WMLF 2015 Summer Update

 

White Mountains Fishing Outlook:

Becker continues to be the best choice for consistent big rainbow action. Midges and leeches under a bobber are the way to go this early. Fish are strong and fight hard. After the bugs start hatching in earnest they will become more active and stripping techniques/top water will come into play. I believe Crescent and Sunrise suffered at least some Winterkill…..either that or there was a lot of fish taken out from under the ice. There are still good fish in Sunrise but they don’t seem to be as plentiful. Crescent froze up mid November and never reopened until this Spring. I have had reports of good fish taken by bait fisherman and an exploratory mission revealed that some nice fish will come to a fly. Carnero is very low but still has good active rainbows up to 24″s. They are eating leeches, nymphs, damsels, etc stripped in the deeper parts of the lake….which is only about3’- 5′. Doubtful it will make it through the summer. The newly dredged ditch entering the lake is carrying about 10″s of water now….not nearly enough to replace runoff. Lake is going down daily. Big Lake has good cutt’s and rainbows and is spotty right now. Horseshoe has been pretty consistent for holdover browns and rainbows…both holdover and newly stocked. Becker Lake Update:

2015 looks like another excellent year of fishing at Becker Lake. The Catch and Release regulations have helped ensure a quality fish population at Becker Lake and having the Camp Hosts really enhances the experience for most visitors. As usual, the fishing turned on early with trophy size (18” to 24”) fish being caught by many anglers. Becker Lake continues to be one of the best dry fly fishing lakes in the White Mountains. From mid May thru early July, large cruising Rainbows can be caught with Hoppers, Beetles, Ants and Adult Damsels. Being at a lower elevation, Becker Lake gets warms early, so releasing the larger fish quickly in the summer is essential. The fish population has reached a nice balance for what the lake can support, so good anglers can regularly land 5 to 10 quality fish a day. However, there is still a concern that summer heat is stressing the larger trout, and limiting the maximum size of the fish. Since they tolerate somewhat higher water temperatures, the plan is to stock Tiger Trout in Becker Lake (see update below). Between the quality Rainbows that now exist, and the introduction of Tiger Trout, Becker Lake’s future just keeps looking brighter and brighter.

Crescent Lake Update:

In 2014 WMLF, with help from Arizona Flycasters, Desert Fly Casters, White Mountain Fly Fishing Club and the Sportsman for Wildlife Conservation funded the purchase of two different aerator units and a phase convertor that Arizona Game & Fish Department (AZGFD) evaluated at a private lake.
Currently, AZG&F is working with the U.S. Forest Service and one of the discussion points is the best way to power the aerators. Once the U.S. Forest Service gets staffed up, Mike Lopez (AZG&F) expects discussions to start moving ahead.
Keep the faith—we will eventually get there!

Little Colorado River:

As we all know, the Little Colorado River flows out of Mt. Baldy and has been a very important water feature for this part of the state. It has been a critical water resource for ranching and farming through the years and still plays a big role in supplying water for agriculture downstream. Fishermen in this area have seen many stretches of the Little Colorado River seriously impacted by drought and more recently, the Wallow Fire. The White Mountain Lake Foundation’s Board of Directors has identified the Little Colorado River downstream of the Greer Lakes as an area the organization wants to adopt for future improvements. We recognize that this will require studies and reports before one rock is disturbed, but our organization is ready to do what is necessary to get this underway.

We propose to partner with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) , the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Arizona State Land Department and private land owners to enhance two stretches of the river from the Greer Lakes to where the river crosses under SR-261 so that trout can once again flourish. We also hope that other organizations such as Trout Unlimited (TU) will join us on this project as they have considerable access and stream enhancement project experience that will be critical to the success of the project.

Our proposal is to break this stretch (Greer Lakes to SR-261) of the Little Colorado River in the two projects or phases. The upper stretch, from Greer Lakes to the X-Diamond Ranch will focus on improving access to and along the stream, along with minor stream enhancements to allow it to better support trout fishing. This will include establishing possible new access roads to the stream, parking for visitors, and a trail along the stream which will open up other recreational opportunities along this stretch of the LCR.

The lower stretch of the Little Colorado River from County Road 4124 to SR-261 will focus on getting the river back in its traditional course which will require removing silt that has built up during periods of low water and re-vegetating areas that were burned during the Wallow Fire to create cover for the stream. This cover will help create better trout habitat by keeping the water cooler. Other possible structural improvements will be pursued to deepen the river along with augmenting the trout population in hopes it can once again support a wild trout population.

Until recently, both stretches held sustainable populations of wild Brown Trout along with a few Rainbows Trout. The Upper stretch continues to support a self sustaining population of wild Brown Trout that have not been as affected by the drought and the impacts of the Wallow Fire. As recently at 2011 after the Wallow Fire, Brown Trout made up over 77% of the fish found between the Greer Lakes and the X-Diamond Ranch. Surveys also found roughly 13% Rainbow trout and 9% Speckled Dace in this section.

The lower section of the Little Colorado River has not been so lucky. The combination of low water conditions, along with impacts of the Wallow Fire has significantly reduced the trout populations. This area has been further impacted by Beaver dams which have destroyed much of the best trout holding areas in this stretch of the river that will need to be revitalized before it can once again hold a sustainable trout population. In 2011, surveys found good populations of speckled dace (63%), Bluehead Sucker (22%), Flathead Minnow (9%), and LC Sucker (1.8%). At that time, this stretch of the Little Colorado River held less than 4 % Brown Trout, an area that historically was more in the range of 25 to 30%. It is findings like these that are driving the need to get this area improved so it can once again support a wild population of trout.

We hope to get started on the planning work for both projects simultaneously, realizing that each section will require coordination with various federal and state agencies along with private property owners on the lower. We hope as you
read this you will understand the need for these improvements and will support the efforts that will be take place to these two important sections of the Little Colorado River.

The White Mountain Lakes Foundation Board dreams of the day we can once again take our sons or daughters or our mothers and fathers to this stretch of the Little Colorado River to share the joys of wetting a line and catching wild trout that have existed there for many years and hopefully once again will flourish in this beautiful high plateau stream.
Status: Arizona Game and Fish Department are very supportive of the project and we need to meet with the Forest Service and Arizona State Land Department staff to gauge their support and determine what will be needed in terms of studies and clearances. Project team members will be meeting with private land owners this spring and summer laying out the project.

Tiger Trout:

Becker, Carnero, Woods Canyon and Willow Springs will eventually be stocked with Tiger trout, which are sterile hybrids of brown and brook trout. Utah, Wyoming, Washington and other states have very successful tiger programs. They are ideal candidates for our lakes since they grow quickly, are more tolerant of higher water temperatures, and yet will not over populate a lake. AZG&F will be getting some fingerlings from Utah in July, will grow them out and stock them in Spring 2016. Never caught a tiger? Your chance is coming up!
AZG&F, US Forest Service update.

WMLF works closely with both of these organizations to improve the fishing. Here is an update provided AZG&F Biologist Sally Petre:
“I requested to purchase a water quality meter with the funds that we had for the aeration project. This will serve us well and make our monitoring more efficient and accurate. Rather than bringing water samples back to the lab here to be analyzed, we can get our data right on the spot. We are waiting for the Forest Service to hire an aquatic biologist who will be our go to person for the aeration project. I am not sure on the status of the hiring process, however, in talking with other Forest Service folks, everyone seems on board and supportive of the project.
We also talked with our development branch, the Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service at a Bi-Annual Partnership Meeting we had a few weeks ago about working on getting a porta-potty at Carnero Lake and improving the boat ramp (probably with geogrid, a mat structure that has worked in other places very well). Everyone seemed to be receptive. We will have a follow up meeting with the Forest Service about this. At this meeting we also talking about improving boat access at Willow Spring, Woods Canyon, Big Lake (South Cove and Marina), Crescent Lake, Luna, and the Greer Lakes.”

Carnero Lake Inflow Repair Project:

The WMLF and WMFFC both donated a total of $350 to buy diesel fuel for the earthmoving equipment to enable repairs to the ditch that feeds water from a spring to Carnero Lake. The rancher that shares the water rights with AZGF
volunteered to perform the repairs. This will help with improving the water level in the lake, by capturing an estimated 15-20% more inflow water. What we really need is a good snow pack next winter!
The lake is only about three feet deep out in the middle. Access to the lake is limited to a small area 100 yards down from the boat ramp. It’s weedy and there is mud and rocks to walk on. At this time there is a syphon hose over the dam to feed water downstream to the ranchers cattle. The water valve that is normally used is currently broken and is the responsibility of AZGF to repair. The project has been submitted to headquarters in Phoenix.
WMLF is in discussions with AZG&F and the Forest Service to install gravel in the launch area as an aid to launching float tubes and kick boats. With the water low, this would be a perfect time to get this done. (This is a stop gap measure until the proposal to get geogrid or other, more durable solution is approved.) Not sure of the outcome of this project yet, but we’ll keep you updated.

Becker Best Day:

For the last couple of years, WMLF has hosted a “Becker Best” day in the spring to show appreciation to our members, and this year was no exception. This year’s event was held April 11, and I counted about 60 attendees. WMLF provided lunch, a raffle for some cool prizes, and featured Skip Morris, a nationally known fly fishing personality. Skip demonstrated tying some of his features flies, and donated them to the raffle. One lucky WMLF member went home with a custom Dave Weaver rod built using the finest components on a SAGE 1, 10 foot four piece 5 weight blank. Most folks who fished got at least a few—some by dangling zebra midges below an indicator, stripping back streamers, or even tossing dry flies to passing fish near the boat ramp.

Membership:

Our organization continues to grow, and with that, the influence to support our primary mission of improving the fishing in the White Mountains. After our 2015 membership drive, we have a total of 117 paid members—33 of which are lifetime members. This is a 25% increase compared to 2014. Your membership and support is very much appreciated.

Finances:

Most of the WMLF funding comes from membership dues, donations from the state’s fly fishing clubs and other angling/outdoor organizations, and the occasional raffle. As of May 7, 2015 we have $14,065 in the bank. The board is unpaid, so every penny that is donated to WMLF is used in the pursuit of our primary mission.
In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone again for your continued and unwavering support—working together we can make a difference!

Sincerely,
The WMLF Board

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it on Facebook!


Our Partners

John Rohmer Materials Gentry Smith Design When you display the Arizona Sportsmens Wildlife Conservation License Plate, Your are helping Arizona’s Wildlife by supporting the Wildlife Habitat Grant Funds for habitat restoration and Youth Education Programs. Click HERE for more information.

WMLF is a 501c3 non-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.