STORY BY: Guy J Sagi
A-1 Lake’s name honors a great Apache Scout, Chief William Alchesay, who signed up with the Army in 1872. Troopers at the time referred to native Americans serving alongside them by their serial number. Some claim it was a habit borne out of the fact that Americans of European descent found the proper names tongue twisting. I’ll let you decide.
A-1 was his serial number, but Alchesay’s accomplishments have burned his real name in the history books. He served under General George Crook during the Indian Wars, rose to the rank of Sergeant, won the U.S. Medal of Honor in 1873 and served as the White Mountain Apache Chief until 1925. The list of Presidents he worked with to improve Native American treatment and relations is long.
His memory deserves more than a 24-surface-acre lake, although its location on State Route 260—between Springerville and Pinetop—elevates it to prominence among the fishing destinations managed by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. It’s easy to get to, hard to ignore and offers a chance for Apache and rainbow trout (stocked regularly), with a brookie occasionally reported. It even freezes over during most winters and that strategic location along a major highway means it’s open to ice fishing.
The lake, created in 1966, has a maximum depth of 28.7 feet. It has less than a mile of shoreline, but most if it remains weed free, even during the summer months. For those who prefer to get on the water, nothing larger than electric trolling motors are allowed, but float tubes are a popular option here.
A study conducted by the White Mountain Apache Game and Fish Department during the 1990s indicated shore anglers at A-1 could expect to land .008 brook trout per hour, .284 Apache trout per hour and .19 rainbow trout per hour. Total catch rate at A-1 was .483 fish. Remember, this creel survey includes occasional anglers, so experienced fishermen can anticipate better results.
A follow-up survey broke down A-1’s catch rates by month. In June, anglers here caught no brook trout, .426 Apache trout and .246 rainbow trout per hour. June’s total was .672 fish per hour.
In July brook trout were still nowhere in creels, but the rates for Apache trout came in at .269 and .148 for rainbow. Total catch rate per hour that month was .504. By August brook trout were finally showing up at a rate of .016 per hour, Apache had dropped to .206 and rainbow trout catch rates stood at .194. Overall catch rate was .416 fish per 60 minutes..
It you’re simply interested in catching numbers of fish June is the month to visit, and the algae blooms of August underscore that tip. Try spinners if you visit then and Power Bait’s usually a good choice.
Although things have changed, it’s interesting to note a White Mountain Apache Game and Fish Department netting surveys in 1991 determined the most populous fish in the lake was Apache trout—at 60 percent. Subsequent surveys showed significant fluctuation, probably due to stocking, that went as high as 79 percent. That says a lot for the biology of A-1 then, and with modern, scientifically based management, what we can expect now and for years to come.
At an elevation of 8,900 feet, A-1 also guarantees cool temperatures, even during the “Dog Days” of Arizona’s summer. Camping is allowed on the south end of this lake. Facilities are sparse, although it’s well worth a trip. Remember to get your White Mountain Apache Tribe permits for camping, fishing and boating.
A-1 is adjacent to State Route 260. Drive it 22 miles east of Pinetop and turn south at the sign. The parking lot may be muddy during the rainy or snowy seasons, but it’s usually accessible. Because of this lake’s convenient location, it often receives the most pressure of all the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s put-and-take fisheries (roughly five percent of total use).
Guy J. Sagi has been writing about and photographing the outdoors for more than three decades. You can catch a glimpse of some of his camera work by visiting GuySagi.com.