Moby Goes for Gila Trout

Frye Mesa reservoir, home of the rare Gila trout, is 40 miles southwest of the small town of Safford, which the urban dictionary describes as “a small town in Eastern Arizona with a large Mormon population, a large Catholic population, and a large tweaker population.” We were in Safford in November, just in time for the South Eastern Coyote Calling Challenge, a sick euphemism for a coyote hunt. While in the sporting goods store asking about trout, we saw a poster for the Coyote Calling Challenge and asked for details. The kid behind the desk gave nothing away, fearing–he said–that we were with PETA. Strangers in town.

If you want to know more about this disgusting “sport,” you can check out this disgusting video, but I don’t recommend you do: Disgusting video about “calling” coyotes.

Just outside of Stafford, on the drive to Frye Mesa and the Gila trout, we found a fine outdoor shooting couch. Outdoor shooting furniture and Confederate flags are two things Arizona and Idaho have in common. You might want to relax here while calling coyotes in to the slaughter.

Larry pretends to be from Arizona.

imgresNot everyone in Safford was a coyote murderer. We made ourselves at home at The Station Laundromat. Larry spread wet, muddy canoe gear all over the parking lot while I washed a few loads of road-weary laundry. As we were packing up to leave, the woman who managed the laundromat gifted us two of her handmade hats. Mine is a fuzzy critter of mysterious lineage, and Larry’s is reminiscent of the hair he once had.

But I digress. It was Gila trout–not coyotes and hats–that brought us to Safford and nearby Frye Mesa reservoir.

Frye Mesa Moby
Moby on the road to Frye Mesa reservoir, Safford in the valley below

The Frye Mesa dam was built around 1928. The reservoir is is stocked with Gila trout and is the only place you can fish for this threatened species in Arizona. They also live in three Arizona streams, all closed to fishing, and are hanging on in several New Mexico streams in the White Mountains, just across the Arizona border.

What did the Gila trout say when he ran into a concrete wall?   (dam!)

Fishing for the wily Gila is allowed in Frye Creek that feeds the reservoir.

Larry puts the sneak on the Gila.

The White Mountains that straddle the central Arizona/New Mexico border are home to two native trout subspecies: the Gila (Oncorhynchus gilae gilae) and the Apache (Oncorhynchus gilae apache). The Gila exhibits iridescent gold sides with small, profuse spots mostly above the lateral line.

A whopper Gila trout
Slick rock canyon and pool . . . full of Gila trout
Larry braves prickly pear to catch another huge Gila
Although you can keep one Gila per day, this trip was catch and release for us. If you’re going to criticize the coyote hunt, you better be nice to the fish.

You’ll find old rock projects on Frye Mesa, small check dams in the arroyos and this cistern.

Old rock cistern near the reservoir, possibly built by the Civilian Conservation Corp who were active in the area in the mid-1930s working on soil erosion projects. (
Century plants at their post on Frye Mesa. Good night . . . and god bless coyotes everywhere.

12 thoughts

  1. Great post, Janene. Especially love your critter hat, and the amazing walls of the slick rock canyon. Oh! Look! I am not the only one to love the hats. Interesting….

    1. Hi Dad– There’s a Mormon temple near Safford now, so it’s no surprise your companion was from there. No doubt there’s a large Mormon population in the area still.

    1. The generous young woman who gave them to us clearly spent a lot of time knitting on the job. You need a job like that, Dawn!

    1. Rick– For a foodie like you I recommend having the sriracha mayo and jalapeno burger at the Taylor Freeze drive in in nearby Pima, AZ when you visit. It was truly one of the best burgers I have ever had. And yes, they do grow Pima cotton in Pima, AZ. Giant bales of it were stacked all over the Gila valley after the harvest.

    1. Gary– Same name, same area, but not related. While we floated the Gila River (see earlier blog) I kept an eye out for the Gila Monster, as we were in their territory. But it turns out we were there in the wrong season, and they live underground in a sort of hibernation most of their life. So the odds of seeing one might have been even less that spotting a Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains.

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