Years ago, when President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted a beautiful Christmas tree for the White House's 1965 display, the "loggers" of Arizona went to work. High atop the rugged White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, they cut a huge spruce for the White House lawn. The tribal chairman told reporters, "The Tribe was very honored to be chosen for the sponsorship of the tree... This is the first time that any Indian Tribe has been selected to provide a tree which will grace the White House lawn and will be seen by millions of television viewers in December when President Johnson pulls the switch to light the tree."
When a lake was impounded nearby the same year, it was named Christmas Tree Lake in honor of the event. For the avid angler, the real attraction isn't the breathtaking stands of evergreens though; it's the chance of catching one of Arizona's rarest fish, the native Apache trout.
Arizona is the only place in the world where you can catch these speckled beauties. Like their first cousin, the rainbow trout, they promise heart-quickening watertop dances, tackle testing uncontrollable runs and hours of nonstop fun.
The White Mountain Apache Game and Fish Department has, for years, been managing Christmas Tree Lake as a Blue Ribbon fishery. Artificial lures and flies are all that are allowed on the lake.
Annually, the tribe hosts the states's major outdoor writers in late May to show off this lake-one of its finest. According to the Game and Fish Department, Christmas Tree Lake holds the reservation's biggest population of Apache trout and a decent population of browns.
Since Arizona is the only state where the Apache trout lives, it is also home to every single record in existence. In May 1990, a Scottsdale angler landed the International Game and Fish Association All Tackle Record there. It weighted in at 4-pounds, 13-ounces.
In 1991, a new record Apache trout was caught at Christmas Tree Lake. It measured 22.75 inches in length and weighed 5- pounds, 3-ounces.
In May of 1992, Apache trout were stocked in the lake from nearby William's Creed Hatchery. This stocking held something different though, namely, several world-record-sized specimens biologists like to call "incentive" fish.
Christmas Tree Lake is also home to one of Arizona's few limited seasons. Usually it opens in May, and fishing is allowed until September.
On May 25, 1992 opening day, a A Chandler angler was sharing the water with the outdoor-writer crowd. At about noon, when the writers had retired to camp for their afternoon siesta, the angler felt something hit the Kastmaster he was working in four feet of water.
Soon he had the lunker in his boat. When he put it on his hand-held scale, it registered 6 pounds.
Thinking nothing of it, but knowing full well it was a trophy worth having mounted, he threw the fish in his cooler. Back in Chandler, he put it in the freezer until he returned from several business trips. Quickly though, he found out from local tackle shops that he probably was holding the new state record Apache trout. By the time he had it weighed, it was 5.88 pounds and measured 24 inches in length.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department certified this catch as the new state record (five months after it had been caught). The angler was extremely lucky he had not cleaned the fish or let it spend any more time in the freezer.
His record stood until June 10, 1993. On that date, an angler working nearby Hurricane Lake brought in a 5.97-pound Apache trout, eclipsing Christmas Tree's previous two records. The fisherman was using a yellow 1/4-ounce Z-Ray with red spots.
To fish Christmas Tree Lake, you must purchase a special permit from the White Mountain Apache Reservation. It deliberately limits the number of anglers on this lake at any one time, ensuring relatively light fishing pressure.
Christmas Tree Lake covers 41 surface acres and stands at an elevation of 8,200 feet.
To get to Christmas Tree Lake, take State Route 473 south toward Hawley lake. Drive toward the Hawley Lake store and turn right just about at the store. Follow Indian Route 26 to the lake (where Indian Route 27 branches off, bear to the left). The distance from the turnoff at Hawley Lake is about five miles of dirt road. Since this road is regularly used by logging operations, it can be a little rough, especially in the early spring. A high-clearance vehicle shouldn't have too much of a problem at any time of the year, and by midsummer, it's negotiable by passenger cars. There's also a shorter route from near Whiteriver, but I've never taken it.
Be sure to check current regulations before visiting. Permits to fish on this lake can only be purchased at the Hon-Dah Ski & outdoor Sport. Call 877/226-4868.
for more information contact the White Mountain Apache Fish and Game Department by writing P.O. Box 220, White river, AZ 85941. Call (928)338-4385 or visit www.wmatoutdoors.com. - G.J. Sagi To read more detailed articles like this about Arizona's waters buy the travel manual Fishing Arizona.