Fisheries Management – Sport Fish Stocking Environmental Compliance
The AZGFD is the principal state agency responsible for the management and protection of wildlife resources and their habitats in Arizona (outside of tribal lands), including fisheries. For many years, the AZGFD and other federal and tribal agencies have provided recreational angling opportunities to the public by stocking state waters with sport fish species and operating and maintaining fish hatcheries. A significant portion of AZGFD’s stocking and hatchery operations programs is funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFRA) grant. Using SFRA funding, the AZGFD can continue its Sport Fish Stocking Program for a 10-year period (September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2031) by continuing to operate AZGFD hatcheries and stock sport fish in selected rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and livestock watering tanks in the state. The pertinent documents that are relevant to the current stocking program are below:
Recreational angling in Arizona created a statewide economic impact of more than $1.4 billion in 2013, according to the 2013 Economic Impact of Fishing in Arizona by Responsive Management (the last year such a survey was done). In fiscal year 2020, AZGFD sold 273,902 fishing licenses, generating revenue of nearly $14 million. During the last six years, AZGFD has stocked approximately 3 million fish per year. The majority of stockings were cold water species, such as Rainbow, Apache, Brook, Cutthroat, and Brown Trout. The AZGFD also stocked warm water species including Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Black Crappie, Redear Sunfish, and Bluegill.
In 2013, there were 5,979,637 angler days of fishing in Arizona. Sport Fish Restoration funding will make it possible for AZGFD to continue to meet part of this demand for public recreational angling opportunities on Arizona’s waters.
Fisheries Management Plans
The Arizona Game and Fish Department strives to be a national conservation leader and Arizona’s most trusted source for wildlife conservation information and products.
AZGFD furthered this vision in 2013 by embarking on a novel planning process that culminated in a multi-species fisheries management plan for the Verde River Watershed. This planning approach shifted away from a single species focus to interactions between sport fish and native aquatic species, reflecting AZGFD’s mission to conserve Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources while managing for safe, compatible outdoor recreation opportunities. AZGFD will be developing similar plans for all of Arizona’s major watersheds to guide fisheries management into the future.
For each major watershed in Arizona, AZGFD will develop interactive web maps as an alternative, visual way to easily explore management information outlined in the plan.
Fisheries Management Plans
Verde River Watershed – Complete.
Santa Cruz Watershed – Complete.
Little Colorado Watershed Update: In progress.
Upper Gila Watershed – In progress.
Bill Williams Watershed – In progress.
The AZGFD has management authority for all wildlife in Arizona, but shares management responsibility for habitat with many partners, including state, federal, tribal and local agencies. For each fisheries watershed-based management plan, the AZGFD invites other agencies to participate on the planning team, depending on the watershed and jurisdiction to manage lands and habitat.
The Watershed-based Fish Management Process incorporates data collection and analysis, consideration of management emphasis, analysis of potential conflicts and mitigation, and stakeholder and public input. Ultimately the plan will guide management prescriptions while allowing for adaptive management as new information becomes available. The Statewide Fish Management Team report (AGFD 2009) details this decision-making process.
Species considered during the planning process include Sport Fish, Native Fish, Amphibians and reptiles associated with riparian habitats (Northern Mexican Gartersnake, Narrow-headed Gartersnake and others).
The multispecies planning approach incorporates many elements from AZGFD’s Wildlife 20/20 Strategic Plan including:
- Balancing public demand for sport fish recreation with conservation of native aquatic resources;
- Managing rare species to maintain biological diversity and reduce federal regulatory burden;
- Maintaining and restore native species diversity, population numbers, and habitats; and
- Ensuring seamless integration of sport and native fish programs.
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