Well not considered a Cryptid, the Gila trout has almost become just that in recent years. One of only two true “Salmonid” species native to the State of Arizona and the South West, (The other being the Apache Trout). The Gila has been considered an “Endangered Species” since 1967*,due to over fishing and the introduction of non-native species. However, in 2006 it was determined the Gila trout had recovered enough to be reclassified as a “threatened” species, rather than an “endangered” one*.
When the Gila trout was re-designated as “Threatened,” it was thought that anglers in Arizona would have an opportunity to fish for the species in certain, specified waters sometime in the future. “The work of several groups is bringing us all one step closer to the ultimate goal of full recovery of the Gila trout,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department fish biologist Scott Gurtin.” in 2006. It’s important to note that Gila trout recovery efforts have taken place under full protection of the Endangered Species Act, with crucial cooperation from many agencies, conservation groups, landowners, and those with permits to use public lands. Partners involved in Gila trout recovery include the Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Conservation groups, including Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers, have also gotten involved. Others like myself have helped by bringing awareness of the Specific Wildlife Species and the effort by those others to save these species to the forefront.
Everything thought about the Gila Trout in Arizona changed on Feb 23rd, 2011, thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico. They had larger surplus of Gila trout available then expected. These Trout were not conducive for stocking in small recovery streams. These larger Gila trout were stocked into Frye Mesa Reservoir last week on Feb. 23. Well other fish made it into the Frye Mesa Creek, that area is off limits to fishing at this time.
Oh and that’s right folks, most of these fish are of the larger variety and can be taken for the first time legally since 1950’s in Arizona. Gila trout fishing was actually closed to fishing in the 1950s, long before the Endangered Species Act of 1967. The Gila’s numbers and range were so depleted and so reduced this copper-colored trout simply wasn’t all that accessible to anglers any ways by that time. There may actually be no one still alive that caught one of these beautiful fish, when it was last legal to do so in Arizona’s waters.
There is a one fish bag limit on these beauties, I myself would probably practice “Catch and Release” with any Gila or Apache Trout. So best to know the differences in the species available at Frye Mesa Res. You can find the details of all the fish available in Arizona and in Frye Mesa Reservoir at the Arizona Fish and Game Department’s Official Fishing Web Page on their Sport Fish Species Page.
This makes MT Graham (10,700′) the only Mountain in the world you can catch Brown Trout, Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Apache Trout, and now the prettiest of them all the Gila Trout! Of Course, now that this writer considers himself an Arizonian, I might be a bit Biased.
If you want to view the latest fishing report before you go to Thatcher, AZ. you can view the full report here. Where you can also find a report from me on Knoll lake (Coconino National Forest).
This report includes some great camping and travel recommendations that are pertinent this time of year, and any time you are at the higher elevations mentioned in many of my articles. Please take the time to give it a look, and always remember to think safety first. You can find this April 28th update here, the Knoll lake report and Safety tips are located in the Central Mountain’s Section ¾ of the way down the report.
Here’s what the Arizona Fishing Report says about Frye Mesa Reservoir and the near by Ponds at Cluff Ranch:
FRYE MESA RESERVIOR –The lake has been stocked with Gila trout. The limit is 1 Gila trout in bag or possession. All other trout species limits remain unchanged. Anglers are strongly encouraged to know the differences in the 4 species of trout they will encounter at the lake before keeping fish to avoid legal problems.
CLUFF RANCH — No recent reports of success. The pond is full and there are no issues with boat launching. The fall/winter trout stocking schedule can be found here: 2010 – 2011 Winter Stocking Schedule. For lake information call (928) 485-9430.
Don Mitchel handles that area for the Official AZGFD.GOV Weekly report, if you go, make sure you drop him an email report and photo. His email is “[email protected]“; Robert Woods of Flagstaff, Arizona, did when he caught the first state-record Gila trout at the reservoir on Feb. 28th. The trout measured 19 ¼ inches long and weighed 3.35 pounds. It’s a beautiful fish, even if it’s not a Cryptid! Photo from the AZGFD.GOV web page.
For further information contact: Safford Ranger District.
Portions of this article have been reprinted under section 106 & 107 of the Fair Use Act of US trademark law.