Arizona and fishing are two things rarely mentioned in the same sentence. Unbeknownst to many, fishing is in fact one of Arizona’s big tourist attractions.
Obviously with substantial natural difficulties that come along with a desert habitat, it takes a lot of work from many different people to ensure that Arizona’s fishing business remains prosperous. It is a legitimate tourist attraction and a vital aspect of the parks and recreation community all across the state.
The Arizona Urban Fishing Program is largely responsible for the success of fishing in Arizona. The program pairs the Game and Fish Department with many local parks and recreation departments to make sure lakes are properly stocked and maintained.
The program extends to 21 lakes in 11 cities across the state. Typically, lakes are stocked with various types of fish at least 20 times a year.
“The program has grown from three lakes to now we have 21,” said Eric Swanson, manager of the Urban Fishing Program. “Our program has grown very large and we’re very excited about that.”
From March through July the urban waters get stocked with channel catfish every two weeks. Rainbow trout are stocked during the winter months of November through March. Most of the fish get brought over from a hatchery in Arkansas.
Arizona has to go through a ton of work to supply trout for the anglers. Trout cannot reproduce in lakes or ponds since they need cold steady-running streams. After importing millions of eggs, they are fertilized and raised in one of six different hatcheries across the state. Trout specifically are always in high demand among anglers due to the skill and patience it takes to catch them.
Trout are more difficult to catch because they are more prone to be found in cold lakes around the White Mountains of Arizona or the Mogollon Rim.
Other species such as largemouth bass and sunfish are put in periodically throughout the year as they are not seasonal like the catfish are.
During the year 2011, more than $650,000 was spent stocking lakes with fish.
Swanson is extremely proud of the program’s rapid ascent to success in recent years.
“Our motto is if people can’t get to the fish, we bring fish to the people,” he said.
One of the main goals of the program is to get children involved. They do this by filling all lakes across the state with fish that are not too large and are clean and safe to ingest. There is also a myriad of fishing clinics and other programs to educate children at park lakes. The youth represent a quarter of all participants in the clinics, according to program specialist Joann Hill.
The economic aspect of fishing in Arizona largely relies upon the community. Everybody over the age of 14 must purchase a license. According to an extensive study done by Arizona State University on the economics of fishing in Arizona, the state is said to reel in over $830 million annually from equipment sales and overall vacation expenses. The state also makes lots of money from fees from the parks and recreation department.
Fishing is a billion dollar business in the state of Arizona that provides residents with more than $300 million in salary as well as generating a substantial tax revenue. More than 17,000 jobs in the state stem from this facet of the parks and recreation business.
Officials at Green Valley Park will be stocking their lakes with trout next week in anticipation of the Payson Wildlife Fair on May 11, said Natalie Robb, the field supervisor in the Payson District.
The Urban Fishing Program is so prominent in the state and without it, fishing likely does not exist in the state at all. It is paid for collaboratively by the 11 cities in Arizona that provide the lakes to fish in, namely Tucson, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Gilbert.