April 2008

He’s Back — Mr. Whiskers Splashes Into Urban Lakes

"Mr. Whiskers"

Ah, spring is in the air, and warming water temperatures signal the return of channel catfish to all Phoenix and Tucson area Urban Fishing Program waters. The Arizona Game and Fish Department distributed approximately 7,000 feisty catfish, fresh from the farm, each weighing an average of 2 pounds, to the 19 lakes and ponds in the Phoenix Metro and Tucson areas.

Delivery on March 21 of the nearly 14,000 pounds of Arkansas farm-raised channel catfish was throughout the Valley and Tucson. Additional stocking of these hefty, hard-fighting fish will continue every two weeks through the end of June. Green Valley Lakes in Payson will continue to receive trout stockings through mid-May.

“We’re excited about kicking off our spring stocking season with these powerful, fun-to-catch catfish. Some of the best baits for catfish include stink baits, worms and hotdogs,” says Eric Swanson, urban fishing program manager. “The bite for channel catfish is usually best in evenings and early mornings and slower during mid-day periods.”

Children under 14 can fish for free; however, anglers 14 and older must purchase a 2008 Urban Fishing License, $18.50 per calendar year, to fish any of the 20 specially designated urban fishing program waters.
Daily limits are four catfish per person at Urban Lakes or two catfish per person at Urban Ponds as noted by park signage and fishing-regulation booklets. Any observed fishing violations or exceeded limits should be phoned in immediately to Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700.

To find out more about the Urban Fishing Program and the lake location closest to you, go to www.azgfd.gov/fish and click on the “Urban Fishing” link on the left side.

With the current economic conditions of higher gas prices, grocery bills and the like, the Urban Fishing Program offers an affordable and healthful outdoor activity for the entire family — even those who choose not to fish. Many lakes are in parks that have kids’ playgrounds, greenbelt areas, basketball courts, jogging trails, dog parks, wildlife viewing, or public libraries.

Convenient locations make for a short drive or even better — a walk or bike ride. Moreover, fish can be released or they can be kept for consumption.

Catfish make excellent table fare and can be prepared in a multitude of ways from deep-fried, baked or broiled, or as fish tacos with a Southwestern flare of chipotle sauce, avocado and cilantro. Proper care during transportation and cooking of your catch will ensure a healthful and delicious meal!

Arizona's Urban Fishing Program is recognized nationally as one of the best in the country. The program is a partnership with the Game and Fish Department and local parks and recreation departments to intensively stock and manage park lakes for fishing recreation.

Simply put, the program operates on the premise that "if people can't get out of town to fish, we will bring fish into town for the people." The program provides convenient, affordable, accessible and fun fishing for anglers of all ages and abilities.