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.

Great spring fishing in northern Arizona expected for Memorial Day weekend

WILLIAMS – Now is the time to get the tackle box ready, grab the fishing rods, and explore northern Arizona for some spring fishing.
Here are some updates on fish stocking activities in this region:
  • About 9,000 rainbow trout, or around 5,000 pounds, were recently stocked in Ashurst Lake. Folks fishing at Ashurst Lake started catching fish shortly after stocking.  They were using small spinners such as rooster tails and small spoons.
  • Kaibab Lake, north of Williams, will receive a similar load of fish. About 9,000 fish measuring up to 15 inches.
  • Trout stocked in Lower Lake Mary during March and April were up to 15 inches long.
  • Catfish were dropped recently into City Reservoir in Williams and Frances Short Pond in Flagstaff. Chunks of hot dogs make great catfish bait.
“We have so much water in northern Arizona this year, we are trying to get fish into as many lakes as we can,” said Chuck Benedict, a fish biologist at AZGFD. “We want to encourage people to come up Memorial Day weekend, enjoy our great weather and fish.  Typically Flagstaff and Williams are great for trout in the spring, and in reality, bass, pike, catfish, and crappie fishing are the best during the summer.”
Some tips to remember before heading out to fish:
  • Licenses now include trout and two-pole privileges (no separate stamps needed) and costs $37 for residents and $55 for nonresidents. The license is now valid for one year from the day you buy it — not just for the calendar year.
  • Anyone 10 years and older will need a fishing license. Youth licenses only cost $5 and are available for youth ages 10-17.
  • Review the 2017 Arizona Fishing Regulations — they are available online, or at most license dealers as a booklet that you can throw in your tackle box. The regulations have all the information you need to fish in Arizona.
  • Some lakes have special restrictions or regulations: catch-and-release only, daily limits, or the type of bait allowed.
  • Do not transport live fish or bait. Illegal stocking is a big problem and impacts the department’s efforts to manage the state’s fisheries. In some cases, fish like northern pike and bass have been illegally stocked and have had detrimental impacts to trout fishing and native fish populations.
Locations of these waters:
  • Frances Short Pond is located just northwest of downtown Flagstaff and is a great place to walk or ride a bike and try your luck.
  • Lower Lake Mary is about 8 miles from Flagstaff on Forest Road 3; Ashurst is about 12 miles down the road from Lower Mary.
  • Kaibab Lake is near Williams and off Highway 64, just north of Interstate 40.
  • City Reservoir is just south of Williams.

AZGF stocks Buckskinner with catfish

WILLIAMS – Rose Newbold, Director of Recreation in Williams, witnessed the release of about a thousand pounds of catfish into the Buckskinner reservoir on a windy Wednesday. Arizona Game and Fish released a couple hundred catfish into the pond this afternoon.The steep drop in the road down to Buckskinner prevented the delivery truck from reaching the reservoir. So the Arizona Game and Fish personnel had to dump them into a regular truck and tote them down to Buckskinner for release.

Homes for fish: habitat improvement project underway at Roosevelt Lake

PHOENIX – They are manmade homes for fish, some made of concrete, others of PVC, and like building a neighborhood, provide the architecture for sustainable life.

The first step in placing fish habitat into the central Arizona reservoirs took place on Thursday, April 20 at Roosevelt Lake with Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists dropping Fishiding HighRise structures made of environmentally-safe PVC to the bottom of Roosevelt Lake. These recycled items, 8 feet tall and excellent habitat for crappie, became the first fish homes. AZGFD plans to expand them into fish cities.

For anglers, this Tonto National Forest Lakes Habitat Improvement Project will result in better fishing for generations to come in the region’s most popular fishing lakes.

Also in April, Roosevelt Lake was stocked with 12,000 pounds of crappie fingerlings, as well as 25,000 pounds of 4-inch Florida-strain largemouth bass for the third consecutive year. Roosevelt Lake also is above 70-percent full for the first time since October of 2011. The higher water level has flooded shoreline brush that provides more cover and habitat for spawning fish. The fish habitat improvement project includes placing multiple types of fish habitat around the lake at varied depths to ensure there is plenty of fish habitat available for when water level fluctuates.

Similar work is planned for other lakes along the Salt River chain and Bartlett Lake. The next planned step involves AZGFD biologists using a 36-foot pontoon boat to transport and lower heavier concrete fish habitat structures — critical to anglers’ fishing opportunities — into Roosevelt Lake.

This fish habitat project is a cooperative effort with numerous anglers, as well as volunteers from organizations such as Gila Basin Angler Roundtable and Midweek Bass Anglers. Supporting agency partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, Tonto National Forest, and the National Fish Habitat Partnership-Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership. Volunteers have been helping build concrete fish balls and Georgia cubes for two years and have donated hundreds of hours to the project.

Natural and artificial habitat are critical for fish spawning, recruitment, and growth. The reservoirs of central Arizona lack sufficient hiding and ambush cover and habitat for growth and survival of young fish. The artificial structures provide a surface for microscopic animals to grow, which attracts bait fish and in turn the predatory fish for anglers to target.

Fishing is one of Arizona’s most popular outdoor activities. Providing good places for anglers to fish is one of AZGFD’s primary goals. Five of the biggest and most popular lakes to fish are located in central Arizona and are managed by Salt River Project for the valley’s water supply: Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, and Bartlett Lake.

In 2014 the Department embarked on a program to improve fisheries habitat in the reservoirs of central Arizona and restore the fisheries to their former glory days. All five of these lakes are more than 70 years old, and Roosevelt Lake is more than 100 years old. Over time, reservoirs lose quality fish habitat through decomposition of the natural vegetation that was flooded, particularly where water levels fluctuate wildly, such as at Roosevelt.

Similarly, one of the largest and most successful fish habitat projects in the nation, the Lake Havasu Fishery Improvement Program, has been ongoing since 1993 and is credited with improving sport fish habitat in this Colorado River reservoir.

The Tonto National Forest is the land management agency for five of the biggest and busiest fishing lakes in Arizona. In 2013, the economic value to the state of Arizona associated with these five lakes was estimated to be more than $318 million.

Will open camping bring more trash?

WILLIAMS – You might remember in January when people came to enjoy the snow. They left the area in the same condition that they would not allow at home and even report to their local police. To be fair, some of this trash is even be from locals.

The lake camp sites are starting to open later this month, but people have already started camping and trashing camp sites open along the roads.Early in April, we found this tent at a camp site we visited. It is an Ozark Trail 4 person Instant Dome Tent. The tent was actually usable except of the fiberglass rods that held the tent up. One of the rods was broken. The unfortunate design of the tent did not allow the replacement of the rod, so the happy camper just left it and the carrying case laying at the camp site.

Later in the month we found several trash bags laying at a camp site deeper in the forest. We continually find beer bottles, cans, dog bowls and other trash laying around camp sites and on trails and in the forest.

Another problem we have seen is RVs parking in parking lots designed for trails or parking to block open roads.

We welcome visitors to Williams and enjoy seeing people from all over the world. We like hunters who come to use our facilities. We ask, however, that you observe the common courtesy you expect others to show you.

  • Do not park in roadways so that you block others from using the camping sites.
  • If you hike our trails, don’t drop your water and beer bottles and cans and other trash on the ground. Pack it out.
  • Anglers please do not leave your fishing material and trash behind. Some of the lakes have tubes in which you can put fishing line. They all have trash cans. Please pick up after yourselves.
  • Do not leave your trash behind. Williams provides receptacles you can use for trash.
  • While driving, do not throw trash and cigarettes out of the window.
  • If you are having a party anywhere, do NOT release balloons into the air. They not only trash the forest, a balloon knocked out power in Bellemont when it hit a power transformer.

We ask that you keep our home clean.

Arizona temperatures are warm, but the water’s still cold

Dogtown Lake – NAG Photo

PHOENIX — Arizona’s rising temperatures are signaling that the summer heat isn’t far off and some residents are already eyeing area lakes, looking to hit the water. With that in mind, the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds watercraft users that while temperatures may be warm, water temperatures remain between the 50s and 60s at many of Arizona’s boating havens.

“Undoubtedly, we have seen phenomenally beautiful weather lately, but that hasn’t done much to warm up our lakes,” said AZGFD Boating Safety Education coordinator Josh Hoffman. “The current lake temperatures would be quite a shock on the system if you were to fall overboard right now. Such a shock can lead to gasping for air, which if you aren’t wearing a life jacket could prove to be your last gasp.”

Even in a healthy person, cold-water immersion can impact muscle movement, breathing and a person’s heart rate. Prolonged exposure to the water can lead to hypothermia, cardiac arrest and death. If you fall overboard, climb back into or on top of the boat. If you cannot, stay near the vessel and use oars or anything floating nearby to help stay afloat.

“Area lakes offer year-round family fun even during winter months, but it’s critical for everyone to wear a life jacket,” Hoffman said. “Should someone fall or be thrown overboard, that life jacket – regardless of water temperature – could very well save your life.”

Life jackets aren’t just a good idea, they are required by state law for anybody 12 years old and younger when the boat is underway. There must also be at least one life jacket available for everyone aboard.

To ensure watercraft users have life jackets available, the department has installed 15 Life Jacket Loaner Stations at lakes across the state including Lake Pleasant, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, Bartlett Lake, and Patagonia Lake. Boaters needing a life jacket can borrow one, use it on the lake and return it once done.

Boaters are also encouraged to learn how to practice safe boating techniques and to respond in the event of an emergency by completing a boating safety course. To register for a free course or for more information on boating in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

AZGFD applauds federal decision to withdraw proposed listing of two fish species under Endangered Species Act

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department applauds today’s decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw its proposal to list two minnows, the headwater chub and a distinct population segment (DPS) of the roundtail chub in the Lower Colorado River Basin (Arizona and New Mexico), as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Service’s decision came as a result of new scientific classification information that in 2016 led the American Fisheries Society and the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Joint Committee on the Names of Fishes – the recognized authority on fish taxonomy – to consider the headwater chub and roundtail chub (and the Gila chub, which is currently listed as endangered), to be a single species: the roundtail chub.

Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists in 2015 conducted a complete review of all data and scientific literature available to determine if the available science supported the recognized taxonomic designations of the three species of chub. The department’s review found no justification to support the separation of chub into three separate species, and concluded they should be classified as a single species.

Subsequently, Game and Fish formally requested that the American Fisheries Society re-evaluate the recognized taxonomic designation of the three species.

The analysis was assigned to the Joint Committee, which conducted months of review and listened to presentations by fisheries scientists on the morphology and genetic status of chub. In September 2016, the Joint Committee concluded there is no morphological or genetic data that define populations of roundtail chub in the lower Colorado River basin as members of more than one species.

“The Joint Committee’s determination last year, along with today’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision, is a huge win for chub and for those who manage and conserve chub in the lower Colorado River basin,” said Chris Cantrell, aquatic wildlife chief for Arizona Game and Fish. “The taxonomic history of this species has been debated for decades, which has influenced our management strategies and our ability to implement conservation on a range-wide basis. The decision will open doors to more opportunities to protect and conserve chub in Arizona.”

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said: “I am pleased to see the USFWS is paying attention to Arizonans and deciding against adding to an already lengthy list of threatened and endangered species in Arizona.”

Added Steve Spangle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona Field Supervisor, in a news release: “Endangered Species Act determinations are founded on the best available science. When new science becomes available, especially midstream in a listing processes, we evaluate it and respond accordingly. Our withdrawal of the listing proposal for the former headwater chub and roundtail chub DPS reflects this new science indicating that these are no longer valid species.”

The Service, together with conservation partners, intends to conduct a species status assessment of the now-larger roundtail chub taxon. This includes the Gila chub, which has been protected under the ESA since 2005. The taxonomic revision of the chubs resulted in Gila chub being recognized as a part of the larger roundtail chub species, necessitating a re-evaluation of its ESA status. Pending this evaluation, the Gila chub will remain protected under the ESA. The Department encourages the Service to make swift resolution to remove the ESA status of Gila chub based on the findings of the Joint Committee and the best available science.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department looks forward to working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all of its partners to ensure conservation of the roundtail chub throughout its expanded range.

Flagstaff man sets 30-year-old catfish state record

FLAGSTAFF – A giant fish tail, dark and maybe two feet in length, curled beneath the surface of the water.

Carson Pete, shore-fishing about 50 yards away, hiked to where he spotted the tail Sunday at Upper Lake Mary near Flagstaff.

He happened to have brought a heavy spinning rod with 50-pound braided line, a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a 7/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. Just before the sun crawled beneath a horizon of pine trees, Pete grabbed a few frozen anchovies he’d dipped in a homemade fish oil/garlic mix and slid them onto the hook. Then he cast the bait near a brush line in 2 feet of water depth.

Immediately, a fish took the bait, drifted away — and then bolted. Pete said he set the hook three times as the fish peeled out about 60 yards of line during a cool and breezy evening. After about 20 minutes of wrestling and reeling, Pete got the huge fish to shore. Monday morning at the Arizona Game and Fish Department office in Flagstaff, the catfish weighed 33.36 pounds, measured 39 ½ inches in total length, and set an inland waters hook-and-line state record for channel catfish.

“Before I left, my 7-year-old daughter kept saying, ‘You’re going to catch a big fish. Send a picture when you do,’” said Pete, a Flagstaff resident who was targeting northern pike. “Well I saw a few people fishing for pike and no one was having any luck. So I just kept fishing and fishing.”

As one reward for his persistence, Pete has quite the picture to send his daughter.

Pete broke the previous record by about one pound. That record belonged to Chuck Berndt of Sierra Vista, who caught a channel catfish at Parker Canyon Lake that weighed 32 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 38 ¾ inches. Berndt caught that previous record fish in 1987.

It is possible that Pete’s catfish is as old as the record.

“It is feasible that this new record catfish is 30-plus years old,” said AZGFD Wildlife Specialist Scott Rogers, who helped weigh the fish. “The oldest on record for this species is 40. These slow growing cats live a long time. Perhaps he was hatched the same year the old record was set.”

The inland waters, catch-and-release record catfish also was taken from Upper Lake Mary. Jared Sandall of Rimrock caught that 34-inch channel catfish in 2015.

With an elevation of about 7,000 feet, Upper Lake Mary has excellent springtime fishing and refreshing summertime temperatures.

Lower Lake Mary stocked with 12,000 trout

FLAGSTAFF – The new fish stocking season has begun in the Flagstaff and Williams region. That includes Lower Lake Mary, which from Thursday to Friday was stocked with a total of 12,000 rainbow trout.

Lower Lake Mary has its highest water levels since 2010. Having been partially replenished, this 450-acre lake in Flagstaff is basically a new fishery.

Lower Lake Mary grows trout particularly quickly. The lake is no more than half full, and with possible snow in this region through May, the lake levels likely will continue rising.

An angler’s bait of choice? Bring along some worms. Earthworms tend to flee from their underground dwellings during heavy rains.

“There’s a lot of nutrients when Lower Mary fills, but this time of year they’re feeding on earthworms,” said AZGFD Wildlife Specialist Chuck Benedict. “You’re going from 30 surface acres of water (before the winter) to 950 acres of water when full. That’s a lot of earthworms that are coming out.”

Upper Lake Mary is still spilling.

For more information on fishing in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov.