July 2006

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Upper Lake Mary: Great For Anglers, Birders, RVers

Lake MaryStory and Photo by Margie Anderson

Lake Mary is an ideal spot for boaters who want to get away from the heat of the desert in summer. It is located just southeast of Flagstaff in the Ponderosa pines of Coconino Forest.

Lake Mary was named after Mary Riordan, a member of one of the founding families of Flagstaff. The lake averages about 450 acres and around 38 feet deep when itís full.

At an elevation of almost 7,000 feet, the nights can get pretty cool and the days are lovely.

The road to Lake Mary is paved, and there are two launch ramps, covered picnic areas, restrooms, and a good parking area. There is no motor restriction on the lake, so skiers as well as fishermen can enjoy a day on the water.

Upper Lake Mary is usually what people mean when they say "Lake Mary." The lower lake is generally close to empty.

A Buffet Of Possible Catches

Upper Lake Mary has a thriving population of perch, walleye, crappie, northern pike, with an occasional walleye, and rainbow trout. There are also yellow bass, sunfish, and channel cats.

The northern pike are the main attraction at Lake Mary, and these voracious beasties can get pretty darn big. They also have teeth to match, so make sure you donít forget your pliers.

I caught a 42-inch pike at Lake Mary on my honeymoon while fishing from shore. It took a frozen anchovy that was rigged about a foot or so under a bobber.

My husband, a native of Wisconsin, had the necessary experience for rigging these baits. He hooked it in the back so that it rode along as if it were alive.

If you have a boat, fishing for the northerns is a lot like bass fishing. Theyíll take spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits, big Senkos, crankbaits, and just about anything else you can think of.

We spent a day on Lake Mary recently and discovered that the pike really like big Yamamoto jigs, too. We rigged a smoke/red glitter skirt on a football head and paired it with a big white twin-tail grub.

You donít have to fish it on the bottom: Just throw it out and swim it back like a crankbait. The Yamamoto jig out fished the spinnerbait about four to one.

Once the weeds really get growing, throwing a spinnerbait or a red and gold in-line spinner along the edge of the weeds is an excellent way to catch a pike. They are predators, so reaction baits are a good choice.

They also like those big red and white spoons and Johnson Silver Minnows. Iíd be willing to bet that theyíd take a frog fished over the weeds, too.

Plenty Of Camping Spots

There are plenty of places to camp not far from Lake Mary. Right across the road from the Upper lake is Lakeview campground. Lakeview was renovated in 2002, and it has terraced hillside camps sites in the Ponderosa pines.

Itís an awesome place to camp, and you have a really good chance of seeing bald eagles, osprey, and all kinds of water birds, as well as deer and even elk. Canyon Vista campground is closer to the Lower lake and has 15 sites.

The shoreline at Lake Mary is easily walked, so even if you donít have a boat, you can fish. There are plenty of good, easy day hikes in the area, too.

Visit the National Forest Web site at www.fs.fed.us and search by name for "Coconino" for up-to-the-minute information on fire restrictions, closures, and recreational programs in the area. You can also find detailed information on hiking trails and campgrounds there.

Getting to Lake Mary couldnít be easier. Just take I-17 to just south of Flagstaff and take exit 339 (Lake Mary Road) east to Lake Mary.

You really canít miss it. If you need more information, you can call the Ranger station at (928) 774-1147.

Campgrounds, Other Accommodations Near Lake Mary

Lakeview: across the road from Upper Lake Mary with 30 sites. First come, first served. $12

Canyon Vista: across from the Lower Lake with 15 sites. First come, first served $12

Pine Grove: down the road a bit by the turn-off to Ashurst Lake. 46 sites with 24 reservable. $15. Has a dump station and coin-operated showers.

Ashurst and Forked Pine: At Ashurst Lake, just a few miles down the road from Upper Lake Mary. 25 sites at each campground. First come, first served. $12.

There are more campgrounds near Mormon Lake, which is at most a half-hour drive from Upper Lake Mary. Dairy Springs and Double Springs campgrounds have 18 sites, plus a group site. First-come first served at single sites. $12.

Arizona Mountain Inn (928-774-8959), which you will pass on your way to Lake Mary from Flagstaff, has cabins to rent. There are also cabins and an RV park at the Mormon Lake Lodge (928-354-2227), and cabins and rooms at Montezuma Lodge (928-354-2220) near Mormon Lake.

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