Have you bought your fishing license? Years ago, I decided that Jan. 1 would be the day that I renew my fishing license each year so I wouldn’t forget. Whenever you buy your license, it is good for a full year. You can purchase it at www.azgfd.gov.

I am always happy to buy my license because I value the fishing opportunities in Arizona that my license purchase helps support. My older grandsons also feel good about their Youth Combination Hunting and Fishing license purchase as they realize that there is a cost to the great outdoor experiences that they enjoy, and are proud to contribute.

We have two fantastic fish hatcheries in Rim Country that produce 35% of the trout stocked in the state. Tonto Creek and Canyon Creek hatcheries keep Rim Country and the White Mountains well supplied by providing approximately 130,000 pounds of trout for anglers to enjoy catching each year.

Besides the fish raised in the six hatcheries in the state, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) does considerable work to improve fishing for us. The department has built and deployed over 1,300 fish structures in Roosevelt Lake to provide cover when the lake is low. Crappies, bass and catfish have benefited tremendously from these improvements. They have also placed structures in Bartlett Lake and Canyon Lake and plan to add several Christmas trees to Saguaro Lake later in January. Besides structures for fish in lakes, the AZGFD has installed stream improvement structures in many of the creeks in Rim Country. You may have seen them on Haigler Creek, Canyon Creek and Tonto Creek with the most recent improvements added last spring on the East Verde River at 2nd and 3rd Crossing. More are coming this spring to the Upper East Verde.

There are 49 Community Fishing Program lakes and ponds in 23 communities throughout the state regularly stocked by AZGFD.

The department conducts ongoing research that monitors the health of fish populations and informs efforts to improve fishing.

Angler surveys are an important component in determining satisfaction with fishing opportunities in the state. An example of the department responding to angler satisfaction and catch rate preferences is reflected in a change to the fishing regulations for 2021 and 2022.

Given the choice, most anglers would prefer to catch bigger fish. The advantages to bigger fish are numerous. They are more fun to catch, they are generally more aggressive and more likely to be caught, and will provide more meat on the table if you keep your fish.

To accommodate this shift to larger fish that take a little longer to grow in a hatchery system that is limited by cold, clean, well-oxygenated water and raceway space, the department has made a change in the daily bag limits. Starting this year, the limit has been reduced to four trout per day, instead of six.

The average size of the trout will increase to about 12 inches. Studies in other western states have shown, and the department expects, that stocking larger fish will result in a higher catch rate and improve angler satisfaction. If you keep your fish, four larger trout will actually provide more meat on the table than six smaller fish.

For Rim Country anglers, the current four-fish limit in the Green Valley Lakes as part of the Community Fishing Program will remain.

Please take the time to review the fishing regulations. There are some waters (a few in Rim Country) that do not allow bait fishing and are catch and release, single barbless hook fly or lure only. You are responsible for knowing the regulations for all waters you fish in Arizona.

In the fishing section of the AZGFD website, the trout stocking schedule lists the various stocking locations throughout the state and how often your favorite waters are stocked. For streams, there is an added feature to that list. When you click on the name of the stream, a map appears that notes the specific stocking locations on that stream. This is important information because AZGFD conducted a study and found that the majority of the rainbow trout stocked did not move significantly from their stocking locations before they were harvested by anglers.

Do you think you just caught a new Arizona record? You can check the Big Fish of the Year page and see how your fish compares. This is also a great page to check if you want to know the location of the current record for the species you want to target. Other tabs will take you to the AZ Trout Challenge program or the Bass and Catfish Challenge site.

On the AZGFD homepage, you can stay informed about the latest AZGFD news or upcoming events. You can also sign up for eNews. Through this service, the department provides helpful information on lakes and streams, stocking reports, and other useful information to improve your fishing.

We have a variety of species to fish for in Arizona. I am continually thankful to AZGFD for all they do to make our fishing in Rim Country better for us and am happy to buy a license to support those efforts.

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