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June 23rd, 2008

The last of eight, every-other-week spring catfish stockings will take place the week of June 23-28.  With lake temperatures climbing rapidly towards 90 degrees and air temperatures well above 100, it becomes impractical to haul live fish into Arizona’s Urban lakes.  No fish stockings will be scheduled during July, August and the first half of September.  Fall catfish stockings will resume in mid-September after lake and weather conditions improve enough to safely transport and stock catfish once again.  Anglers can still fish for catfish, bass and bluegill at Urban waters throughout the summer, but the action is generally slower.

As water temperatures climb into the upper 80’s and biological activity accelerates at Urban lakes, it becomes a greater challenge to monitor and manage lake conditions to ensure fish can be safely stocked.  As of June 23, Game and Fish biologists determined that Water Ranch Lake in Gilbert and Desert West Lake in Phoenix were good to go for stocking thanks to management actions taken by park managers to control algae.  Lake conditions, notably pH, will be monitored right up to the last minute to ensure that Kennedy, Silverbell and Kiwanis Lakes are OK for stockings.  All other lakes have been doing well and appear to be just fine for the June 23-28 season-ending catfish stocking.

Within a day of the last catfish stocking on June 9, park staff and anglers began seeing dead catfish at Tucson’s Lakeside Lake.  A few days later, reports came in about floating catfish at Silverbell Lake too.  Water quality at Lakeside Lake has been very good as monitored by Game and Fish and the City of Tucson, so fish managers were puzzled about the cause of death of the recently stocked catfish.  Our catfish contractor was notified and they have accepted full responsibility for the loss of over 350 catfish that were documented over a one week period from both lakes.  During the 1,500 mile journey from Arkansas, oxygen levels in four out of 36 tanks dropped to dangerously low levels.  The fish haulers discovered the problem and raised the oxygen levels, but the stressed catfish were left weakened and exhausted.  When stocked, the fish appeared OK, however many of them never regained their strength enough to survive.  Lake managers estimate that as many as 40% of the Lakeside stocking and 10% of the Silverbell stocking were lost.  No mortalities from any of the other 32 full fish tanks occurred.  Our contractor will be providing free replacement catfish as part of the regular June 23-28 delivery to both of these lakes.  Urban Fishing Program manager, Eric Swanson, explained, “This is the first time in over three years that our vendor was unable to provide strong, healthy fish at the time of stocking.  But we are glad they have stepped up to make good on the situation and replace all lost fish and stand by their product.  We pledge to work closely with our vendor to ensure that incidences like this don’t happen again, and that fish in good condition are stocked each and every time for the enjoyment of our urban anglers.”

Fishing for catfish continues to be good to excellent the week of stocking.  Anglers are having luck using stink baits or shrimp fished on the bottom.  The best catfish action is during low light or nighttime conditions.  Most catfish average just under 2 pounds, but some 3-4 pounders were recently stocked. Sunfish continue to bite well on small worms fished under a bobber.  The June 23-28 catfish stocking will be the final fish delivery of the spring stocking season.  After that, catfish stockings will not resume until late September.  At Green Valley lakes (Payson) most of the trout have been caught out, but anglers are enjoying great action on bluegill, crappie and bass.  Try small jigs and worms fished under a bobber at Green Valley.

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