Arizona Game and Fish hatcheries – an inside look
Since 1922 the Arizona Game and Fish Department has operated 15 fish hatcheries, six of which are still maintained. Five of these fish hatcheries are used for cold water production and play a major role in providing trout fishing opportunities in Arizona. The sixth hatchery is dedicated to warm water fish production. Almost all of the trout harvested in Arizona are stocked from our hatcheries. Every year, Department fish hatcheries contribute to the state economy by producing on average 385,000 pounds of fish, which equates to over 3 million fish that are stocked into 118 locations throughout the state. These fish hatcheries are destination facilities for bird watchers and the general public as well. Thousands of tourists annually visit the hatcheries to learn about the fisheries program and the Department’s mission.
According to the analysis in the 2013 Economic Impact of Fishing in Arizona, annual recreational sport fishing produces $1.47 billion in economic benefits for the state of Arizona. There are more than 350,000 anglers that spend over $950 million on equipment and trip-related expenditures annually in Arizona. Sport fishing also generates 20,038 full time and/or part time jobs. Hatcheries play a vital role in maintaining the quality of sport fishing in Arizona. Raising trout is a public service supported not from income taxes, but exclusively from revenues generated by anglers under the “user pay, user benefit” system. When you buy a fishing pole or lure, a small portion of the cost goes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sportfish Restoration Program. Your purchase of a fishing license is then used in combination with those Sportfish Restoration funds to pay for fish stocking efforts and keep the tradition of fishing alive.
So where do the trout come from?
Most trout in Arizona do not originally come from the stream, river or lake where you caught it, but rather it was stocked from a hatchery at some stage of its life. Natural trout reproduction in Arizona is extremely limited, yet angler demand is high. Trout cannot reproduce in lakes or ponds because they require cold clear-running perennial streams. Thus, the vast majority of trout caught in Arizona’s public waters originate from hatcheries. The Department hatcheries stock trout annually into public waters for anglers to enjoy. To accomplish this, the Department maintains six fish hatcheries within the State, each of which has a dedicated source of natural spring water.
Show Low/Pinetop Area
Where and when fish are stocked – schedule
Hatchery fish are raised from eggs which are imported from other federal, state, or private hatcheries in the nation. Most fish are raised to catchable size before stocking, which is a targeted size of 9.5 inches. However, some lakes have abundant natural food and thus, are stocked with smaller fish such as fingerlings (3 inches) or sub-catchables (6 inches). Over time the smaller fish then grow to harvestable size within the lake.
Most hatcheries have specific areas within Arizona where they stock, although there is some overlapping of waters. Five of these hatcheries, Page Springs, Canyon Creek, Tonto Creek, Silver Creek and Sterling Spring feature various trout species. The Bubbling Ponds Hatchery focuses on Arizona’s native fish such as razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, and roundtail chub which is a native sportfish, but the hatchery also produces a small number of Trout, Florida Largemouth Bass and Bluegill. Our smallest hatchery, Sterling Springs (which is open to the public by appointment only due to difficult access), specializes in hatching the trout eggs and raising them to fingerling size for transfer to Page Springs Hatchery.
Here’s a question for you: How many species of trout are produced in Arizona State fish hatcheries? If you said seven, you’re right. Arizona hatcheries produce seven species of trout for anglers to enjoy: rainbow, brown, brook, tiger, cutthroat, and Arizona’s native Apache and Gila trout. Click the following link to learn more about trout species in Arizona and the Arizona Trout Challenge
The Angling Legacy
Raising trout is a public service supported not from income taxes, but exclusively from revenues generated by anglers under the “user pay, user benefit” system. When you buy fishing poles, reels, creels, lures, flies and artificial baits a small portion of the cost goes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sportfish Restoration Program. Your purchase of a fishing license is then used in combination with those Sportfish Restoration funds to pay for fish stocking efforts and keep the tradition of fishing alive.
Bring the family to visit us sometime soon. Visitation hours vary at each hatchery, so please click on the hatchery links above to learn more about the specific hatchery.
When you visit our hatchery properties remember
- Watch for hazards and enjoy at your own risk
- Fishing or fishing equipment are not allowed at any hatchery with exception of Silver Creek Hatchery.
- Feeding fish is permitted only at the feeding ponds at Page Springs and Tonto Creek.
- Be responsible – No people or pets in the ponds or raceways
- Keep pets leashed
- Do not litter or disturb wildlife
- Take only photographs, leave only footprints
- Respect no trespassing areas