Public input sought on proposed fishing regulation changes
Public input sought on proposed fishing regulation changes
Arizona Game and Fish Department
How would you like a one-of-a-kind, catch-and-release fishery for feisty roundtail chub at Fossil Creek, which is one of the state's two travertine streams (Havasupai is the other)?
Can you imagine spear fishing for striped bass at Lake Pleasant in the future?
How would you like to catch-and-keep (or have in your possession) one bass within the 13- to 16-inch slot limit at Roosevelt Lake?
Fisheries Chief Kirk Young said these are some of the potential fishing regulation changes for 2009-2010 for consideration by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission during the October meeting at the Phoenix headquarters.
But to gather public input on the proposals, the Game and Fish Department is conducting a series of public meetings on the draft "Commission Order 40," which is the basis for what anglers commonly refer to as the fishing regulations.
The public meetings being conducted include the following:
* Mesa, 7 p.m. Sept. 2 , Mesa Regional Game and Fish office, 7200 E. University Dr.
* Pinetop, 7 p.m. Sept. 22, Pinetop Regional Game and Fish office, 2878 E. White Mountain Blvd. Pinetop.
In addition, you can also submit written comments to: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Fisheries Branch, c/o Kirk Young, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.
The following regulation changes are being proposed.
1. Reduce the bag and possession limit for trout from six to four (from three to two for unlicensed anglers) at Woodland Lake.
Rationale: Woodland Lake is a small 10-acre fishery in Pinetop-Lakeside that receives heavy fishing pressure. It is easy to catch trout at Woodland when stocking occurs in the spring and early summer. Anglers here average close to one fish per hour in the spring, which is very high compared to most other lakes in the area.
Anglers reach their trout limit quickly, plus stocked trout are also harvested quickly. High catch rates and easy fishing, especially for kids, are our objectives at Woodland Lake; however poor water quality during June and July stops trout stocking at this lake.
This proposed change is intended to spread out the catch and harvest of trout among anglers and extend the opportunity to catch trout later in the summer when kids are out of school and families are on vacation.
2. Remove bag limits for bass and catfish at Willow Springs Lake, Woods Canyon Lake, Black Canyon Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, Chevelon Lake, CC Cragin Reservoir (Blue Ridge Reservoir), Knoll Lake, and Long Tom Lake.
Rationale: The Mogollon Rim lakes (Woods Canyon Lake, Willow Springs Lake, Black Canyon Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, Chevelon Lake, Blue Ridge Reservoir, Knoll Lake, and Long Tom Tank in southern Coconino and Navajo Counties) are managed exclusively for trout fishing.
These popular Rim lakes are recreation destinations that receive more than 200,000 angler use days per year which is one fifth of the state's overall trout fishing activity.
The illegal introduction of warm water species in these lakes threatens the management of trout in these classic mountain fisheries, and also threaten native species located downstream.
These warmwater species also increase the potential for transferring fish diseases and aquatic invasive species into the drainage area.
The Game and Fish Department plans to maintain an emphasis on trout management in the Rim lakes and discourage the illegal stocking of all warm water species in these reservoirs.
Overall, opening the Rim Lakes to unlimited take of warm water species should minimize the impact of illegally stocked warm water fishes on trout management, lower the chance of their escapement into the streams where sensitive native fishes exist, and discourage future illegal stockings.
3. Extend the fishing closures on the Apache trout recovery waters that include Bear Wallow Creek, Snake Creek, Fish Creek (including tributaries Double Cienega and Corduroy creeks but excluding Ackre Lake), upper East Fork Little Colorado River, Hayground Creek, Conklin Creek, South Fork Little Colorado River, and Stinky Creek to fishing. The closures would remain in effect until population criteria are met for recovering native apache trout.
Rationale: The Game and Fish Department proposes extending closures on specific Apache trout recovery streams following renovation while new Apache trout populations are being established.
These streams will remain closed to allow their population to re-establish to a level that can support angler use and will be re-opened when fully re-established.
Donor fish for these replicate populations are being taken from wild streams on the National Forest and White Mountain Apache Reservation and released into the indicated recovery streams.
Relatively small numbers of donor fish are being used so as not to impact the donor stream populations; thus the donor fish are very valuable. Extending the closure on these streams will allow the populations to establish and expand more quickly.
4. Establish a one-of-a-kind, catch-and-release only, artificial fly and lure-only fishing season for native roundtail chub on the recently renovated and re-established free-flowing Fossil Creek in the Verde Valley.
Rationale: Managing Fossil Creek, one of Arizona's two travertine streams, as a catch-and-release fishery for roundtail chub, a sport-fish native to Fossil Creek and the Verde River drainage, would allow the public an angling opportunity where none is available now with a very low risk of impacting the sensitive fish species in this classic travertine stream system flowing from a reliable year-round spring perched on the edge of the Mogollon Rim escarpment.
The proposal would create a limited season fishery and allows the department and its partners to promote the fishery as a special angling opportunity with an opening day "special event" that would include fishing demonstrations and outreach. The timing of the fishing season is selected to reduce the chance of conflicts between anglers and other users during the summer months.
When the decommissioning of the Childs Hydroelectric Power Plant and accompanying renovation of Fossil Creek was first proposed, many anglers and angling groups expressed support the project but asked that the stream not be closed permanently to angling.
With the stream recovery progressing well, the Game and Fish Department is proposing a catch-and-release artificial fly and lure-only (single barbless hook) fishery with a season opening the first Saturday in October and continuing through April 30.
5. Allow take of one bass in the slot at Roosevelt Lake. The limit would be changed to six bass, of which no more than one bass between 13 and 16 inches (protected slot limit) in length may be in possession.
Rationale: The recent above-average inflows of water and corresponding nutrients into Roosevelt Lake during the winter months of 2005 and most notably 2007, which raised the lake to historic levels thus inundating vast amounts vegetation, including mesquite forests and cottonwood galleries, has created a "new lake effect."
This increase in nutrients and the thousands of acres of newly flooded vegetation are bolstering all fish populations, including largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Excellent habitat and spawning conditions are improving fish condition and increasing reproduction rates, resulting in strong year classes of sport-fish, ultimately leading to more fish being made available for anglers in coming years. It is continuing to be a positive food-chain domino effect.
The proposed regulation change will allow for the take of one bass in the slot limit. The goal is to create additional angler opportunity and heighten angler satisfaction while the additional resources are available.
A strategy to take advantage of the current opportunity is an approach that still protects the spawning fish, but allows for some increased harvest during a window of high productivity. If lake levels and population numbers decline, the Game and Fish Department will return to the current slot regulations to protect the resource if necessary.
6. Allow harvest of striped bass at Lake Pleasant by means of spear fishing.
Rationale: Currently there is no bag restriction on striped bass at Lake Pleasant and managers encourage anglers to harvest as many striped bass as possible. Spear fishing (mostly by divers) for striped bass is currently allowed on Lake Powell, Lake Mead and on the Colorado River from Hoover Dam downstream to Cottonwood Landing. The Arizona Game and Fish Department received a request from the public to allow spear fishing of striped bass at Lake Pleasant and is moving the proposal forward for consideration by the angling public and the Game and Fish Commission.
7. Implement restrictions (reduced bag limit, slot limit or minimum size limit) on harvest of bass at Saguaro, Canyon and/or Apache lakes to aid in the recovery of these lakes from golden alga impacts.
Rationale: Over the past three to four years golden algae blooms at Saguaro, Canyon and Apache reservoirs have resulted in fish kills of varying severity, negative impacting largemouth and smallmouth bass populations.
The Game and Fish Department is conducting a multi-faceted research effort at these waters that involves stocking and monitoring largemouth and smallmouth bass, among other things.
Successful spawning has been documented in all three reservoirs, suggesting that the fisheries may recover on their own. Department biologists anticipate that golden algae blooms will be a chronic problem and continue to impact these fisheries into the future.
Department biologists are assessing the biological need to implement decreased bag limits, slot or minimum size limits at each lake to protect young fish to allow them to reach maturity so they can reproduce. If regulations are placed on any of these reservoirs, they will be removed when no longer biologically necessary.