Recent storms serve as reminder for boaters and OHV operators to use caution

PHOENIX — Monsoon season is in full swing and the Arizona Game and Fish Department warns boating and off-highway vehicle (OHV) users that weather conditions can change quickly and could be dangerous for those who aren’t prepared.
The severity of monsoon storms varies greatly from a minor dust storm to a violent thunderstorm capable of producing hail, deadly lightning and/or flash flooding.
Recent storms brought high winds, thunderstorms and rough water to the Lake Pleasant area. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies made multiple water rescues on July 14 and 15:
  • Two paddle boarders were rescued July 14 after being knocked into the water by a severe thunderstorm; one of them was not wearing a personal flotation device. One of the women was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and was released after treatment.
  • Also on July 14, three juveniles operating a Wave Runner personal watercraft encountered storms. One of the juveniles was rescued by a family member, while the other two were secured by Lake Patrol deputies.
  • On July 15, 10 people were pulled from the water and no one sustained significant injuries.
In addition, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that there were multiple instances of property damage — four boats sunk, another beached after becoming partially submerged, and damage was incurred to numerous other boats.
“Arizona is known as a great place for outdoor recreation and activities. But whether you’re out on a boat or riding an OHV, weather is a critical factor that everyone must pay attention to,” said Josh Hoffman, Boating Safety Education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “If severe weather is likely or storms are appearing nearby, it’s a good time to safely get off of the water or riding trails and move indoors.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Boating and OHV Safety Education programs offer users the following tips to protect themselves and passengers during the monsoon season.
When on a boat or personal watercraft:
  • While life jackets are legally required for children 12 and younger, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. Storms can create large waves that could knock a passenger from the boat.
  • Monitor the weather around you, and use a weather radio for updates from the National Weather Service. If storms are predicted or are building, pull your boat out of the water or consider postponing your outing.
  • Secure all gear above and below decks.
  • Keep everyone aboard away from electrical and ungrounded components, and remain as low in the boat as possible.
  • Slow down but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
  • Turn on your navigation lights.
  • If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. It may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
  • Boats should head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. Personal watercrafts should head directly into the waves.
When on an OHV:
  • Always wear proper safety gear, including a helmet, eye protection, long sleeves, pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Carefully seek shelter indoors as storms are developing or are nearby.
  • Never cross running water. While it may look shallow, it may be deep enough that it could push the vehicle downstream or you may get stuck in loose sediment.
  • Drive slowly to not lose control on muddied trails.
  • To avoid being struck by lightning, avoid open fields, high land, trees, poles or other tall objects and standing bodies of water.
  • Be aware of and avoid flash flood zones.
For more information on boating in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. For more information on riding an OHV in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/OHV.

Upgrades coming to Ben Avery Shooting Facility’s main range

PHOENIX — When the Ben Avery Shooting Facility’s main range opens bright and early Aug. 30, recreational shooters will zero in on several improvements:

Earthen berms that serve as backstops for 67 shooting stations will be higher, more level and — most important — safer.
Target bumpers (which hold up the target frames) with re-stenciled lane numbers.
Refurbished shooting benches.

In order to complete more than $100,000 in improvements, the main range will be closed to the general public Aug. 14-29. The projects will be paid for through funding from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR). The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not receive general funds from the State of Arizona.

“While this work is going to inconvenience some folks, due to the extended duration of the closure, the work on the range is necessary to maintain the highest levels of standards of safety and stewardship that our customers have come to expect from the facility,” said Christopher Dean, range manager.

The two-week closure also will apply to the adjacent specialty ranges designated for user groups – Smallbore, Rifle 2 (which also will see improvements to its berm), Pistol 3 and Pistol 4.

Located on 1,650 acres in north Phoenix, the Ben Avery Shooting Facility is one of the nation’s largest publicly-operated shooting facilities, drawing more than 120,000 shooters each year. A City of Phoenix “Point of Pride,” the facility has received a five-star rating from the National Association of Shooting Ranges.

For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov and click on “Shooting,” or call (623) 582-8313.

2017 County Fair Early Bird tickets on sale now

FLAGSTAFF — Fair-goers can now purchase early bird Coconino County Fair admission tickets and carnival wristbands online. Coconino County Parks & Recreation is hosting the 68th annual Coconino County Fair, Labor Day Weekend, September 1 through 4 at Fort Tuthill County Park.

Early bird admission tickets are $5 each for adults and $3 each for youth (ages 6 – 12) and seniors (65 and older). Kids 5 and under are always free at the Coconino County Fair. Carnival wristbands, which allow unlimited carnival rides for one day, are $25 each, with a limit of 10 purchased at one time. Discounted admission tickets sales end July 31, and carnival wristbands are available while supplies last.

Exhibit entries for artwork, recipes, crafts, collections, and homegrown vegetables and flowers are being accepted for judging competitions. Entries are free except for livestock. Special awards, including cash, will be given for many entry categories such as clothing, quick breads, cookie jar, cherry pies, candies, preserved foods, quilts and photography.

The 2017 Fair Book is now online for people to view categories and enter their exhibit information. There are a limited number of printed Fair Books available at the Parks and Recreation Administration office or participating locations in Coconino County.

For more information on the County Fair, early bird tickets, entertainment line-up, the Fair Book and how to enter an exhibit, visit http://www.CoconinoCountyFair.com or call the Coconino County Parks and Recreation Department at 928-679-8000.

Game and Fish develops proposed hunt guidelines

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking public comment on proposed hunt guidelines for the 2018-19 through 2022-23 hunting seasons.

The proposed guidelines were developed based on input received through written public comment and information gathered during a webinar and eight public meetings conducted statewide. The proposed guidelines can be viewed on the department’s website at http://azgfdportal.az.gov/hunting/guidelines (PDF).

Comments on the proposed guidelines may be submitted through August 2 to AZHuntGuidelines@azgfd.gov, or by mail: Hunt Guidelines, Attn.: Amber Munig, Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.

The hunt guidelines provide the biological and social parameters used by wildlife managers to formulate the annual hunt recommendations (season structures, season lengths, season dates, permits allocated, etc.). These recommendations result in the hunts in which licensed hunters may participate. While hunting opportunity is important, wildlife is held in the public trust; therefore, using science-based principles to shape the guidelines process remains paramount to ensure healthy, sustainable and diverse wildlife populations in perpetuity.

“Your comments are important,” said Amber Munig, big game management supervisor. “The biological sideboards for managing wildlife and maintaining healthy, sustainable populations are fairly broad. Your input helps us fine-tune management within these sideboards. Please take a moment to give us your views.”

The final proposed hunt guidelines and all public comments, along with department responses to those comments, will be shared with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission at its September meeting in Flagstaff.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not receive general funds from the State of Arizona. The conservation and management of the state’s game animals is made possible by funding generated from the sale of hunting licenses, tags, and matching funds from the Wildlife Restoration Act, a federal excise tax that hunters and manufacturers pay on guns, ammunition and other hunting/shooting-related equipment.

Life jacket exchange events taking place Saturday, July 8

PHOENIX — Have an old, worn out life jacket? Swap it for a new one. From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 8, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is holding life jacket exchange events at four locations throughout the state:

Lake Pleasant — 10-lane boat ramp
Canyon Lake — main ramp
Lake Powell — Wahweap Marina
Lake Havasu City — Windsor Beach

During the exchanges, people with old, worn and less-effective life jackets can swap them for a new life jacket, while supplies last.

It’s important that boaters check to ensure that all of their life jackets are in good condition and that they are the right size and fit for passengers. On average in Arizona, life jackets should be replaced every five years.

“While state law requires that anyone 12 and under must wear a life jacket when out on the water, it’s a good idea for all boat and watercraft users to wear one,” said Josh Hoffman, Boating Safety Education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Wear it. Don’t just store the life jacket on your boat to check the box.”

New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that in 2016 there were 4,463 recreational boating accidents, involving 701 deaths nationwide. In cases where the cause of death was known, 80 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned and of those, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. In Arizona, there were five deaths from boating accidents last year.

“Wearing a life jacket could very well save your life,” Hoffman said.

For more information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating and click “Boating Safety Education.”

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office joins Operation Dry Water to raise awareness about dangers of boating under the influence

PAGE – The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office will be participating in Operation Dry Water as part of a nationally coordinated effort to increase knowledge about the dangers of boating under the influence (BUI). The goal is to reduce the number of accidents and deaths associated with alcohol and drug use on our waterways.

Operation Dry Water weekend, June 30-July 2, is the national weekend of amplified enforcement of boating under the influence laws and recreational boater outreach. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to our community and to the entire recreational boating community as part of the yearlong Operation Dry Water campaign to inform and educate boaters about the hazards and negative outcomes associated with boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Recreational boating is a fun and enjoyable activity. Consuming alcohol while on the water can hinder that experience and create a dangerous scenario for you, your friends and family, and others on the water. Alcohol impairs judgment and reaction time on the water just as is does when driving a car, even more so because of the added stressors of sun, heat, wind, noise and the vibrations of the boat. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office wants everyone to have a great summer on the water, and to do that you’ve got to stay safe and stay sober while underway.

As Operation Dry Water weekend and Independence Day approaches, law enforcement will be out on the water educating boaters about safe boating practices and removing impaired operators from the water. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office supports these efforts as they go a long way in ensuring the safety of recreational boaters and water sport enthusiasts.

Tips to staying safe on the water:

  • Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths*. Alcohol and drugs use impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.
  • Wear your life jacket. 83% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket*.
  • Take a boating safety education course. 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known*.

Boaters can take the pledge to boat safe and boat sober, and find more information about boating under the influence at operationdrywater.org.

Finding right outdoor skills event is a lot easier

PHOENIX — When it comes to choosing a “how-to” outdoor skill event, one size does not fit all.

So, where does one begin? Look no further than the Arizona Game and Fish Department, along with its extensive network of partnering organizations, which offers dozens of events throughout the year to suit almost everyone’s needs through the Outdoor Skills Network.

Those events now appear in a new format, organized based on skill level and interest:

  • Introductory: No hunting or pursuit of wildlife, shooting lessons, instructional, typically one-day activity. Introductory – knowledge or information imparted.
  • Beginner: Basic take of wildlife, one-day event, pass shooting, species include dove, ducks, squirrel. Beginner – a person who is inexperienced, novice, a person who has begun a course of instruction or is learning the fundamentals.
  • Developing: Pursuit of wildlife, overnight events, remote locations, species include quail, rabbit, predators, javelina, turkey. Developing – one who is learning by practical experience under skilled workers of a trade, art or calling.
  • Intermediate: Pursuit of more challenging species, deer, elk, stalking, remote locations, overnight, a lot of field time. Intermediate – applies some already learned basic skills to adapt and meet the next level of learning, skill development.
  • Experienced: Coming soon, minimal mentoring, base camps and “meet-ups.” Experienced – having knowledge or skill in a particular field, especially a profession or job, gained over a period of time.

“We are really excited with this new format,” said Doug Burt, the department’s hunting and shooting sports program manager. “We hope it’s better for the customer to find what’s right for them.

The new format can be found on pages 24-29 of the “2017-18 Arizona Hunting Regulations” and by visiting www.azgfd.gov/OutdoorSkills.

In an ongoing effort to better serve the public, the department recently launched a new online registration system. It’s a winning combination that’s customer-focused and mobile-friendly, as well as a time-saver.

Of course, event types and descriptions are merely guidelines. Most events offer activities that are suitable for all skill levels, from hunting, fishing and shooting to learning more about wildlife, habitat and conservation.

“In the end, we want the attendee to have the right expectations and the right experience,” Burt said. “That’s the key to keeping folks engaged in hunting and traditional outdoor recreation activities.”

There is no cost to Arizona taxpayers for this program. Game and Fish does not receive any of the state’s general tax funds and operates under a user-pay, public-benefit model. The program is an investment in the continuance of wildlife conservation efforts and outdoors recreation participation in Arizona.

To learn more about how hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters fund wildlife conservation, visit www.azgfd.gov/h_f/federal-aid-cycle.shtml.

ADEQ fish advisory for Largemouth Bass

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, in association with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), has issued a fish consumption advisory for largemouth bass caught from Willow Springs Lake in Coconino County that recommends healthy consumption amounts. This advisory is based on recent analysis of Willow Springs Lake largemouth bass fish tissue sample data that showed elevated levels of mercury.

ADEQ recommends that adults limit consumption of largemouth bass to 2.5 ounces (uncooked weight) per week and children 12 years of age and younger limit consumption to two ounces per month (uncooked weight).

Willow Springs Lake is home to a variety of fish and during the spring and summer, the AGFD stocks the lake with rainbow trout that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.

Fishing, bird watching, swimming and other recreational activities at Willow Springs Lake are not affected by this advisory and are encouraged for enjoying the great outdoors. Generally, any contaminant levels found in water are several folds lower than in fish tissue.

Fish are an excellent source of protein and can be an important part of a healthy, diverse diet as they are low in saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends people eat at least two fish or seafood meals every week. The public health recommendations in this advisory are based on frequent and long-term consumption of fish, not infrequent or occasional fish meals.

RESOURCES:

Click to learn more about ADEQ Fish Consumption Advisories
Click to view the ADEQ Fish Consumption Advisory Fact Sheet (PDF)

A quarter-million extra fish being stocked into Arizona waters through June

PHOENIX – A quarter-million more fish. With lakes around the state extra full after a wet spring, the Arizona Game and Fish Department needed extra fish. And it got them.

During the past week––in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend—AZGFD has been stocking an additional 20,000 trout and catfish into waters statewide. Through June, we’ll have stocked a quarter-million more rainbow trout, catfish, bass and sunfish statewide. After heavy rains and runoff this spring, many fisheries are replenished and ready for angling action.

Most catfish are going into Community Fishing Program waters. Give Mr. Whiskers a try.

Or plan a trip to where the extra trout have been going: Woods Canyon and Willow Springs lakes on the Mogollon Rim (both have tiger trout), Kaibab Lake near Williams and Ashurst Lake southeast of Flagstaff.

Also, during the week of May 22, scenic Lynx and Goldwater lakes in Prescott will get extra trout.

Northern Arizona anglers in particular will enjoy many benefits of this surplus:

  • On Wednesday, May 17, the first stocking of bonus rainbow trout, purchased from Crowthers Freshwater Trout in Colorado, were stocked into Ashurst Lake. Anglers fishing at Ashurst Lake that day started catching fish as soon as the stocking ended using small spinners such as roostertails and small spoons.
  • Knoll Lake had its first stocking of the year last week and will get more rainbow trout this week.
  • Catfish are also being stocked into City Reservoir near Williams, and on Wednesday, May 17 were stocked into Frances Short Pond. Chunks of hot dogs make great catfish bait.

Plan a trip now. Need a license? A General Fishing License is $37 for residents and $55 for nonresidents, Combo Hunt and Fish Licenses are $57 and Youth Combo Hunt and Fish Licenses are $5. All are good for 365 days from the date of purchase. Save time and buy online, 24/7.

Life jacket exchanges tomorrow help kick off ‘Boating Safety Week’

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department and agencies across the U.S. and Canada will join forces to promote life jacket use and boating safety as part of National Safe Boating Week.

The annual event begins Saturday, May 20 and ends Friday, May 26. To help mark the occasion, the department’s Boating Safety Education program will hold Life Jacket Exchange events from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the 10-lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant; Canyon Lake boat ramp; Saguaro Lake boat ramps; the London Bridge Beach at Lake Havasu City and Katherine’s Landing at Lake Mohave.

During the exchanges, people with old, worn and less-effective life jackets can swap them for a new life vest, while supplies last.

“Boating in Arizona can offer great experience for everyone on the water, but only if it is done safely and responsibly,” said Josh Hoffman, AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator. “While time on the water can be fun, it can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not prepared. National Safe Boating Week serves as a reminder to all boat and watercraft users to always wear their life jacket. It could very well save your life.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also helped to kick off Safe Boating Week, by issuing a proclamation, encouraging the public to be safe while on the water.

“Year-round, people continue to enjoy all that our natural environment has to offer through the joy of boating. National Safe Boating Week is observed to call attention to important life-saving tips for recreational boaters so that they can have a safer, more fun experience out on the water,” the proclamation states.

National Safe Boating Week marks the launch of the 2017 North American Safe Boating Campaign. This yearlong campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of voluntary, consistent life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme, “Wear It!”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2015, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Each year hundreds of people lose their lives in boating incidences, and they might still be alive if they had been wearing a life jacket,” said Rachel Johnson, CAE, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization for the North American Safe Boating Campaign. “It’s not enough to just own a life jacket and store it on a boat, you must wear it,”

New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling or hunting and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

“Completing a boating safety course is also an important step to being a safe boater or watercraft user. Educated boaters are safe boaters,” Hoffman said. “Luckily the Arizona Game and Fish Department offers free boating safety courses.”

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a free safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating. Those registering for an online safety course through BOATERExam.com can receive $10 off during Safe Boating Week by using the promo code NSBW17.