Get hooked on urban fishing
I used to think it was a waste of time for pescadores to fish in the park ponds and lakes – even worse, the canals. I’ve seen viejitos and jóvenes sitting on the banks, fishing poles at the ready, and wondered why on earth they didn’t go to a natural lake or river to fish.
Aren’t the fake lakes polluted? The canals are unsanitary for fishing, aren’t they? How can healthy fish survive in manmade waters?
I’m sure I’m not alone in asking such questions. They are proof of my (our?) ignorance about urban fishing – but no longer. Keep reading.
Stellar urban fishing, mind you
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and 11 cities across the state partnered up in 1985 to offer novice and experienced anglers alike the opportunity to enjoy perfectly safe fishing, right in the neighborhood. Through the self-supporting, user-pay Urban Fishing Program, cities maintain the lakes, parks and facilities while AZGFD enforces regulations and stocks the lakes with fish every two weeks from mid-September to late June. Arizona’s Urban Fishing Program is nationally recognized as one of the best in the country.
But can you eat ‘em? Channel catfish, rainbow trout, sunfish, bluegill and largemouth bass are stocked at optimal times during the year. Other fish also inhabit city lakes, like carp, tilapia, white amur and crappie. The stocked fish are actually safe and edible, specifically supplied for the pleasure of urban anglers to catch and release, or even take home for supper.
Love that dirty water. The Valley’s city park lakes and ponds are murky for a reason. When the water is a cloudy, greenish color, it means conditions are ideal for algae to grow, which sustains the food chain and allows fish to feed, reproduce and grow. AZGFD biologists check the program lakes every two weeks to verify the water is safe for the fish.
Canals are cool. Although they are not part of the Urban Fishing Program, the canals are also fishable, so require a different fishing license, says Jim Duncan, senior analyst of water engineering for Salt River Project (SRP). “The only problem is, sometimes anglers are not aware that the white amur in the canals are for catch-and-release only,” says Duncan. White amur, a non-native fish, are stocked in the canals by SRP to keep algae and plant growth down without the use of chemicals.
Tú, también, can be an angler
Hankering for catfish, trout, bass or bluegill for dinner? Or would you be in it for the sport, more the catch-and-release type? All you need is an urban fishing license, basic fishing equipment and know-how, and some leisure time. If you want to take the kids, those under 14 years of age fish for free. Talk about a classic, relaxing way to spend time with them.
Fishing licenses can be easily procured online at www.azgfd.gov or at any bait-and-tackle shop or sporting goods store in the Valley. The Class U Urban Fishing license is $18.50, good for all species of fish and the calendar year, and valid at all 21 participating ponds and lakes in Payson, Tucson and Phoenix, including Encanto, Chaparral, Red Mountain, Steele Indian School and Kiwanis Lakes (see a full list at the AZGFD website).
Besides license requirements, other regulations apply to urban fishing, like daily “bag and possession” limits. Once you catch and keep a fish, it counts toward your daily limit, even if you give it away. For example, you can only catch one white amur per day, or two bass from a lake, one from a pond.
For those of you who can’t identify a hook, line or sinker, AZGFD offers Sport Fishing Education. You can learn all about the best places and times to fish; how to select tackle and bait; casting and rigging techniques; fishing safety and ethics, and how to care for your catch.
In honor of the program’s 25th anniversary, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has published a free 2010 guidebook with all the information anyone would need to get hooked on urban fishing. Next time you’re at the bait-and-tackle shop prepping for your next inner-city fishing excursion, pick up a copy or three and share with your fishing buddies or download it at the AZGFD website.
An angler’s code of ethics
– I will help protect the outdoors. I will not litter. I will pick up and properly dispose of all fishing line, bait containers, fish remains and other trash.
– I will respect other people’s privacy and fishing space. I will fish quietly so I don’t frighten fish or disturb people
– I will buy and carry an urban fishing license or a state fishing license if I am 14 years old or older.
– I will know the fishing regulations, including the size and number of fish I can keep. I will abide by these laws and report anyone who violates them to Operation Game Thief (800-352-0700).
– I will keep only those fish that I plan to eat. I will carefully release all other fish right away.
– I will properly care for all fish I plan to eat. This means putting them on ice, cleaning them at home and quickly storing them in a refrigerator or freezer.
– I will share my fishing knowledge and skills with others, particularly kids.