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Newly-formed angler group raises $10,000
To aid recovery for Salt River chain of lakes
PHOENIX – An off-the-cuff remark at an Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting last spring resulted in a new angler group being formed and then raising $10,000 in just a few months to help biologists improve fishing conditions at the lower three reservoirs on the Salt River chain of lakes.
Ron Schofield of Scottsdale explained that last spring when the commission was discussing the golden alga impacts at the Saguaro, Canyon and Apache lakes, Commission Chairman Mike Golightly made a comment that spurred them to action. “If these guys are so concerned, why don’t they go out and raise some money to help out?” Golightly had remarked.
“We’ve done just that,” Schofield told the Game and Fish Commission on Oct. 20 while presenting the huge check.
These dedicated anglers formed a new group, the United Arizona Anglers Foundation (http://www.unitedazanglers.org/), and began raising money from individual anglers and businesses. These enterprising fishermen also obtained a 50-50 matching grant from Anglers United. “We look forward to a long a mutually beneficial relationship with the Arizona Game and Fish Department,” Schofield told the commission.
The $10,000 will be used in the Game and Fish Department’s efforts to help Apache, Saguaro and Canyon lakes along the road to recovery following impacts to these popular fisheries by golden alga blooms the last several years. The price tag on the department’s Salt River Lakes Project is around $2 million the next two years, with a significant portion of those funds dedicated to research efforts to provide better data for future management decisions.
The new angler group asked that up to $4,000 of their donation be used to bolster the department’s planned stocking of Apache and Canon lakes with smallmouth bass. Those initial stockings are scheduled for Oct. 29.
Game and Fish biologists explain that there is no known way, currently, to eradicate golden algae in large bodies of water, such as the Salt River chain of lakes.
“We can expect golden algae to remain a fact of life at these three Salt River reservoirs for the foreseeable future. The challenge is determining the most effective management strategies necessary to maintain the best fishing opportunities possible,” said Kirk Young, the acting Fisheries Branch chief.
The department has initiated a four-pronged approach to helping these lakes.
1. Stocking the lakes to give sport-fish populations a boost.
2. Conducting fish population, water quality, and angler creel studies to determine the effectiveness of those stockings.
3. Implementing research to better understand golden alga.
4. Doing outreach and education.
Smallmouth bass from Illinois are expected to be stocked into Apache and Canyon lakes at the end of October. Largemouth bass will likely be stocked at Saguaro and Canyon in November.
Last year, Game and Fish stocked Apache Lake with 3.4 million walleye sac fry that were bartered from another state and 85,000 surplus rainbow trout fingerlings from one of its hatcheries.
“A major challenge facing biologists is getting a basic understanding of the biological dynamics associated with golden alga in Arizona’s reservoirs,” Young said.
Scientists are still trying to understand these small aquatic organisms and how they function in the aquatic environment. For instance, science has yet to replicate the toxin golden alga can produce that impacts gill-breathing organisms, such as fish. Nor is it known what prompts the golden alga to release its toxins.
The Game and Fish Department is contracting with university-based microbiologists to study the golden alga and hopefully provide answers that biologists can use to better manage the fisheries.
“Right now, we have more questions than answers,” Young said.
Biologists are also taking advantage of opportunities as they arise to improve fishing. For instance, while the lake level of Canyon Lake is lowered 50 feet for routine maintenance on the dam, Game and Fish biologists and a cadre of dedicated volunteers will be installing artificial fish habitats on the lake bottom in November and December.
Last year, biologists and volunteers teamed up to install 67 habitat complexes of Pisces pyramids at Apache Lake.
Also, while the lake level at Canyon is down this winter, it won’t be possible to stock it with rainbow trout. Those stockings are being shifted to Apache Lake to provide anglers enhanced fishing opportunities there.
“This is called adaptive management. We take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Also, as we gain knowledge, we modify our management actions accordingly. Adaptability is the key to success,” Young said.
Winter trout offer a seasonal symphony of excitement
Be sure to keep your favorite lightweight fishing pole and trout tackle handy – winter trout fishing opportunities offer a seasonal symphony of fun and excitement, often as not close to home.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has an elaborate winter trout stocking program (visit http://www.azgfd.gov/h_f/stocking_schedule.shtml for all the details). This year, there is even something new – trout will be routinely stocked in Apache Lake along the colorful and adventuresome Apache Trail.
There might even be trout in your own neighborhood or close to it. Trout are stocked all winter long in the participating Urban Program Lakes.
Just to make life and fishing even more interesting, there are also trout stockings from federal hatcheries at places like Willow Beach below Hoover Dam, Bullhead (Casino Row) and Lake Mohave.
There is even a whole celebration surrounding one special trout stocking. The City of Tempe and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are once again teaming up to conduct “Welcome Back the Trout” celebration at Tempe Town Lake on the Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 20) right before Thanksgiving.
The exciting celebration at this unique lake is timed for the late afternoon right after the kids get out of school. In fact, bring your youngster to the celebration to help stock buckets of feisty rainbows. It’s a great Kodak moment.
Winter also provides some of the best fishing opportunities of the year at the famous Lees Ferry in northern Arizona. This classic fishery in the Marble Canyon Gorge is the entryway to the marvels of the Grand Canyon just downstream. You might even witness a huge California condor winging overhead while you are catching a trophy-sized wild rainbow in the shadow of precipitous pink sandstone cliffs. It’s a world-class experience.
Some other top winter fishing spots include: the Lower Salt River just minutes from Mesa and Tempe, Goldwater Lake near Prescott, Saguaro Lake, the Verde River between Cottonwood and Camp Verde (near the Verde Canyon Railroad), Parker Canyon Lake (in prime quail habitat this year), Oak Creek, and Roper Lake.
Keep in mind that trout are the original low-fat diet food – you can even get exercise while catching them.
Volunteers needed to help Canyon Lake
Want to give something back to Arizona’s fisheries?
Come help construct Pisces pyramids at Canyon Lake to help improve this classic fishery along the Salt River.
Volunteers are needed to help at Canyon Lake from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16 when the Arizona Game and Fish Department will be installing artificial habitats at strategic locations on the lake bottom while the water level is down 50 feet for conducting routine maintenance on the dam.
Volunteers will be helping move tree limbs, cement blocks, and wooden pallets to construct Pisces pyramids (artificial habitats). Work hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To volunteer, contact Jim Warnecke or Natalie Robb with Game and Fish at (480) 324-3541.