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Hunting and Fishing in Arizona

Hunting and fishing recreation offer families an outdoor adventure

Nov. 30, 2009 - While urbanites are racing around the crowded malls for the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials, a hunting and/or fishing license is your passage to escape to the open spaces of the desert uplands or to a local fishing hole to spend some quality time with family and friends. The memories from an exciting outdoor adventure will far outlast any shopping trip.

Arizona is blessed with a bountiful complement of wildlife, incredible landscapes and vast amounts of public lands. Hunting and angling are healthly activities that allow you to experience all that our state has to offer.

A general hunting license, fishing license or combination hunt and fish license is all you need to start enjoying your wildlife related outdoor adventure. Below are just some of the great hunting and fishing activities in season now in Arizona.

Hunting opportunities in November and December are extensive, especially in the small game arena. There are three species of quail (Gambel’s, Mearns’ and scaled), mourning dove, cottontail rabbits, two types of jackrabbits (black-tailed and antelope), two types of tassel-eared squirrels (Abert’s and Kaibab) along with red and grey squirrels, as well as many varieties of ducks and geese. Many of these game animals can be found in the same areas offering a mixed bag and exciting hunting adventure, not to mention the great meal they provide. See below for detailed hunting tips and pursuits. (Note, dove and waterfowl require special stamps.)

Fall fishing brings fresh stocked rainbow trout to many of Arizona’s waters including the urban lakes program. These hearty, feisty-fighters provide great angling fun and good eating when you are tired of turkey leftovers. In addition to trout, anglers can find bass, catfish, sunfish, and crappie. For a great hike and scenic trip, try Wet Beaver Creek, West Clear Creek, or maybe even Oak Creek. If you want to stay close to Phoenix metro, try the Lower Salt River, Tempe Town Lake or one of the many urban program waters. Other good bets are Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the Verde River from Cottonwood to Camp Verde, Goldwater Lake, and Colorado River along Casino Row. See below for detailed fishing tips and report. (Note, an urban fishing license is required for urban waters.)

Licenses are available at all seven Arizona Game and Fish Department offices and more than 300 license dealer across the state. 2009 class A fishing licenses and class U urban fishing licenses are half off for the remainder of the calendar year.

Resident license fees:

Youth ages 10-13 hunting $15, hunt and fish $20
Child 14-20 hunt and fish $26.50
Adult ages 21 and up, hunting $32.25, hunt and fish $54
Family of four hunt and fish license $137.20 (a savings of $24)
*Note – Hunt and fish combo license includes trout stamp


Quail – Three species of quail offer exciting upland hunting across the state. They are the Gambel’s, scaled and Mearns’. Your heart is certain to skip a beat when one of these birds flushes from cover with their wings whirling when you least expect it. Each species is uniquely different in appearance and the habitat they occupy. However, some of their ranges overlap, or are very close to each other, offering dedicated hunters a chance to take all three in one day, a bird hunter’s grand slam. The season for all three species is open until Feb. 7, 2010. (Note, a 2010 hunting license is required beginning Jan. 1.)

Dove – Arizonans are blessed with a Mourning dove season in the fall. These fast darting birds provide challenging wing shooting for even accomplished shotgunners. Evening dove hunts at a stock tank are perfect for introducing someone new to hunting and firearms. Dove can be found nearly anywhere in the desert, but key areas will have trees for roosting cover, water nearby and plenty of desert fauna for food. Nothing matches the sunset after the hunt, except maybe the grilled dove breasts with friends and family. The fall dove season offers all day hunting through Jan. 3, 2010. (Note, an Arizona migratory bird stamp is required.)

Rabbit - These ground dwellers are more challenging than one may think, and they are abundant. Desert cottontail rabbits and two types of jackrabbits, the black-tailed and antelope, offer hunters young and old, new or experienced, plenty of excitement and challenge. Both inhabit the desert low lands and can be found in the cover of washes, and drainages. The best time to get after these critters is at first and last light, but they can be found during the same times when hunting quail and dove, offering a mixed bag that will please any hunter. Rabbit season is open all year long.

Squirrel – For another fantastic hunting experience, head to the ponderosa forests for some squirrel hunting. If you need a little winter in your life, the mountain air and a chance for a light snowfall, will certainly answer the call. Squirrels can be found foraging for acorns, pinecones and mushrooms along the forest floor. However, once they spot you get ready for them to retreat to the tops of the pine trees, so bring a pair of binoculars so you can pick them out. Squirrel season is open through Dec. 31.

Waterfowl – Ducks, geese and snipe can bring another variety of wing shooting. As the winter pushes through the north many ducks will find their way to desert stock tanks, streams and waterways. Jumping tanks is very popular, but if you really want to experience waterfowling, try picking up some waders, decoys and try calling in a flight of teal or mallards to your spread for an experience of a lifetime. Waterfowl season ends in the mountain zone Jan. 17 and in the desert zone Jan. 31, 2010. (Note, both a state and federal duck stamp are required.)

To learn more about Arizona's hunting opportunities, visit www.azgfd.gov/hunting


If you are looking to work off some holiday calories, trying hiking and fishing along places like Wet Beaver Creek, West Clear Creek, or maybe even Oak Creek in the Verde Valley.

Another place for a calorie-killing fishing adventure is the Lower Salt River near Phoenix. Arizona Game and Fish has stocked this desert river with trout, so the fishing should be decent, especially at first and last light during these warmer days. This stretch of river is great for canoes and kayaks. The flows this week are around 400 cfs. No real challenge, just fun.

However, if you are of the kick-back and relax persuasion, some good choices include Canyon Lake or Saguaro Lake, which we have stocked with trout. These two lakes also have bass, catfish and sunfish and each has good shore fishing opportunities and fishing piers.

Tempe Town Lake has now received two stockings of trout, so it offers you a place to escape the Black Friday store madness. This lake also has trout, catfish and sunfish.

Another good choice is Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood -- it is very friendly to those who over imbibe at the holiday dinner table or for those who face other mobility challenges. This is also a good place for us older anglers to take the grandkids. There are even some swings near the lake that the younger children often appreciate. By the way, we have also stocked the Verde River from Cottonwood to Camp Verde, and you must cross the Verde getting into Dead Horse. You might want to stop and wet a line near the bridge.

Goldwater Lake along Senator Highway just above Prescott is another family friendly lake for parents or grandparents to take the kids. It was stocked with trout last week. Think nice, wiggly worms, although Power Bait can sometimes be the ticket.

Don’t forget the urban program lakes – they have all been stocked with trout. One of my favorites is actually Green Valley Lakes in Payson, where we often alternate catching trout and crappie.

Farther afield, the Colorado River along Laughlin’s Casino Row is stocked with trout. During these mild winter days, fishing this stretch of river can be very enjoyable.

For most of the warmwater lakes, most sport-fish species are in their deeper winter patterns, so you need to fish accordingly. Roosevelt has turned over. Some anglers are doing okay there, others can’t buy a bite. Bartlett is very low for work on the dam, but it sounds like crappie and bass are biting. However, boat launching is difficult.

With releases from Stewart Mountain Dam, winter fishing at Saguaro takes on a different complexion thanks to a slight current. Some boat anglers are having good luck for a mixed bag of fish including largemouth bass, bluegill and yellow bass. Small spinners and gold KastMasters seem to be productive, but for youngsters, get some dillies.

Finally, with these mild temperatures, you can probably squeeze in at least one more trout fishing expedition to the high country. The water is probably getting pretty cold, so the trout might be a little lethargic as they get into their winter feeding patterns. This means slowing down presentations.

For the full Thanksgiving Fishing Report, visit: www.azgfd.gov/fishingreport


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