When you think of Arizona, certain images may come to mind. The Grand Canyon, saguaro cactus, and the blistering heat of the state capital. Or maybe the aptly named Phoenix, literally a flaming bird, with highs up to 120 degrees fahrenheit. Don’t worry, it’s a “dry heat.”
For anglers interested in indigeonus trout, Apache trout (Oncorhynchus gilae apache) come to mind. Juxtaposed to the scorching heat and saguaro cactus filled deserts of southern Arizona, the Apache trout calls the cold headwater streams of the conifer laiden White Mountains home.
Native to the upper Salt River and Upper Little Colorado River watershed, the Apache trout’s 800 mile range was reduced to just 30 miles by the 1960s. Thanks to the conservation efforts of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, we now have fishable populations today.
I was first introduced to the Apache trout via James Prosek’s “Trout: an Illustrated History”. My 12 year old mind pondered the possibility of someday holding South Western gold. Last week a childhood dream became a reality as I released an Apache trout back into its liquid home.
Despite fires, grazing, and the risk of hybridization from rainbow trout, the Apache Trout finds a way to survive.
It was a surreal experience to catch a new species and cross Apache Trout off the bucket list. The next time you’re in Arizona, do like the early pioneers did and search for gold in the White Mountains. You won’t regret it.