Illegal fish stocking: stealing future of fishing in Arizona
Did you know it is illegal to stock fish or aquatic wildlife including crayfish, frogs, waterdogs and turtles?
Illegal fish stocking, and everything else moved along with them — plants, mussels, viruses, harmful algae, etc. — threaten the quality of our fishing waters. These introductions jeopardize the productivity and possibly the existence of your fisheries, and in effect stealing your future in fishing.
Stocking fish illegally is not always done intentionally or with a lot of thought. It can be as simple as dumping your bait bucket after you’re done fishing.
About legal use of baitfish in AZ
Legal use of baitfish is restricted to water bodies where their impacts are known and have been accounted for. When these same bait fish get into new waters, we must evaluate the impacts, and in some cases, spend a lot of your fishing license dollars on removing them. This is because if we don’t, we may lose the ability to stock species of sportfish in places we want them. The Department typically receives between $5-7 million each year to fund fisheries management and hatchery operations. This funding, or anything associated with it, cannot be used to threaten the continued existence of any listed species under the Endangered Species Act.
The end result of many well-intentioned people who just don’t want to be responsible for disposing of a pet fish or turtle could be reduced flexibility in managing for fish species the anglers of Arizona want, and where they want them. It could even be an angler who wants to use a certain baitfish in their favorite water, and is willing to break the law to do it.
Many anglers might think, “Well it’s already there — what can it hurt?” Or even, “The Department won’t give me what I want; I’ll do it on my own.” But in reality, moving and stocking fish on your own is doing just the opposite. It could take away management options in the future.
The Department follows a public process that can lead to enhanced opportunities for anglers at their favorite water. The Game and Fish Commission will listen to any proposal to manage aquatic wildlife in many different ways. Keep in mind, however, the Commission and the Department must adhere to federal and state laws and statues that take into consideration all possible effects of stocking and managing aquatic species. Management plans are being completed monthly on all the waters that the Department manages. See completed plans. These plans line out what is being managed for — and why — at each water.
How you can help: call our OGT hotline
If you observe or know of someone stocking Arizona waters, including illegally moving live fish for bait, report it to Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700. Information leading to an arrest may be rewarded up to $1,000. Anyone found guilty of illegally stocking fish or aquatic wildlife may be subject to revocation of hunting and fishing privileges and civil assessments to remedy the impacts of their illegal acts-possibly costing hundreds of thousand of dollars.