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.

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.

AZGFD to participate in multi-agency OUI checkpoint on Colorado River

KINGMAN — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will participate in a multi-agency enforcement patrol this weekend on the Colorado River, pursuing those who are operating their boats and other watercraft while under the influence (OUI) of drugs or alcohol.

AZGFD, together with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the National Park Service, will be enforcing Arizona’s OUI legal limit of a .08 blood-alcohol content.

Throughout the weekend, boaters may be required to pass through a checkpoint and be subject to a systematic safety inspection. Operators will be checked for any sign of impairment from alcohol or drugs, and to ensure the required safety equipment, such as proper life jackets and working fire extinguishers, are aboard.

“The responsibility for boating safety among watercraft users is critically important,” said Brandon Carley, law enforcement supervisor for the department’s regional office in Kingman. “The area is growing quickly, and we share these waterways with California and Nevada. It’s becoming very congested, which lends itself to more potential hazards.”

Carley advises boaters and watercraft users should review all regulations prior to launching. That includes having a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person on board and making sure that anyone 12 and under is wearing one at all times. Boats also must be equipped with a fire extinguisher and a Type IV throwable personal flotation device (PFD).

For more information on boating in Arizona, or to sign up for a free safety course, visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

Native fish project, 25 years in making, comes to fruition

In mid-May, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will stock Gila topminnow into Arnett Creek, near Superior, with the expectation that the species will establish a population. The addition of Gila topminnow will be the final step in a project that has been in the works for more than two decades.

Back in 1992, AZGFD, Tonto National Forest (TNF), and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified an opportunity to re-establish a native fish community in Arnett Creek.

After environmental planning, a fish barrier was built to deter re-entry of non-native fishes, the stream was chemically treated to remove nonnative fishes, and in the late-1990s a few native fish were stocked. Those fish did not establish populations, and a subsequent drought greatly reduced the amount of perennial water habitat in the system.

The partners re-evaluated the stream in 2007 and determined that the small amount of habitat was most suitable for longfin dace and endangered Gila topminnow. The plan was to stock longfin dace first, and if they established a population, to move forward with Gila topminnow. Longfin dace were stocked in 2007, and they have established a population. So the partners continued to plan for introducing Gila topminnow.

Finally, all of the environmental planning has been completed, and Gila topminnow will be stocked.

“Hopefully they will establish populations, because establishing new populations is necessary to recover the species so that it will no longer need protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Tony Robinson, AZGFD’s Gila River Basin Native Fishes Lead.

Historically, topminnow were the most abundant fish species in the Gila River basin from western New Mexico to southern and western Arizona. Over time, habitat loss and degradation brought the topminnow to the brink of extinction. Habitat improvement and reintroductions, such as at Arnett Creek, are contributing to substantial, recent advances in the species’ recovery.

AZGFD will be collecting the topminnow from a pond near Amado owned by one of its partners in topminnow conservation under the Safe Harbor Agreement for Topminnows and Pupfish.

Native fish are just one part of the Arnett Creek story. During the last year of planning, Tonto National Forest has also partnered with AZGFD and other local groups to help protect and restore Arnett Creek.

Arnett Canyon is used by horseback riders and hikers. There were many trails in the riparian area, so TNF and its partners improved the main trail and fenced the riparian area to focus people and riders onto the main trail. TNF and AZGFD also worked collaboratively on repairing fencing and installing drinkers for the local rancher’s livestock.

Arizona Game and Fish Director Larry D. Voyles to retire

PHOENIX – Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Larry D. Voyles has announced that he will retire from the state’s wildlife agency this summer. Director Voyles, who first joined the Department as a wildlife manager in the Yuma region in 1974, will remain as Director until his replacement is named by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

In a letter to Game and Fish employees, Voyles reflected on his nine years as Director of the 600-person agency, saying “I was in the unique position of steering this mighty ship, and I did my best to encourage personal responsibility, scientific curiosity and innovation. These character traits, along with our core values of Credibility, Respect, Integrity and Passion are and always will be the foundation on which our Department is built.”

After a decade in the field as a wildlife manager, Voyles rose through the ranks serving as the Department’s first Law Enforcement Training Coordinator, then Regional Supervisor and ultimately the position of Director, which he has held since 2008. His term will be remembered for his embrace of technology to modernize the department, his national efforts to unite state conservation agencies to provide better resources for wildlife and habitat management, and his support of multiple-use public lands.

“Director Voyles is a great leader and a true conservation visionary who has guided the Department into the 21st century,” said Game and Fish Commission Chairman Pat Madden. “Larry has strengthened the Department’s traditional role as the state’s wildlife authority while encouraging innovation and collaboration between conservationists and the community. His legacy will shine brightly for years to come.”

Game and Fish Commissioner Kurt R. Davis added, “Larry Voyles and the leadership team he assembled during his tenure have successfully built our nation’s leading wildlife agency. His devotion and dedication to managing more than 800 species of wildlife in Arizona sets an example for all conservationists. Larry can retire knowing his work in Arizona, and nationally, leaves an indelible mark on wildlife conservation that has helped ensure that our state’s wildlife will flourish for another generation.”

Director Voyles was elected by his peers to the presidency of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in 2014, and has served on a variety of national boards including the Council to Advance the Hunting and Shooting Sports, the Wildlife and Hunter Heritage Conservation Council, Co-Chair of the Agency/Industry Coalition, the US Sportsman Alliance Youth Program Advisory Council, and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. He sits on the Federal/State Joint Task Forces for ESA Implementation and for Federal Aid Administration.

Commission proposes to amend rules for game bird field training licenses

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission proposes to amend R12-4-414 to develop rule changes that result in an improved process and customer-friendly approach to administering game bird field training licenses.

All public comments about the proposed rulemaking will be accepted through July 2, 2017:

  • Email: rulemaking@azgfd.gov or wzarlingo@azgfd.gov.
  • U.S. Mail: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Attn.: Wade Zarlingo, Small Game Program Manager, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.
  • Telephone: Wade Zarlingo, Small Game Program Manager, 623-236-7503.

The final rule will be presented to the five-member commission at the end of the comment period. The commission will review the final rulemaking during a special telephonic meeting at 10 a.m. July 17, 2017.

To track the progress of this rule, view the regulatory agenda and all previous Five-Year Review Reports, and to learn about any other agency rulemaking matters, visit https://www.azgfd.com/agency/rulemaking/.

Monument review could help Arizona

Opinion By Larry D. Voyles, Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department

President Trump’s Executive Order calling for a review of expansive executive land designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906 has predictably generated a volume of debate and dire predictions. Missing from the discussion is thoughtful dialogue about the critical role of multiple-use management in natural resources conservation and the sometimes dire consequences to our natural resources of removing such tools from the pallet of management actions and possibilities. This is all done in the name of “protection,” but sometimes we literally love our most special places to death.

In Arizona, when the 2011 Wallow Fire burned 538,000 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, it initially reached crown fire intensity in the “protected” Bear Wallow Wilderness Area. “Protected” is in quotes because a wilderness designation, supposedly our highest level of protection, can actually prohibit many forest health management practices that reduce wildfire risk and protect our public lands. We all knew the overgrown Bear Wallow Wilderness would burn, and burn catastrophically.

The National Forests destroyed in the Wallow Fire, like those across the country, were established in the 20th century primarily to protect watersheds, timber, wildlife, and grazing lands, allowing these natural resources to benefit American communities. Catastrophic wildfires cause erosion that can shorten the lifespan of dams, robbing us of water, the lifeblood of our cities, towns, farms and industry.

This was the reason the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department opposed the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument proposal. The President’s Order doesn’t eliminate any monuments or restrictions on the use of monument lands and waters, but the review may help highlight the stark difference between symbolic designation and real conservation.

Protected areas are an important part of our conservation landscape, but multiple-use lands are essential to our conservation future. Let’s restore balance to our conservation dialogue. A national conversation about the connections between multiple-use management and healthy forests and waters is long overdue.

Versions of this article have been published as guest columns in the Arizona Capitol Times, Arizona Daily Star and Arizona Daily Sun.

Text-donation campaign asks public to ‘Be a Hero for Wildlife’

The Arizona Game and Fish Department took in this four-week-old otter that was found last week abandoned at the bottom of a drying Valley canal. It’s just one of the animals that AZGFD regularly works to rehabilitate. Those wanting to help fund the care it and other animals at that AZGFD Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center receive can text “CRITTER” to 41444.

PHOENIX — A three-week-old bobcat kitten snatched from the wild.

An abandoned baby otter found hungry and dehydrated in an East Valley canal. A malnourished, sickly “kidnapped” deer fawn. It’s not another day at the local zoo. It’s a typical day at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center, where wildlife experts work daily to rehabilitate and save some of the state’s 800-plus native wildlife species. It’s often a thankful, albeit costly, job.

To help defray rising costs of caring for Arizona’s wildlife, AZGFD recently began its “Be a Hero for Wildlife” donation campaign to give the public an opportunity to support its efforts to treat sick, injured, orphaned and confiscated wildlife by texting CRITTER to 41444 from any smartphone.

“All this dedication and care comes at a great cost,” said Mike Demlong, who manages AZGFD’s Wildlife Center and Wildlife Education programs. “Many of the animals that come to us require extensive medical treatments, X-rays, monitoring and specialized care, and those expenses are considerable. It’s rewarding work, especially when it comes to helping some of our younger more vulnerable wildlife.”

On Friday, April 14, it was a three-week-old bobcat kitten turned in by a member of the public, who intended to raise it as pet. The individual ultimately turned it over at the urging of a family member, who saw a Valley TV news story earlier that evening of a deer fawn that was kidnapped from the wild and being raised as a pet.

In both cases, each of the animals required extensive care, attention and resources just to keep them alive. The malnourished deer fawn alone continues to require a specialized diet, vitamin supplements and injections, and daily monitoring to make it healthy enough to eventually live out its days in a zoo.

Nearly one month later, the department has spent about $4,500 and counting to rehabilitate the kidnapped deer fawn. A six-day stay for the bobcat kitten cost the department $3,000.

“Unfortunately, the department does not receive state general fund dollars. That’s what makes donations that much more important,” Demlong said.

Funding raised through the “Be a hero for Wildlife” text-campaign will be used to care for the sick, injured, orphaned and confiscated animals housed at the Wildlife Center, in addition to the many animal ambassadors – such as a great-horned owl, golden eagle, desert tortoises and prairie dogs – that are used in educational outreach statewide.

In addition to donations, the public can also help keep wildlife wild by leaving baby wildlife alone. Young wildlife is rarely abandoned so there is often little reason to “rescue it.” One or both of its parents is likely nearby searching for food and will return.

Baby birds are the most common wildlife species encountered removed from the wild by the public. Young birds that have fallen from the nest can be placed back in the nest or as close as possible. Baby birds that are partially flighted should be left alone or moved nearby out of harm’s way.

Those with questions about a specific situation should contact one of the wildlife rehabilitators listed on the department’s website at: www.azgfd.com/wildlife/urbanrehab/ or contact your local Game and Fish office.