From Arizona Game And Fish Department
PHOENIX – The historic first-ever Gila trout on record in Arizona was caught on Feb. 28 from Frye Mesa Reservoir following the stocking of these colorful native salmonids into the reservoir near Safford on Feb. 27.
Robert Woods of Flagstaff caught a 19¼-inch, 3.35-pound Gila trout at Frye Mesa Reservoir on Feb. 28 and brought it into the department’s Flagstaff regional office for verification.
It’s not only the standing state record right now, it is also the first-ever record for this native fish.
“Angling history is seemingly being made each time we turn around. These are exciting times for anglers in Arizona,” said Fisheries Chief Kirk Young.
Here’s what’s been happening.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission on Feb. 4 created the first-ever season on native Gila trout at Frye Mesa Reservoir on the Pinaleño Mountains in southern Arizona. It’s a 1-fish limit though for these trout – catch more and you can be cited (some already have been).
“Arizona has never had an open season on Gila trout. They were thought to have been extirpated from the state before we had regulated fishing seasons,” explained Young.
This has all been possible because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico had larger surplus Gila trout available that were not conducive for stocking in small recovery streams. Those larger Gila trout were stocked into Frye Mesa Reservoir last week on Feb. 27.
That’s not the only unique angling aspect to the proposal.
Mt. Graham is now the only mountain on the planet where you can fish for native Gila trout, native Apache trout, plus rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout. It’s now the Mt. Graham Grand Slam.
Remember, when it comes to Gila trout, it’s only one-fish per customer. Eight anglers have already been warned about exceeding this bag limit at Frye Mesa Reservoir.
“Basically it means you may have one fish in your possession, not one at home and one on your stringer. The reason we allowed for the harvest of one was so that anglers could turn in a state record or keep a unique trophy fish,” said Jason Kline, a fisheries biologist in the Tucson region.
Game and Fish officials are also encouraging anglers to practice catch-and-release on these natives – there are only so many to go around. "This is an incredible opportunity to catch a native trout. Please consider releasing these colorful native trout so that others can experience these remarkable angling memories."
However, Arizona is not the first state to have a season on Gila trout. New Mexico has had a limited season on Gila trout in specific waters.