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Flashes of valuable Apache gold have returned to Silver Creek near Show Low in the White Mountains to delight anglers again this fall and winter.
The Oct. 1 opening of the Apache trout catch-and-release (barbless hook only) section of Silver Creek has turned into an angler-pleasing annual event that draws fly fishers from across Arizona and beyond.
This year, the Silver Creek Hatchery crew outdid themselves – prior to opening day they stocked a couple of dozen Apache trout tipping the scales at around 3 pounds or so. It was line-stripping fun for anglers on opening morning even before the annual stocking took place later that day.
“It felt like Christmas morning when I was a kid,” said one beaming fly angler who had the pleasure of fighting than landing at least two of the large golden beauties.”
The early-bird anglers even got another treat at first light – a majestic bull elk was waiting for them as an unofficial greeter at the end of their hike through the dewy grass to the upper pool on the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Silver Creek property.
But it wasn’t all pure action, fun and golden adventure. A hard-working crew from Cabela’s in Phoenix helped the Silver Creek Hatchery crew to net, load, and then distribute the Apache trout and rainbows along this meandering creek barely one puddle-jump away from the Show Low Airport.
“There’s no fishery quite like this,” said Tim McGough, a Phoenix architect who comes to help out and fish on opening day each year. “This spring-fed creek is fishable all winter long. It’s an amazing place to fish.”
For those who aren’t aware, the native Apache trout is Arizona’s state fish. Although it is listed under the Endangered Species Act, anglers can fish for it in certain areas, such as Silver Creek, the Little Colorado River in the Greer Valley, plus the East and West Forks of Black River.
In fact, the White Mountains of Arizona is the only place in on the planet where you can readily angle for pure strain Apache trout.
Apache trout are also unique in another way – they may become the first native fish in the United States to come off the endangered species list, thanks to a model cooperative recovery effort involving the White Mountain Apache tribe, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a long list of dedicated angling groups.
But the anglers present on opening morning did have one request – don’t tell anyone. Oops, the trout’s out of the stocking net as it were. So go catch some golden memories at Silver Creek, Greer or the East and West Forks. Don’t forget about the classic Apache trout fisheries on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.