Arizona Urban Fishing Bulletin: April 27 – May 10

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On Thursday evening, May 1, the Gilbert Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will be deciding on a citizen proposal to drop Water Ranch Lake from the Urban Fishing Program and convert it to a catch and release, artificial fly and lure only fishery requiring a state fishing license.  Urban anglers and concerned citizens are invited to attend this public meeting taking place at the Southeast Regional Library at Water Ranch Park, 775 N. Greenfield Road (corner of Guadalupe) starting at 6:30 p.m.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not support this proposal.  Eric Swanson, urban fishing program manager, will be giving the Advisory Board a presentation to highlight urban angler and Urban Fishing Program facts at Water Ranch Lake.  This popular lake has been part of the Urban Program since 1999.  In 2007, there were over 2,100 anglers that fished this lake accounting for nearly 25,000 recreational days of fun, providing wholesome fishing activity for area residents of all ages and abilities.

The cause of death of recently stocked catfish at 5 of 19 urban lakes looks like it is just a case of fish stress and common bacteria.  “There is no need to worry,” said Dr. Andy Goodwin, Fish Pathologist Associate Director at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.  He explained that catfish throughout Arkansas have experienced late winter/early spring stress due to a highly unusual sequence of major cold and wet storms earlier this year.  Periods of cooling and warming cycles favor certain common bacteria that can infect weakened catfish.  Additionally, until water temperatures reach the mid 50’s, fish farmers do not feed their catfish—this did not occur until mid April, a delay of 4-6 weeks over normal.

Consequently, catfish stocked into Urban lakes in March and April were five months without food and extra stressed after their 40 hour overland transport from Arkansas.  The combination of weakened, immuno-compromised fish placed into Arizona urban lakes with 20-25 degree warmer water made the catfish particularly susceptible to bacterial diseases.  Two super common bacteria, Columnaris and Aeromonas, can thrive under this combination of circumstances.  In lakes with high alkalinity, these bacteria can be especially abundant.  Resident bass, bluegill and other fish are unaffected.

Dr. Goodwin stated, “These two bacteria are common in the normal flora of fish, water and sediments.  They pose no harm to humans or animals.”  Park staffs have dutifully removed all dead and sick catfish from the lakes.  Die-off levels have ranged from 5-50% of the stocked catfish at affected lakes.  Catfish stockings for the week of April 28-May 3 will include stronger, well-fed catfish that have recently enjoyed much warmer conditions.

April 28 – May 3 Catfish Stocking Status:  Chaparral Lake and Red Mountain Lake will not be stocked with catfish due to environmental lake stressors that can affect survival of newly stocked fish.  Lake conditions at Cortez Lake, Water Ranch Lake, Desert Breeze Lake and Surprise Lake are once again suitable for fish stockings to resume this week.  All other lakes are scheduled for regular stockings.

The Chandler Parks and Recreation Department recently notified Game and Fish officials that Veterans Oasis Lake would not be ready for catfish stockings this spring.  Additional work is still needed to ensure this new lake is effectively sealed to conserve water.  These unfortunate delays mean that no catfish can be stocked into this 5-acre urban lake in southeast Chandler until the fall catfish stockings resume in mid September.  Fingerling and juvenile bluegill and largemouth bass from 2-7 inches are on order for stocking sometime later this summer to get this new fishery started.  The park, located at Chandler Heights and Lindsay Roads is now open for public use with vehicle access only available off Lindsay Road at this time.  The Environmental Center is open and worth a visit.


Fishing for catfish is good to excellent with a variety of baits working well on the bottom.  Cats are biting variously throughout the day and anglers willing to spend a couple hours or fish different times of the day are being rewarded with some 2-3 pound fish.  Top catfish baits include stink baits, shrimp or worms fished with a sliding sinker, or no sinker.  Catfishing is poor at Chaparral (Scottsdale) and Red Mountain (Mesa) lakes due to cancelled catfish stockings the week of April 29-May 3.  Bluegill and other sunfish are biting readily at all lakes on meal worms, worms or small doughballs under a small bobber.  The bite for largemouth bass has slowed somewhat during this post-spawn period, but early morning anglers are still getting action on some nice fish in the 2-3 pound range using drop shot and split shot rigs.  At Green Valley lakes (Payson) fishing is good for trout, particularly in the two smaller ponds which received some bonus trout stockings recently for local children’s fishing clinics.  The final trout stocking of the spring season will take place the week of May 4-10 and will be a double stocking.  Try PowerBait, worms or salmon eggs for the trout.

Phoenix Area Lakes – Last stocking, April 14, catfish. Next stocking, catfish the week of April 28 – May 3.

Tucson Area Lakes – Last stocking, April 14, catfish. Next stocking, catfish the week of April 28 – May 3.

Green Valley Lakes (Payson) – Last stocking, April 17, trout. Next stocking, trout the week of May 5 – 10.

Remember the Web. Go to for updated stocking schedules, fishing clinics, public events, and other great fishing information!  Also check out the web for new information on the Urban Fishing Program, Weekly Fishing Reports, to get your own copy of this Urban Fishing Bulletin, or submit your email address to get your name on our bi-weekly email distribution list.