WMLF Winter Update 2017

Report from Sally Petre, AZGFD

Well, it’s wintertime, but much like last year, feels like spring. Luckily, unlike last year, we’ve had a good amount of precipitation this winter, as you may see in town here in Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out Fool Hollow Lake. It is full! This is the first time in almost 10 years! All of our in-town lakes are full and have spilled this year. I am looking forward to fantastic spring fishing in these lakes if the weather persists. We are currently netting Northern Pike out of Rainbow Lake. We do this every year to help reduce their population. These fish are voracious piscivores and eat the rainbow trout, bluegill, and largemouth bass that we manage the lake for. This is a two to three week netting project when the Northern Pike are congregating to spawn in the shallow bays.

The high elevation lakes like Crescent, Lee Valley, Carnero and Big Lake had ice come on late in the year. It is currently thick (>8 inches), however, because the ice has not been on long, we are not predicting a winterkill on these lakes this year! Dissolved oxygen levels are good at these lakes. The pH level at Crescent is a little elevated (>9), however, we are hoping the pH drops so that we can stock this lake in the spring. Fish at Crescent Lake should be decent size. About 2600 catchable size (8 inch) rainbow trout were stocked last spring and grew to 12 inches within two months. We also stocked about 11000 subcatchable (about 4-6 inch) brook trout this fall. This is one place I am really looking forward to fishing the spring!

I am also looking forward to fishing Carnero for Tiger Trout! I’ve only heard great things about the Tiger Trout, and we all know that Carnero can grow some nice trout! We will be stocking this lake again this year with 1100 Tiger Trout. This is the same as last year. Also, last year we stocked about 6500, 8 inch rainbow trout and 500, 12-14 inch rainbow trout. I personally really like the variety of sizes of fish we stocked in Carnero and am looking forward to see how much those large rainbow and Tiger Trout have grown!

We are currently working with our aquatic habitat biologists and our engineers to work on the winterkill and aeration project. We are coming up with a set of tools that we can use to manage the water quality in our high elevation lakes. Project design for aerators is currently being worked on by our engineers.

Lastly, we are pretty much a full crew, which helps to lighten our workload. Our streams biologist, Bryan Giordano, started with us in October. He comes from Yellowstone National Park, where he participated in cutthroat trout reestablishment projects. He is an avid flyfisherman, and a huge asset to our team.

Happy fishing!


Becker Lake Update:

The most recent focus of our work at Becker Lake has been to improve the host site in order to attract and keep lake hosts. We would like to install a well, improved RV pads and a plant a wind break. Archaeological studies were completed, with no issues found. We are in the process of getting quotes to have all of the work done. WMLF board member Charlie Rosser was recently promoted to project manager for Becker Lake.


4 Lakes Update:

Although the work is in its early stages, WMLF and AZGFD are spearheading an effort to improve the water quality for Crescent, Carnero, Luna and Lee Valley Lakes. As mentioned in our summer update, potential solutions may include aeration, chemical treatments to reduce nutrients (similar to chemicals that are used at water treatment plants) herbicides to reduce weed growth, and possibly biological control agents (grass carp). Amberle Jones, Mike Lopez, and Sally Petre from AZG&F are heading up this activity. Here is the recent progress:

The Cultural Resource Clearance from the Forest Service is obtaining records where there have been previous archaeological surveys. We will use this information to find the best area to place the aerators. If there have been previous archeological surveys and we can place the aerators in those areas AGFD won’t have to pay additional funds to get archaeological surveys completed at the sites. WMLF is funding the work to obtain engineered, approved designs for the aerators-this work will start after archaeological surveys are complete.

AGFD is working with the Forest Service to get a list of approved herbicides. If the list contains herbicides that will target the species of weed at the lakes it will reduce the time it takes to get compliance completed for the project.

AGFD plans on using one or a combination of these tools to address the water quality issues at these lakes. The goal is to have the compliance paperwork allow the Department to change the tool we use to improve the lake as the issues at the lakes change.

WMLF has earmarked $10,000 for this work, with the funding coming directly from WMLF, a $4400 grant from AZSFWC, and a $1000 grant from the Friends or the Reservoirs. It’s exciting that other organizations are buying into our vision of improving the fishing in the White Mountains! Finally, WMLF board member Tom Horvath has been promoted to project manager for 4 Lakes.


Little Colorado River:

As has been mentioned in past newsletters, the Little Colorado River flows out of Mt. Baldy and has been a very important water feature for this part of the state. This watershed continues to play a major role in providing water downstream for farming and ranching activities along with being a great recreational resource in the Springerville, Eager, and Greer Lakes area. The White Mountain Lake Foundation’s Board of Directors continues to maintain its support for the Little Colorado River Project the organization has been pursuing downstream of the Greer Lakes and continues its commitment to this project.

As was mentioned in the Summer 2016 newsletter, We were disappointed to report that much of the work we invested in 2015 gearing up to get a couple of small projects on the Little Colorado River below X-Diamond Ranch underway that year came to a stop. Staffing issues at both the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) and at the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGF) forced us to slow down our efforts, but in the last couple of months there have been reasons to cheer with the recent hiring of Bryan Giordano at AZGF. He comes to us with a very strong fisheries background. We are also excited because he is an avid fisherman.

Our Right-of-Entry Application was submitted to ASLD a little over a year ago with no action to date. With the recent addition of Mr. Giordano at AZGF, we are making every effort to track down our original Right of Entry permit application at ASLD with the goal of getting this permit approved so that we can at a minimum do a stream clean-up day this upcoming year. If this materializes, we will be looking for volunteers to help with the work, so keep your gloves, rakes and shovels ready. We also hope to possibly get some of the studies completed so that we can get approval from ASLD to build an official designated parking area. Time will tell on this endeavor, but that too might turn into a work day we will be looking for volunteer help with in the future.

Having said all that, I personally made several visits to the Little Colorado this past year. The Brown Trout population continues to do well despite increased Beaver activity and another low water year. The Beavers have further dammed up the river in a number of areas that reduced some of the prime riffle areas where I have found fish in the past. Early spring flows were a little lower this past year, but were ideal for dry dropper set ups. I am still partial to a nymph rig on this section of the river as I find the fish sit pretty tight on the bottom and you have to almost hit the fish in the head with the fly before they will take sometimes. As usual, fishing was best with higher off colored flows found after some of the summer rains. When the water gets low, the resident fish concentrate in the deeper holes and cut bank areas that exist along the Little Colorado River. There was considerably more deadfall in and along the river last year that we hope we can get it cleaned up this upcoming spring and summer. Not sure why this is, but I continue to speculate that some of the deadfall is left from the Beavers doing their normal busy work.

As mentioned above, we are making a concerted effort this winter to reconnect with ASLD to get our Right-of-Entry permit approved in hopes that we might try to coordinate a couple of work days later this year to remove deadfall and do a bit of tree trimming to make the stream a bit easier to fish. Even with no improvements, this section of the Little Colorado is worth a few hours of your time to wet a line and catch one of the wild trout that can be found here.


Luna Lake:

This update is provided by Doug Benford, from the Friends of Luna Lake. We have had great support in stocking Luna Lake the past three years, and these stockings are paying dividends. Last year the largest fish caught was 28” and 8.5 pounds. This early spring is proving to be a great season with fish being caught between 10 and 18 inches to date. The mark of a healthy and quality fishery is fish in all ranges of size. Luna Lake produces prime fishing during the spring months. If you wait until June, you miss the action. To my knowledge, Luna Lake has never been stocked to this degree.

Our 2nd Annual “Luna Lake Lunker” fishing tournament will be held April 22-23, 2017. The $10 entry fee will also include breakfast to kick off the event. Keep your eye on the Friends of Luna Lake Facebook page for updated information.

A new project being explored is the placement of a handicapped fishing dock at Luna Lake. Luna Lake currently has a floating boat dock 100 yards from the boat ramp. This dock has no side railings. It is scary to watch small children on the dock. We are exploring partnerships with other outdoor groups and the USFS to install this new dock. This project will take time, but will be a positive accomplishment in keeping young and old safe. Members continue to maintain the picnic area at Luna Lake by cutting the weeds and maintaining the “Welcome” entrance sign.

Watch the Friends of Luna Lake Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofLunaLake for more details and updates.


Becker Best Day:

May 13, 2017 will mark the celebration of achievements by the White Mountain Lakes Foundation at Becker Lake, near Springerville, Arizona. Some years ago, the WMLF was instrumental in changing Becker Lake, a producer of huge rainbow trout, to a catch and release lake. WMLF also provided a lake host to help monitor and assist folks catching fish at Becker Lake. Meet WMLF board members, who will fill you in on other WMLF accomplishments and current and future projects.

As in past years, this year’s Becker Best Day will include a free barbeque lunch, a giant raffle, camaraderie among fly fisherman, and knowledgeable instruction on catching fish at Becker Lake. For the membership rod raffle, we will be offering a custom Dave Weaver rod built using the finest components on a SAGE, Accel 9 foot, four piece 5 weight blank. You know you want this rod! Please make sure you have paid your dues for 2017 to insure that you have a chance to win this rod. Come early and fish the lake, with lunch starting at noon, general raffle at 1:30 p.m., and the membership rod raffle at 2:00 p.m.

A block of discounted rooms has been reserved at the Rode Inn, just a few minutes from Becker Lake. Call 928-333-4365 for reservations—just tell them you are with the White Mountains Lake Foundation to get the discount.



Our organization continues to grow, and with that, the influence to support our primary mission of improving the fishing in the White Mountains. Currently, we have 38 lifetime members and 75 annual members. We appreciate your support! Please encourage your fishing buddies to consider joining WMLF.



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 December, 2016 we have $12,964.97 in the bank. Our expenses in the last period were $ 12,397.25, with most of that going to the Becker and Carnero projects. The board is unpaid, so every penny that is donated to WMLF is used in the pursuit of our primary mission.


In conclusion, we would like to thank everyone again for your continued and unwavering support—working together we can make a difference!



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.