Why wearing a life jacket should be one of your New Year’s resolutions

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

PHOENIX — The importance of wearing a life jacket while out on Arizona’s waterways was sadly reflected in the boating tragedies of 2017. A majority of the recreational boating fatalities were individuals who drowned and were not wearing a life jacket — the most important piece of safety gear one can wear whether on a boat, personal watercraft or paddlecraft.

This was the case for eight of the 12 fatalities that occurred last year. And it’s a number that’s echoed nationally: The U.S. Coast Guard reported that 83 percent of drowning victims in 2016 were not wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard also names alcohol as a leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, which was reflected in Arizona. Operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs was a contributing factor in five of the fatalities.

“As you make your New Year’s resolutions, add boating safety to the list,” said Tim Baumgarten, boating law administrator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). “Designate a sober operator, wear a life jacket and ensure that others on your boat do so as well. Together we can prevent many boating tragedies and keep Arizona’s waterways safe for everyone.”

AZGFD aims to both keep the public safe by patrolling the state’s waterways and also educating people on best practices for boating safety and operation. Enforcement efforts including sobriety checkpoints and participation in initiatives like Operation Dry Water allow officers to make contact with watercraft users throughout the state and share the important messages about sober boating, while helping to stop unsafe behaviors.

The department’s Boating Safety Education program holds free monthly courses in Phoenix and Lake Havasu City with the goal of reaching as many Arizonans as possible. The classes include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft, navigational rules, legal requirements and boating emergencies.

“Our courses are beneficial for both those new to boating and veterans of the waterways,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for AZGFD. “The classes are always free, and the investment of your time will pay off the next time a question or unexpected issue comes up when you’re on the water.”

AZGFD also wants to remind the public that life jackets must be worn by children 12 and younger anytime they are onboard a boat or watercraft, and that a properly fitting life jacket must be available for all passengers. For boaters who do not have enough or the right size of life jackets for everyone going out on the water, life jacket loaner stations have been installed at lakes Apache, Bartlett, Canyon, Havasu, Mohave, Patagonia, Pleasant and Saguaro as well as Cattail Cove on the Colorado River.

Whether boaters need to borrow a life jacket or (better yet) come prepared with their own safety gear, taking the step of wearing a life jacket can help prevent a tragedy.

Roosevelt Lake among 2017 U.S. “Waters to Watch”

The National Fish Habitat Partnership has unveiled its list of seven “Waters to Watch” for 2017, a collection of rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes and watershed systems that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition.

Roosevelt Lake in the Tonto National Forest was listed for its collaborative partnership that has been formed to address habitat issues.

“We’re honored to have this project recognized by the National Fish Habitat Partnership and it wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of our outstanding partners,” said AZGFD aquatics branch chief Chris Cantrell. “We hope that within the next 5-10 years anglers can enjoy higher numbers of trophy bass and memories that come out of Roosevelt Lake. This effort should also have a positive economic impact on local communities.”

Read more about this Tonto National Forest Lakes Habitat Improvement Project that 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.

Here’s a fishing license deal ​​​​​​​you’ll want to gobble up

PHOENIX — Happy Thanksgiving from the Arizona Game and Fish family to yours! At AZGFD, we are grateful for many things – especially you. Thank you for making Arizona’s outdoor heritage a part of your life.

To express our appreciation, between now and December 1, 2017, we’re offering a 25% discount on Arizona adult general fishing licenses and community fishing licenses purchased online. And as always, youth licenses (for ages 10-17) are only $5.

This is a great time of year to get outdoors, enjoy Arizona’s spectacular weather and scenery, and spend quality time fishing with family, friends and out-of-town visitors. Invite them to experience their own Arizona outdoor adventure!

Thank you for your loyalty, and may the upcoming holiday season be filled with happiness, BIG fish, and lots of outdoor memories.

General Fishing: Valid for take of all fish species statewide, including at Community Fishing waters.
Available to Residents and Non-residents Resident $37 Non-Resident $55
Community Fishing: Allows take of all fish species at Community Fishing waters.
Available to Residents and Non-residents Resident $24 Non-Resident $24

Hunt/Fish Combo: Valid for take of all fish species statewide (including at Community Fishing waters), small game, fur-bearing animals, predatory animals, certain nongame animals, and upland game birds. A valid tag or stamp is required for the take of big game animals and migratory game birds. Using this license to hunt big game requires a permit-tag (obtained through the big game drawing), or a nonpermit-tag (obtained at any Game and Fish office or at a Game and Fish authorized license dealer).

Commission Appointment Recommendation Board to meet November 7

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission Appointment Recommendation Board will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, beginning at 9 a.m., to review and select for interview applicants for the 2018 vacancy on the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The meeting will be held at the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters at 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Quail Room, in Phoenix and is open to the public.

See meeting agenda (PDF).

The board will meet again on Wednesday, Nov. 15, beginning at 9 a.m., to conduct interviews with the candidates who were selected at the Nov. 7 meeting. That meeting is also at 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Quail Room, in Phoenix and is open to the public. The board will select from two to five finalists at the Nov. 15 meeting and forward those names to Gov. Doug Ducey for his consideration.

Members of the Commission Appointment Recommendation Board are William “Jim” Lane (chair), Susan E. Chilton, W. Hays Gilstrap, Charles I. Kelly, and Phillip D. Townsend.

Per Arizona State Statute 17-202, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission Appointment Recommendation Board shall assist the governor by interviewing, evaluating and recommending candidates for appointment to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The Commission Appointment Recommendation Board shall recommend at least two, but no more than five, candidates to the governor. The governor must select and appoint a commissioner from the list submitted by the board.

For additional information about the Commission Appointment Recommendation Board, contact the Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions at (602) 542-2449 or toll free at 1-800-253-0883 or on the web at www.azgovernor.gov.

For more information on the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, visit www.azgfd.gov/commission.

AZGFD makes change to Wild Trout Challenge

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is temporarily suspending the requirement for anglers to catch a Gila trout in order to complete the Wild Trout Challenge.

With the closure of Frye Creek, there is no longer a wild population of Gila trout open to fishing.

The Arizona Trout Challenge, which requires anglers to catch six of the eight total species in Arizona, remains unchanged since the closure to Frye Creek will not affect anglers trying to catch stocked Gila trout in Frye Mesa Reservoir.

In June, the 48,000-acre Frye Fire severely impacted the habitat in Frye Creek and nearby Ash Creek, and both populations of Gila trout, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, were effected by post-fire flood events that moved large amounts of ash, sediment and debris through the creeks.

Survey crews did not find any Gila trout in the creek, said Tracy Stephens, AZGFD’s Native Trout Biologist.

See more information about AZGFD’s trout challenges.

AZGFD closes Frye Creek to fishing

PHOENIX – Fishing trips to scenic Frye Creek, a Gila trout recovery stream located on Mt. Graham in southeast Arizona that offers rare opportunities to hook Gila trout—one of two trout native to Arizona—will have to be put on hold.

AZGF Photo

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has temporarily closed Frye Creek to fishing in order to evaluate and restore a population of Gila trout following widespread habitat damage on Mt. Graham due to this past summer’s Frye Fire and ensuing flooding.

The Department hopes to reopen the stream to fishing once habitat is suitable for stocking of Gila trout and a population is established that can sustain angling pressure.

Good news for anglers: the closure does not include Frye Mesa Reservoir, where Gila trout are stocked for recreational opportunities. However, the area is still under a closure order issued by the Coronado National Forest.

In June, the 48,000-acre Frye Fire severely impacted the habitat in Frye Creek and nearby Ash Creek, and both populations of Gila trout, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, were effected by post-fire flood events that moved large amounts of ash, sediment and debris through the creeks.

Fortunately, just prior to the flooding, AZGFD salvaged 190 Gila trout from Frye and Ash creeks and they were transported in good health to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico.

Recently, AZGFD surveyed the creeks and did not find any fish. AZGFD will continue to monitor both streams annually to document habitat changes and recovery.

Also, see the Mt. Graham closure update from the Coronado National Forest.

Green light: Go fish!

AZGFD, ADEQ release “Green Light” list of fish, including all trout, Arizonans can eat without restrictions

PHOENIX – Arizona anglers have a ton of “Green Light” reasons to keep catching and cooking fresh fish.

For the first time, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) have launched an initiative to highlight a “green light” list of fish species from specific waters that may be consumed without limits.

The list includes all trout statewide. Arizona has a total of 220 waters that AZGFD manages for trout, making up approximately 40,000 surface acres of lakes and 1,000 miles of rivers or streams.

These “Green Light Fisheries” also include channel catfish supplied for the AZGFD Community Fishing Program.

See all the green light waters on the ADEQ interactive e-Map, including other waters and fish species classified as “Green Light Fisheries.”

Ben Avery Shooting Facility offering discount on National Hunting and Fishing Day

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department is inviting recreational shooters to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 23 at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility.

Arizona hunters and anglers who show their valid hunting or fishing license will receive an $8 discount for unlimited shooting (rifle only) from noon to 5 p.m. at the benchrest range, where steel targets will be placed at intervals up to 300 yards.

Those who don’t have a valid hunting or fishing license still are invited to come out and participate at the regular price ($15). All skill levels are welcome. There will be range safety officers available to assist all shooters. As a reminder, eye and ear protection is required and can be purchased at the shooting sports center.

The shooting sports can provide a lifetime of enjoyment with family and friends. It’s a safe, fun activity enjoyed by an estimated 50 million Americans, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The world-class Ben Avery Shooting Facility, one of the nation’s largest publicly operated shooting facilities, drew more than 225,000 recreational shooters in 2016. The facility is located at 4044 W. Black Canyon Highway in north Phoenix.

National Hunting and Fishing Day, an annual celebration of hunters and anglers, features a unique twist in 2017. Richard Childress, NASCAR legend and honorary chair for this year’s event, is asking hunters and anglers to take someone new hunting or fishing, or to their local shooting range.

Those who pledge to introduce someone to the outdoors between now and Sept. 23 will be eligible to win a Richard Childress Racing VIP race weekend package or an outdoors getaway that includes a two-night stay in a log cabin at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Mo., several outdoor excursions and experiences, and passes to Johnny Morris’ new Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. For more information, visit www.nhfday.org, or call (417) 225-1162.

Each new hunter and angler helps to fund conservation. Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) (PDF) funds are comprised of excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment (including 11 percent on ammunition), the benefit of which comes right back to the states for habitat improvements, shooting ranges, boating access and more.

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.


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.