Wildlife Fair, Fishing Fest Saturday

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The focus is on fishing at the Ninth Annual Payson Wildlife Fair & Fishing Fest this Saturday at Green Valley Park.

Lakes at the park will be double-stocked for the event, according to Randy Babb, who handles information and education for Arizona Game & Fish, co-sponsor along with the U.S. Forest Service, Mogollon Sporting Association and Payson Parks and Recreation.

Besides providing bait and tackle on a first-come, first-serve basis, officials will be on hand to give young people tips and a special fly fishing clinic will also be held.

"We have lots of poles and lots of lures for the kids," Mary Gilbert, wildlife biologist for the Payson Ranger District, said.

Two big fishing rods donated by Wal-Mart will be given away as door prizes, and $500 worth of fishing lures will also be given away.

For those who prefer not to get up close and personal with our finned friends, virtual fishing will be available.

"It's the neatest thing," Gilbert said. "The kids actually have the pole and reel and everything in their hands.

"At the other end of the booth is a TV, and it's coordinated so that the kids are actually reeling in a fish, but the fish is on a TV screen."

Other games and activities include a virtual shooting range, a pellet gun range, and demonstrations by the Phoenix Varmint Callers.

"Varmint calling is really a cool pastime," Gilbert said. "It's kind of like duck calls. Most of them don't use their own voices; they use a lot of electronics."

A very famous celebrity will also be on hand.

"Smokey Bear will be there in all his glory," Gilbert said. "Then there's a large Smokey balloon that's being brought in from Albuquerque."

Booths operated by such entities as the Arizona Wildlife Federation and Tonto Rim Search and Rescue will also be set up and stocked with lots of information.

Adobe Mountain Rehabilitation Center will be on hand with various owls, raptors, and other kinds of animals.

Clint Miller is bringing his collection of reptiles, including rattlers, non-rattlers and other sundry snakes, and Game & Fish will also have a venomous reptile display.

The Desert Big Horn Sheep Society is coming, as is the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, which will bring the truck they use to transport fish.

Mogollon Sporting Association will have food and drink concessions and the Forest Service will provide kids with free goody bags filled with Smokey Bear items.

"We're also going to give kids a passport when they come in to get stamped at each booth," Gilbert said. "If they get it completely filled out they get a special prize."

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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