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Hook, line and sinker: Local ponds lure area's angling families
There are many places in the Yuma area where residents can grab a fishing pole, bait a hook and toss a line into the water.
Fishermen and women who don't want the hassle of finding a good fishing hole on the river or at a lake can simply make a short trip to conveniently located ponds, such as the one at West Wetlands Park.
Ricky Jones enjoys fishing at the West Wetlands pond because it is “easily accessible, and is stocked throughout the year,” he said.
The ponds are stocked with fish by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in the autumn, winter and spring.
“We are trying to provide more opportunities for families and youth to experience fishing in the area,” said Russell Engel, AZGFD fish program supervisor for Region IV, which includes the Yuma area.
“We believe outdoor activities such as fishing can have positive impacts on families and quality of life. So we are trying to provide convenient opportunities for people to go fishing and enjoy the outdoors and local community by stocking Yuma West Wetlands, Fortuna, Redondo, and Somerton Council Park ponds.”
To be eligible to fish in the ponds, anglers 14 years of age or older must have a valid fishing license to fish. If they are going to fish for trout, their license must also include a trout stamp. In addition, each of the four ponds have specific regulations on daily bag and possession limits. Those regulations are posted at each pond.
Jones enjoys introducing the sport of fishing to newcomers at the ponds.
“That is usually where I take people from out of town or people that don't want to go out on a boat,” he said. “That is a perfect place to introduce them to fishing, and you generally catch something. You always want fishing to be entertaining. You want them to keep coming back.”
Each year, the game and fish department stocks about 24,000 fish in the ponds. The fish consists mostly of channel catfish and, in the cooler months, rainbow trout.
“Depending on our budget, we try to stock each pond with catfish once in the spring, usually in May, and once in the fall, usually in September or October,” Engel said, adding AZGFD generally stocks “each pond with trout once a month from November through February. The trout we stock most likely do not survive our summer temperatures so they are only present during the cool months following the stockings.”
It cost AZGFD about $50,000 in 2011 to pay for the fish.
“The money comes from a variety of sources within the department, none of it comes out of the state's general fund,” Engel explained. “The majority of the funds come from the sales of hunting and fishing licenses and federal grants derived from taxes on the sales of hunting and fishing equipment.”
The fish are on average about a year old when they are placed in the ponds. The catfish weigh an average of two pounds each while the trout each weigh about a third of a pound.
“The trout we stock are raised at a department hatchery near Page Springs, Arizona, and the catfish come from a commercial vendor in Arkansas that is on contract with (AZGFD) to supply fish,” Engel said.
In addition to the fish that is stocked by AZGFD, there are also naturally reproducing fish or “resident” populations of fish that are present year-round, Engel said.
“All four ponds will likely have catfish, sunfish, largemouth bass, tilapia and carp present year-round.”
Fish that are caught at the pond can be released back into the pond or be cooked and eaten.
“This is not a catch and release program and people are allowed to keep fish within the limits of the law,” Engel said. “There are no consumption advisories at these ponds and the fish are safe to eat. However if people do release fish, there will be more fish available for everyone to catch.”
Jones eats the fish he catches.
“They are great,” he said. “Most of the fish are farm raised, so they are pretty tasty. I fish to my limit then I take them home.”
In 2009, AZGFD began significantly increasing its efforts to provide fish at the ponds.
That year “we started to significantly increase our stocking efforts in the Yuma area by increasing the number of ponds we stock, the number of fish we stock, the frequency we stock, and the species we stock,” Engel said.
“We hope to continue the level of stocking we were able to provide in 2011, although that will depend on the availability of funding each year.”
AZGFD offers fishing workshops at area ponds in the cooler months of the year for beginners as part of an effort to better educate the public about the sport.
“As part of our efforts to enhance the quality of life and emphasize the importance of these recreational opportunities, we would like to increase our educational program,” Engel said.
“We are actively looking for volunteers who would be interested in helping provide an educational program on fishing at our local schools.”