish patterns. Fish for illegally stocked green sunfish along the rocky shore with nightcrawlers. Woods Canyon Lake is stocked weekly throughout September with Rainbow Trout and in May with Tiger Trout.
Becker Lake — Rating: GOOD
Becker Lake can only be fished with artificial flies and lures with a single point barbless hook, catch-and-release trout only. Big rainbow and tiger trout lurk along the weed beds on the south end, but can be found in the middle of the lake by boat and float tube as well. Flies to try are midges, prince nymph, brown Montana stone and KP bugger. There is limited opportunity for shore fishing and wading especially due to low water, but there is a floating fishing pier that is handicapped accessible. Spin fishermen can try Z-rays, small Kastmasters or Panther Martins with the treble replaced with a single point barbless hook.
In early fall, fishing is best in the morning before the wind picks up and evenings after the monsoon storms have passed. With cool daytime temperatures. fishing can be productive from dusk to dawn. A 2018 spring fish population survey found lots of rainbow trout from 14-20 inches (most in the 18-19 inch range). Illegally introduced largemouth bass can also be found in this lake and anglers are encouraged to harvest bass to help the trout populations.
Big Lake — Fishing Rating: GOOD
Cooling daytime temperatures and afternoon monsoon storms are helping to break up algae blooms and improve visibility in Big Lake. Because of its size, productivity and visitor amenities, Big Lake is considered one of the White Mountains’ best fishing lakes. Anglers should see increased bite as the weather cools and trout become more active.
Bait and shore fishermen can try anything from worms to PowerBait. Fishing from a boat is generally more successful in the early fall than fishing from the shoreline, when the fish move into deep, cooler water. As temperatures cool, trout will be found in shallower water, but shore angling remains difficult due to low water levels. Boaters should try trolling spinners and flies. Rainbow trout often forage on bottom, while cutthroat trout may be a couple feet higher in the water column. To attract cutthroat, use lures that resemble crayfish or their movements. Brook trout will hit flies, but also try nightcrawlers on the bottom. Spring 2018 fish population surveys found healthy numbers of rainbow and cutthroat trout, including cutthroat up to 20 inches and weighing more than 3 pounds.
Carnero Lake — Rating: GOOD
Fishing from the shoreline or using spinners or lures is difficult at this lake because of the weeds. The best way to fish is from a small boat, canoe or float tube. Fly fish for rainbow trout and tiger trout with wooly buggers, prince nymphs or light-colored nymphs in open areas. The water is deepest near the islands on the north end of the lake. Water levels are low this year and poor water quality was an issue in the summer. However there are fewer weeds than normal and more open water. As of late August, water quality was already improving, and will only get better throughout the fall as cooler daytime temperatures and afternoon monsoons cool things down. Access is still difficult and requires a slog out into the mud to get a float tube or kayak in. Carnero won’t fill back up until winter storms, so put your chest waders on and fish!
Clear Creek Reservoir — Rating: FAIR
Rainbow trout stocked in spring should be fished out by now. Instead, target warmwater species like largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish and common carp. As daytime temperatures cool, even in Winslow, bass should be more mobile and active. Fish during the morning from a boat or kayak, cruise around and enjoy the unique geology through the middle of the day, and then catch the evening bite at night. Try small hooks with a worm and bobber near rocks and structure for sunfish. For bullhead and channel catfish, use bait on bottom such as worms and chicken livers, especially at night when catfish are most active.
Concho Lake — Rating: POOR
As temperatures warm throughout the summer and water is used for irrigation, this lake becomes inhospitable to trout and tolerable for warmwater species. By fall, only kayaking and shore fishing may be possible due to low water. Use corn to catch common \carp. Try chicken liver or worms on bottom in the evening and night for channel catfish.
Crescent Lake — Rating: FAIR
Bait and shore fishermen can try nightcrawlers and PowerBait. Rocky points on the west side are good for shore anglers when the lake is weedy. Boat anglers consistently do better at Crescent than shore fishermen. Boaters can try trolling with flies, such as wooly buggers, prince nymphs or peacock ladies, or use spinners like Panther Martins, small Mepps or Rooster Tails. Spring 2018 population surveys indicate good numbers of holdover Brook trout and rainbow trout with more subcatchable-sized rainbows and catchable-sized brook trout stocked in spring. This lake is full of fish, but murky water can make sight fishing and dry fly fishing difficult – use flashy lures or streamers, or bait. Summer algae blooms and low water likely decreased fishing success. As weather cools and water quality improves, try Crescent instead of other nearby lakes that may be overfished.
Fool Hollow Lake — Rating: FAIR
With a variety of fish species, Fool Hollow Lake offers something for everyone, from first-time anglers to seasoned veterans. For kids and novice anglers, nightcrawlers on the bottom or under a bobber in rocky areas are a good way to go for bluegill or green sunfish. More experienced anglers can try spinner baits, jigs and nightcrawler rigs around underwater rocky structure, where large smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and walleye lurk. This is a great lake to catch trophy-sized walleye. Catch catfish in early fall with nightcrawlers or chicken livers on the bottom. Despite low water levels this year, water quality remains good. Try small bass and sunfish mimic lures for walleye in the rocky shallows during the evening.
Greer Lakes (Bunch, Tunnel, River) — Rating: FAIR
Tunnel and Bunch reservoirs both are about 10 feet deep on average. River Reservoir is the largest and deepest of the Greer Lakes, with an average depth of 20 feet. Because it is the largest and deepest, and last in line of the three, River typically will have the most water, the longest into the fall before filling again. Water rights are owned by the irrigation company and the lake levels get extremely low during the summer, so by fall, River is usually the only lake with enough water to be worth fishing. When the lakes begin filling again in the fall, fish near the inflows where the water is freshest.Try insect and crayfish mimic flies and lures flowing in with the freshwater.
Trolling flies, such as brown or black wooly buggers, or spinners, is likely to work well in River Reservoir. Fly fishermen should try the upper end of River Reservoir where the river comes in and the lake is shallower. Sometimes there’s good surface action in the evenings; try hoppers or nymphs under a hopper in the early fall when insects are active.
Lee Valley Lake — Rating: POOR
Lee Valley Lake can only be fished with artificial lures and flies. Float tubes are popular and easy to use at this lake. However, fishing success from shore is comparable to fishing from a float tube or a boat. Lee Valley holds the state record for Arctic grayling (14.65 inches). Either end of the dam is a good place to fish from shore. Fly fishing is usually the most productive technique at this lake. Wet flies to try are hare’s ear nymphs, small peacock ladies and prince nymphs in sizes 14 to 16. Just before dark, surface action can be good with dry flies, such as small Adams, mosquito or midge larvae, and light Cahills in sizes 16 to 20. Successful spinning lures can be small Panther Martin, small Z-ray or a very small Kastmaster fished from the dam. Early fall fishing will likely not be good due to low water and poor water quality, but may pick up as the fall progresses.
Luna Lake — Rating: GOOD
Luna Lake is the last chance to fish in eastern Arizona before the New Mexico state line. Large and scenic, with lots of visitor amenities and close to the town of Alpine, the lake offers good spring, early summer and fall fishing for locals and visitors alike. This lake holds the current state record for cutthroat trout at 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Summer algae blooms and water quality issues should be clearing up in the fall and really improve fishing. Trolling with flies works well in spring and early summer at Luna Lake. Try wooly buggers, a prince nymph, simi seal leech and other large wet flies. Nightcrawlers and PowerBait fished off the bottom also work well. Shore and boat anglers both have success at Luna.
Lyman Lake — Rating: GOOD
The largest lake in the region with great amenities and no boat motor restrictions, Lyman Lake State Park attracts anglers, as well as campers and water skiers year-round. Spring 2018 population surveys found large numbers of walleye and channel catfish throughout the lake. Try fishing for largemouth bass, walleye and sunfish along rocky or weedy areas of the lake. Low water may limit access to the southeastern portions. Predatory fish like walleye and bass should be concentrated in the deeper, northern areas near the dam. Fish for catfish with nightcrawlers or chicken livers on bottom at night. Catch carp with corn or dough baits.
Nelson Reservoir — Rating: FAIR
Water levels are generally low by the fall. The southern end is the most shallow and generally becomes inaccessible due to weeds. Fish from a boat or along the rocks at the dam. This lake has been known to produce trophy-sized black crappie. Try spinners such as Panther Martins or Z-rays, artificial flies and bait, especially nightcrawlers. Green sunfish are plentiful and can be easily caught along the rocky shoreline with nightcrawlers.
* Patterson Ponds — Rating: GOOD
Located in St. Johns, this Community Fishing Water is stocked with rainbow trout in fall. Try using small Panther Martins or gold Kastmasters. Bluegill are stocked in early summer and channel catfish are stocked in the later summer months. Try fishing for these carryover fish in fall as temperatures cool. Fish with chicken livers or nightcrawlers on bottom during the evening and night when catfish are most active. A regular fishing license or a community fishing license is required to fish here. The pond daily bag limits in community fishing waters (2 trout; 2 catfish; 5 sunfish) apply.
Rainbow Lake — Rating: FAIR
Because so much shoreline is privately owned, Rainbow Lake is best fished from a boat. Water levels are low by fall, but aquatic weeds are way down, making boating access much easier. Anglers may have some luck casting near structure with spinner baits for largemouth bass and northern pike. Help remove illegally introduced northern pike by harvesting any caught. Spring 2018 surveys found large numbers of black bullheads and good channel catfish populations. Fish on the bottom with nightcrawlers or stink baits to catch catfish. Grass carp (white amur) are stocked into this lake to control weed populations; statewide daily harvest limit is one per day, minimum 30 inches. Bow fishing is not a legal method of take for grass carp.
Scott Reservoir — Rating: POOR
Reservoir is extremely low due to scheduled maintenance on headgate by the irrigation company. No fish have been stocked this year. Water levels will likely not come up until spring 2019 snow melt.
Show Low Lake — Rating: GOOD
With campground, bathrooms, fish cleaning station and boat rentals, Show Low Lake is a great place to get away from it all while having amenities close by. Rainbow trout are stocked in spring and summer, while naturally reproducing walleye, sunfish, bass and channel catfish provide fishing opportunities the rest of the year. Fingerling channel catfish were stocked this year to increase populations in the future. Use nightcrawlers or chicken livers on bottom to target catfish. In fall, water stratification breaks up thanks to cooler days. Trout remaining after the last stocking are more active and disperse throughout the lake. Fishing for trout is best in the morning and in the evening as the sun sets; use worms, PowerBait, or small lures.
The state record walleye was caught here weighing in at 16 pounds! Use fish imitations throughout the water column for walleye, especially during evenings and near rocky structure. 2018 spring population surveys showed nice smallmouth bass — the largest fish was more than 3 pounds and found right by the dock. It’s time for Show Low Lake to produce another state record and summer is a great time to do it!
Woodland Lake — Rating: POOR
Water levels are very low this year after irrigation and will not improve until winter snow melt in spring of 2019. Fingerling channel catfish were stocked during the spring to grow big for the coming years. Adult channel catfish can be caught using bait on bottom, especially at night. Small bass and sunfish may be hiding under the floating dock and can be fun with a small hook, worm and bobber.
WHITE MOUNTAIN STREAMS
Black River-East Fork — Rating: GOOD
Fishing is good for stocked Apache trout and wild brown trout. The stream is stocked weekly with Apache trout from May to mid-September. Flow levels are higher and slightly off color during monsoon run off, but will drop and clear as monsoon storms subside. Try dry flies, nymphs, wooly buggers, streamers, small lures or PowerBait for trout. Hoppers or hoppers with droppers will work well in early fall when insects are most active. As fall progresses, watch out for spawning brown trout. Try not to target fish on redds or step on redds in the stream. This creek has a great population of wild browns. Protecting spawning fish will allow these populations to thrive.
Black River–West Fork — Rating: GOOD
Fishing is good for stocked Apache trout and wild brown trout. The stream is stocked weekly with Apache trout until mid-September. Flow levels are higher and slightly off color during monsoon run off, but will drop and clear as monsoon storms subside. Try dry flies, nymphs, streamers, small lures or PowerBait for trout. Hoppers or hoppers with droppers will work well in early fall when insects are most active. West Fork Campground is now open up to the first river crossing. When hiking upstream of the campground, West Fork Black River upstream of Hayground Creek is catch and release, artificial lure or fly only with single point barbless hook. Hayground Creek is closed to all fishing. As fall progresses, watch out for spawning brown trout. Try not to target fish on redds or step on redds in the stream. This creek has a great population of wild browns. Protecting spawning fish will allow these populations to thrive.
Little Colorado River – Greer — Rating: FAIR
The stream was stocked this spring with Apache trout for the first time since 2015 and will be stocked weekly until early September. Stocked trout will likely persist for 1-2 months after final stocking. Fishing for wild brown trout should improve as water temperatures cool. Try dry flies, small nymphs, small lures or PowerBait for trout. Flow levels are higher and slightly off color during monsoon run off, but will drop and clear as monsoon storms subside. As fall progresses, watch out for spawning brown trout. Try not to target fish on redds or step on redds in the stream. This creek has a great population of wild browns. Protecting spawning fish will allow these populations to thrive.
Little Colorado River–Sheep’s Crossing/West Fork –– Rating: HOT
The river will be stocked through September and cooling water temperatures will help improve fishing. Fishing for wild Apache trout will be even better if you’re willing to hike upstream. Flow levels are higher and slightly off color during monsoon run off, but will drop and clear as monsoon storms subside. Try dry flies like a Parachute Adams or small nymphs such as a Hare’s Ear. Small lures or PowerBait can be effective as well.
*Show Low Creek Meadows — Rating: HOT
This new Community Fishing Water located at the Show Low Bluff trailhead in Show Low provides multiple opportunities for anglers and families alike. Hiking trails and a disc golf course provide extra fun! Show Low Creek Meadows be stocked with catchable sized rainbow trout each month throughout the fall. Fishing will continue to improve as water temperatures cool. There should also be holdover bluegill and large channel catfish from summer stockings. Angling is permitted from the trailhead and bridge, upstream to the Hampton Inn on Hwy 260/White Mountain Blvd in Show Low. Bait can be used, but daily bag limits are 2 trout, 2 catfish, 1 bass (minimum size 13”) and 5 sunfish.
Show Low Creek Tailwater — Rating: POOR
The large pool below Show Low Lake dam is stocked twice with rainbow trout in September to provide local fishing opportunities when water quality at the surrounding lakes is poor. Stocking will cease at the end of September. Fishing will start to drop off a couple weeks after the final stocking. Try flies or small lures to draw fish from bottom or under cover.
Silver Creek — Rating: HOT
Silver Creek is stocked weekly through September with Apache trout. Silver Creek is open to harvest from April 1-Sept. 30. including bait fishing, 6 trout daily bag limit. No harvest is permitted after Sept. 30. On Oct. 1, the catch-and-release season begins. Only artificial lure or fly with single point barbless hook may be used. Super catchable rainbow trout will be stocked on Oct. 1. Fishing at Silver Creek will be very good except during the hottest and brightest parts of the day. Sight fish with dry flies or small nymphs in the morning and evening. Nymphs and midges drifted through the largest pools can be effective during the day. Small single hook lures will also be effective. Silver Creek is a Game and Fish Commission-owned property; entry is only allowed from 30 minutes after sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset, about 7 am-5 p.m. During catch-and-release season in the fall and winter, both the upper and lower section may be fished. No unauthorized entry is ever allowed in the hatchery grounds.
* Community Fishing Program water