Regulation Updates for 2024

Significant changes have been made to fishing regulations affecting various bodies of water. For the South Fork of the Little Colorado River in Apache County, catch and release is now mandatory for trout. Anglers must use artificial flies and lures, and from May 1 to December 31, only single-pointed barbless hooks are permitted. This area is closed to fishing from January 1 to April 30 to protect the fish during spawning season.

Goldwater Lake (Lower) has also shifted to catch and release only, with artificial flies and lures required. Meanwhile, Oak Creek and its West Fork now enforce catch and release for trout, requiring immediate release of fish unharmed, and stipulating the use of artificial fly and lure only with barbless hooks.

Cluff Ranch Pond 3 has updated regulations, now catch and release only for all fish species, except rainbow trout, effective from January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2024. This move is designed to manage fish populations effectively and maintain ecological balance.

Statewide Fishing Regulations 2023-2024

From January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2024, fishing is open statewide subject to specific regulations. Anglers are required to familiarize themselves with both the General Statewide Regulations and any Special Regulations applicable to the specific water body they plan to fish. Knowing and adhering to these regulations is crucial as they are designed to manage fish populations sustainably and ensure a responsible fishing experience.

Before setting out, check the Arizona Game and Fish Department's official website at azgfd.gov for the most current information and updates. The website provides comprehensive details on rules that may affect your fishing activities, including size limits, bag limits, and any seasonal or area-specific restrictions.

It's the responsibility of every angler to be informed about the rules that govern the waters they fish in. Regulations can vary significantly between different lakes, rivers, and streams. Changes can happen throughout the year, so continuous consultation of official resources is vital for a lawful and enjoyable fishing experience.

Statewide Fish Protection Guidelines

Arizona enforces strict protection for certain native fish species. Anglers are not allowed to engage with or keep the following species: Beautiful Shiner, Bluehead Sucker, Bonytail Chub, Colorado Pikeminnow, Desert Pupfish, Flannelmouth Sucker, Gila Topminnow, Humpback Chub, Little Colorado Sucker, and additional species listed. These regulations are in place to preserve the state's aquatic biodiversity.

Catch & Release Protocol: If you accidentally catch any of these protected fish, it's mandatory to release them back into the water promptly and without harm. This practice is essential for their survival and the health of Arizona's water ecosystems.

Updates to Special Licenses and Stamps

License Consolidation: Starting in 2014, separate trout, two-pole, and Colorado River stamps for California and Nevada were discontinued. The privileges previously offered by these stamps are now included in the General Fishing License, Youth Combo Hunt/Fish License, Combo Hunt/Fish License, and the Short-term Combo Hunt/Fish License. This consolidation simplifies the process, making it easier for anglers to know what's included in their licenses.

Lake Powell Fishing Update: From January 1, 2019, onwards, Arizona licensed anglers no longer require a Utah stamp to fish on Lake Powell. This change is part of an effort to streamline fishing regulations and permits between neighboring states.

License Replacement: If your license is lost or damaged, it can be replaced at any license dealer, Department office, or online at azgfd.gov. To obtain a replacement, you'll need to complete an "Affidavit for Duplicate License" and pay a nominal fee of $8. However, if your license was purchased online and needs reprinting, this can typically be done at no additional cost.

Statewide Fishing Guidelines Summary

This document is a convenient summary of fishing regulations. For comprehensive legal specifics, refer to the Arizona Revised Statute, Title 17 Laws, and Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rules available at azgfd.gov.

Hook and Line Methods: All newly issued fishing and combo licenses permit the use of up to two poles or lines simultaneously. Angling is defined as using one line with up to two hooks, one line with a single artificial lure (possibly with multiple hooks), or one line with up to two artificial flies or lures. Lines must be constantly attended to and under immediate control. The bait or lure should be used in a manner that encourages the fish to voluntarily attempt ingestion. Single-pointed barbless hooks are mandated in some areas; these are defined as hooks with a single point, either manufactured without barbs or with barbs that have been completely closed or removed.

Artificial Flies and Lures: Defined as man-made visual attractants, artificial flies and lures do not include living or dead organisms or any part thereof, any edible substances, or chemical or organic scent additives. Check specific area regulations to determine if only single-pointed barbless hooks are allowed.

Other Fishing Methods: Certain fish species such as carp, buffalo fish, mullet, tilapia, goldfish, and shad can be legally caught using bow and arrow, crossbow, snare, gig, spear, spear gun, or snagging, subject to specific area closures or regulations. Bow and arrow fishing is permitted for catfish in specified lakes with a daily bag limit. Spear and spear gun fishing for striped bass is allowed in designated areas with varying daily bag limits. For detailed legal methods of taking aquatic wildlife, refer to the specified Arizona regulation.

Capturing Baitfish and Crayfish for Bait

Live baitfish may be utilized exclusively in designated areas approved for certain species. Acquisition methods for live bait include minnow traps, dip nets, cast nets, pole and line, handline, crayfish net, or seine, with specific size limitations: cast nets must not exceed a 4-foot radius, and seine nets are restricted to 10 feet in length and 4 feet in width. Gamefish flesh is generally prohibited as bait, except for sunfish of the genus Lepomis. For capturing legal baitfish or crayfish, as well as landing legally hooked fish, landing nets or dip nets are allowed. Identification is required for any unattended traps or devices used to catch or hold aquatic wildlife, which must include the name, address, and fishing license number of the user. All aquatic wildlife caught incidentally during live bait capture must be promptly and harmlessly returned to the water. Captured live legal baitfish and crayfish are for personal use only and not for sale or commercial purposes. Notably, live crayfish may only be used as bait in the body of water where they were caught.

Daily Bag and Possession Limit

The daily bag limit dictates the maximum number of fish legally caught and kept within a 24-hour period (midnight to midnight). Once you catch and keep a fish, it counts towards your daily limit, including any fish given away. The possession limit is typically twice the daily bag limit unless specified otherwise, with a total possession not to exceed two daily bag limits for any fish species. Anglers can take daily bag limits for multiple types of fish each day but must adhere to the total possession limits. Catch-and-release only areas demand immediate and harmless return of the fish to the water. Special provisions are available for unlicensed children under the age of 10 and unlicensed blind residents, who may take separate daily bag limits and use two poles.

Closures to Fishing

Certain areas may be closed to fishing to protect sensitive environments or support native trout recovery efforts. Permanent or temporary closures, particularly in streams undergoing restoration, are essential to maintain or restore fish populations and ecological balance.

Length Limits

While most Arizona waters do not impose length limits, some Special Regulation waters, including Designated Community Fishing Program areas, might. Minimum length restrictions require that fish under a certain size must be returned unharmed immediately. This regulation is in place to ensure the survival of young and growing fish, contributing to a healthy population.

Measuring Fish Length

Total length measurement is the standard practice. To measure, lay the fish flat on its side with the jaw closed, and squeeze the tail fin lobes together to extend the fish to its maximum length. Measure from the tip of the snout to the extreme tip of the tail in a straight line. Always release fish that do not meet the legal length limit for the water body being fished, ensuring they are unharmed to continue growing and contributing to the ecosystem.

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Transport and Storage of Fish

Anglers are allowed to transport up to the possession limit of any fish species, provided they are not alive. Transporting live fish, including in live wells or any containers, is illegal to prevent the spread of diseases and invasive species. All fish must be either consumed or released before leaving the body of water. Exceptions exist for some live baitfish obtained from licensed bait dealers under specific conditions.

When transporting fish, they must be stored in a manner that allows for counting and species identification. To facilitate this, all fish should have a piece of skin attached to the carcass or fillets. If the fish are subject to minimum length limits, the head, tail, and skin must be intact to verify both the species and that it meets legal size requirements.

License Revocation and Civil Liability

License Revocation: License privileges for fishing, hunting, and trapping in Arizona can be revoked for up to five years or more upon conviction of various violations. These include unlawful taking or possession of wildlife, careless use of firearms resulting in injury or death, destroying or injuring livestock, vandalism or littering during hunting or fishing activities, illegal entry into closed areas for wildlife capture, unlawful posting on state or federal lands, and residency license fraud. Such revocations might be recognized across states participating in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, emphasizing the serious nature of these offenses.

Civil Liability: In Arizona, individuals may face civil liability for unlawfully wounding, killing, or possessing wildlife. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission can initiate civil actions against violators, with potential damages up to $8,000 per incident, as outlined under state law (A.R.S. 17-314). This underscores the importance of adhering to legal and ethical standards in wildlife activities to avoid severe penalties and contribute positively to conservation efforts.

Common Violations in Fishing

Understanding and avoiding common fishing violations helps preserve Arizona's waterways and aquatic life. Below are some of the key violations every angler should be aware of:

  • Fishing Without a License or With the Wrong License: Anyone 10 years or older must have a valid fishing license. Always verify your license before fishing.
  • Unattended Fishing Line: Your line must always be attended and within immediate control. It's illegal to leave it unattended.
  • Exceeding Daily Bag and/or Possession Limit: You must adhere to the daily bag and possession limits as prescribed by Commission Order. Violations include:
    • Continuing to fish for the same species after reaching the daily limit.
    • Practicing catch-and-release or culling after reaching the limit.
    • Fishing for the same species if you already have the possession limit.
  • Possessing Unlawfully Taken Aquatic Wildlife: It's illegal to possess any aquatic wildlife taken unlawfully, regardless of your involvement in its capture.
  • License or Permit Fraud: Residency and other conditions apply to obtaining a license. Misrepresentation is illegal.
  • Unlawful Possession, Transportation, or Release of Live Fish: Generally, transporting live fish from the water body where caught is illegal, as is releasing them into a different body of water.
  • Littering While Taking Aquatic Wildlife: Anglers must clean up all trash, including fishing gear, and properly dispose of fish carcasses.
  • Unlawful Possession or Transportation of Live Crayfish: Regulations apply to the transport and possession of live crayfish, with specific allowances for certain areas.
  • Other Violations Include:
    • Refusing to show a license or catch to an enforcement officer.
    • Snagging fish or attempting to take fish by hand.
    • Using a landing net for anything other than landing legally hooked fish.
    • Wasting game fish by leaving or abandoning edible portions.
    • Offering recreationally caught fish for sale or barter.
    • Using prohibited substances or devices to capture or harm fish.
    • Using or possessing live bait where prohibited.

It's the responsibility of every angler to understand and follow these regulations to ensure sustainable fishing practices and the preservation of Arizona's aquatic ecosystems. Report any violations to the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-352-0700.

Live Baitfish – Legal Species, Legal Areas and Regulations

Permissible Species and Areas: In Arizona, only certain species are designated as legal for use as live bait. It's important to know and use only these species. Live baitfish are subject to location-specific regulations, with certain areas allowing their use and others prohibiting it entirely. Specifically, no live baitfish may be used or possessed in waters within Coconino, Apache, Navajo, Pima, and Cochise counties. Other counties may have specific regulations tailored to each body of water or area.

Disposal of Unwanted Baitfish: Dispose of unwanted baitfish properly by burying them on land far from any water body. This practice helps prevent the introduction of non-native species and diseases into local ecosystems.

Legal Restrictions Include:

  • It is illegal to release live baitfish or other live aquatic organisms into any Arizona waters.
  • Using or possessing restricted live baitfish while fishing in waters where their use is prohibited is also illegal.
  • Selling live baitfish or waterdogs without a valid Live Baitfish Dealer's License is prohibited.
  • Accidentally captured game fish or aquatic wildlife while capturing live bait with seines, dip nets, traps, or cast nets must not be kept or harmed; they should be released unharmed immediately.

Legal Areas Anglers May Transport and Use Live Baitfish

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Fathead Minnows - Legal Areas Allowed:

  • Counties: Legal in all waters of La Paz, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yuma. In Mohave county, they are allowed except in the Virgin River.
  • Specific Locations:
    • Mainstream portions of the Gila and Salt rivers.
    • Verde River below the Tuzigoot Bridge, including impounded reservoirs.
    • Tonto Creek from Gisela downstream.
    • Portions of Apache, Roosevelt, Pleasant, and Horseshoe lakes outside these counties.
    • San Francisco River in Greenlee County.
  • Restrictions: Not transportable to the Verde River upstream from Horseshoe Dam and the Salt River above the Roosevelt Diversion Dam in Gila County. Usage at Riggs Flat Lake in Graham County is permitted only when caught and used onsite.

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Golden Shiner and Goldfish - Legal Areas Allowed:

  • Counties: Allowed in all waters of La Paz and Yuma.
  • Specific Locations:
    • Lake Mead.
    • Colorado River downstream from Hoover Dam to the Southern International Boundary with Mexico, including impounded reservoirs.
    • Alamo Lake.

Waterdogs

  • Regulations: Waterdogs are not classified as baitfish but are subject to specific regulations. For legal areas, capture, possession, and transportation, refer to R12-4-313 B3 and R12-4-314 B & C.
  • Restrictions: No waterdogs or salamanders may be taken, used, or possessed in specific parts of Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties, including Parker Canyon Lake.

General Guidelines for Live Baitfish: Live baitfish must be obtained from licensed bait dealers or wild capture for personal use only. It's essential to follow regulations regarding the capture methods, possession, transport, and seasons for legally taking fish. For detailed regulations on capturing baitfish and crayfish for bait, lawful methods, possession of live fish, and the transportation of live baitfish, anglers should consult specific Arizona regulations R12-4-313 and R12-4-314.

Live Baitfish – Legal Species, Legal Areas, and Regulations

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Sunfishes - Legal Areas Allowed: Sunfishes can be used as live bait in all waters within La Paz and Yuma counties. They are also permitted in:

  • The Colorado River south of the Nevada-California boundary to the Southern International Boundary with Mexico, including impounded reservoirs.
  • The Gila, Salt, and Verde rivers, including their impounded reservoirs.
  • Community waters in Maricopa County.
  • Lake Pleasant, Alamo Lake, and Patagonia Lake.

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Tilapia - Legal Areas Allowed: Tilapia may be used as live bait in all waters of Yuma County and:

  • Waters in La Paz County located west of Highway 95 and south of Interstate 10.
  • The Colorado River from the Palo Verde Diversion Dam downstream to the Southern International Boundary with Mexico, including impounded reservoirs.

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Carp and Goldfish - Legal Areas Allowed: Carp and Goldfish are permitted as live bait in all waters of La Paz and Yuma counties and in:

  • Lake Mead.
  • The Colorado River downstream from Hoover Dam to the Southern International Boundary with Mexico, including impounded reservoirs.
  • The Gila, Salt, and Verde rivers, including impounded reservoirs.
  • Community waters in Maricopa County.
  • Lake Pleasant and Alamo Lake.

Arizona General Fishing Laws & Regulations

Gizzard Shad and Threadfin Shad - Legal Areas Allowed:

Gizzard Shad: Gizzard Shad may be used as live bait in:

  • The Colorado River south of Separation Canyon downstream to the Southern International boundary with Mexico, including Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Lake Havasu, and connected backwaters like Topock Marsh and Mittry Lake.
  • The Gila and Salt Rivers, including impounded reservoirs like Roosevelt Lake and Apache Lake.
  • Community waters in Maricopa County.
  • Lake Pleasant.

Threadfin Shad: Threadfin Shad are permitted in all waters of La Paz, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yuma counties and in Mohave County (except the Virgin River). Additionally, they can be used in:

  • Mainstream portions of the Gila and Salt rivers, and the Verde River below the Tuzigoot Bridge, including impounded reservoirs.
  • Tonto Creek from Gisela downstream.
  • Portions of Apache, Roosevelt, Pleasant, and Horseshoe lakes outside these counties.
  • The San Francisco River in Greenlee County and Patagonia Lake.

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Disclaimer:

The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.