Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Mr. Whiskers Awaits You

Angling To Catch A Catfish?

Community Fishing Program waters teeming with scrappy fighters.

It doesn't have to be Friday to enjoy a good, old-fashioned fish fry.

Cole slaw. French fries. Red beans and rice. Oh, and don't forget hush puppies. All are perfect complements to a pile of fresh-caught catfish filets, fried in a savory cornmeal batter until crisp and golden-brown.

Whatever your choice of side dishes, leave the main course up to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), which is now stocking Community Fishing Program waters with tons of channel catfish just waiting to get caught.

And "Tons" Is Not An Exaggeration.

At more than 50 city park lakes and ponds across Arizona, AZGFD expects to stock between 210,000 and 220,000 pounds - more than 100 tons - of channel catfish in two-week intervals (approximately) over the course of the spring and fall seasons this year. The lower-elevation waters, located in metro Phoenix and Tucson, Yuma, and Safford, will be stocked through May. The higher elevation waters, in places like Prescott Valley, Ash Fork, Show Low, and St. Johns, will receive fish through mid-September.

Anglers who hook into one of these stockers can expect a tussle. AZGFD has a contract with an Arkansas-based supplier that ensures the fish being delivered mostly weigh between 1 ½ and 2 pounds apiece, with some tipping the scales up to 5 pounds or more.

One Of Those Would Make For Quite The Meal. Or Even Two.

Catfish are an excellent species for stocking into recreational fishing waters, as they are scrappy, omnivores - which means they will eat almost anything," said Scott Gurtin, who manages the Community Fishing Program. "They're also exceptionally delicious when fried. If you haven't tried deep-fried catfish, give it a try."

In addition to channel catfish, Gurtin said there are plans to stock about 6,000 pounds of bluegills into the same waters over the course of the year.

The Community Fishing Program was established to provide fun, family-friendly opportunities close to home for all anglers, hence the motto: "If people can't get to the fish, we'll bring fish to the people." It's estimated that more than four million Arizona residents live within 20 minutes of one of these stocked waters.

Anglers Are Advised

Anglers are advised that a valid license is still needed (for those 10 and older) to fish these waters. Valid licenses include general fishing, youth combination hunt and fish (10 to 17), combination hunt and fish (18 and over), or pioneer, blind, disabled veteran (one day), and youth group licenses.

Anglers also should know the difference between waters that have been designated as either a "lake" or a "pond," and have been named accordingly. Community "lakes" are larger bodies of water, generally over three acres, and have higher daily bag limits. Community "ponds" have daily bag limits that are only one-half that of lakes.

Limits are reduced at the smaller bodies of water to avoid overcrowding and overfishing, while still providing a quality angling experience. Once a daily bag limit is reached, an angler must stop fishing for that species.

The Best Method To Catch Cats

The best method for channel catfish is to use a hook-and-sinker setup fished on the bottom. Anglers should use an 8- to 12-pound test line with a No. 2 to No. 6 baitholder hook. Typical baits include worms, stink baits, hotdogs, liver, and shrimp. Fish the deepest spots during the daytime and shallower areas after dark.

For more information about the Community Fishing Program, visit www.azgfd.gov/community.


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