Mr. Whiskers returns to a community lake near you

PHOENIX — For urban anglers, the onset of spring also means the return of the feisty (and tasty) catfish — more than 15,600 pounds of it.

On Friday, March 21, the core Phoenix and Tucson Community Fishing Program lakes and ponds (22 waters) will be stocked with channel catfish that average 1.5 to 2 pounds. According to our Arkansas-based contractor, these catfish have typically run from 14-19 inches in length.

In addition, 3,800 pounds of bluegill will be stocked into the same lakes and ponds.

The community lake water temperatures have risen into the 60s, triggering the annual stocking changeover from winter trout to spring catfish. The final winter trout stockings were completed March 8.

“This annual switchover to catfish is now a thriving tradition and an excellent way to get families out fishing,” said Community Fishing Program Manager Scott Gurtin, who has recently replaced longtime CFP manager Eric Swanson (retired). “We have been working hard with our municipal partners to grow from 21 to 36 waters. In addition, we’ve made major changes to our license structure to make it simple, affordable, and fun for the family to get engaged in fishing opportunities within the metro areas.”

Beginning with this spring kick-off stocking, catfish will be stocked every two weeks into most CFP lakes, and every two months into CFP ponds, through mid-June. See a 2014 Community Fishing Guidebook for more details.

How to catch channel catfish

Channel catfish are best caught using a hook and sinker setup fished on the bottom. Anglers should use 6 to 10-pound test line, depending on the amount of structure in the area (use heavier line when fishing near structures), with a No. 2 to No. 6 baitholder hook and typical catfish baits such as worms, stink baits, hot dogs, liver or shrimp. Target deep waters around midday and shallower waters after dark.

What you need to fish

To fish any of the 36 Community Fishing waters, kids under age 10 fish for free. Youth ages 10-17 may fish with the new Youth Combo Hunt/Fish license for only $5.

For adults 18 and over, choices include the Community Fishing license for $24 (good at the 36 CFP locations for residents or nonresidents), the General Fishing license for $37 ($55 for nonresidents), or the Combo Hunt/Fish license for $57 ($160 for nonresidents). Both the General Fishing License and the Combo Hunt/Fish license are valid statewide and at CFP locations, and are valid for 365 days from purchase.

Trout and two-pole privileges are now included in these options. Buy licenses online.

More fishing information

For more information on the CFP, including maps, fish stocking schedules, regulations and fishing tips, pick up a free 2014 Community Fishing Program Guidebook that is available at more than 300 license dealer locations and Game and Fish offices, or download one online.

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