The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is being lobbied by Payson Mayor Kenny Evans and others to remove Roosevelt Lake’s slot limit restrictions for a major FLW bass tournament that will be held next fall on the popular Gila County fishery.
It seems that town officials are worried that the slot limit might scare off some professional anglers and render that tournament less than the major national sports spectacle it is expected to be.
Maybe those concerned about what effects the slot limit will have on the tournament should best leave those decisions to the FLW sponsors and to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which has done a highly commendable job of managing a lake that was once in danger of being loved to death with more than a million visitors a year.
In fact, the AGFD implementation of the slot limit, which took place in the spring of 1990, was so successful that last fall a slot limit just like the one at Roosevelt was created at Saguaro, Canyon and Apache lakes.
The limit was imposed to help those fisheries recover from algae blooms, fish die-offs and overuse blights of the past several years.
As a Payson Roundup reporter, I covered the slot limit stories of 1990 when the new restrictions were met with disdain, disgust and misunderstanding.
I admit, after talking to many of those who opposed it, which seemed at the time to be a huge majority, I privately wondered why the Arizona Game and Fish Department was calling for its use.
Today, I am among those who applaud game officials for the foresight of applying the slot limit and standing by it regardless of the tremendous public pressure to have it removed, whether it was for entirety or a single tournament.
I remain convinced the department will continue to make wise decisions and choices on how the slot limit will be applied down the road and when, and if, it should be removed.
Under the improved management of the game and fish department since 1990, surveys have shown Roosevelt Lake is now producing healthy bass at record numbers.
Over the past 20 years, anglers have caught-released slot-sized fish 13 to 16 inches increasing the catch rate and allowing bass to grow to larger sizes. The slot limit restrictions have been hailed as “an investment in Arizona’s fishing future.”
Former Arizona Outdoor News (a now defunct paper once published by the Payson Roundup) reporter G.J. Sagi once wrote about the slot, “in the first year of slot regulations, the catch rate nearly doubled. Now ... AGFD samplings results show continuing gains in both size and numbers of fish.”
AGFD biologist Jim Warnke said years ago, “Our surveys typically show a greater number of fish at Roosevelt than at other similar SRP lakes and these are not skinny fish, they’re well fed because the lake has lots of shad bait.”
It’s obvious by results that the game and fish department’s decision to implement a slot and then steadfastly stand by it in spite of the criticisms lobbied the past two decades was a wise lake management choice.
The decision to rescind the slot, whether it be for a single tournament or all time, should rest solely on the shoulders of those who know Roosevelt the best — game department biologists, not politicians.
For those unaware of the slot, its restrictions are: anglers may weigh-in fish over 12 inches but under 13 inches or over 16 (with mouth closed and tail pinched). Anglers will be able to keep one fish in the slot limit between 13 and 16. Catch limit is five bass.