Arizona Game and Fish restocks lakes with fish grown in hatcheries

Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News: Rainbow trout are released into Goldwater Lake on Oct. 16, 2023. Anglers at Lynx Lake eagerly await the release of the trout. 

By Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News

PAGE SPRINGS – Though Arizona may be a desert, the recreational pastime of fishing is still alive and well. Hatcheries like Page Springs are able to provide the public with fish and preserve an activity that many enjoy.

“Arizona stocks the (lakes) with nice, healthy trout,” Dan Esh, a snowbird from Pennsylvania, said. “They’re fun to catch.” Esh can thank people like Matt Lyons, wildlife specialist at Page Springs Hatchery.

“My job is to raise fish and spread them throughout the state for people to come and catch for recreational purposes,” he said. The hatchery, which is operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, raises around 750,000 trout a year and spreads them throughout Arizona’s bodies of water. It is mostly responsible for raising rainbow and brown trout.

Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News: Rainbow trout swim around at Page Springs Hatchery on Oct. 16, 2023. The hatchery raises about 750,000 fish a year to replenish Arizona waters.

The process of raising and releasing fish into Arizona’s lakes, streams, and ponds is a lengthy one.

Arizona Game and Fish’s six hatcheries have different areas of expertise. Some specialize in fish eggs while others are responsible for the fish at different stages of development, like Page Springs Hatchery, which raises the fish after they reach 2 inches. The hatchery raises them for 12-15 months until the fish reach 10 inches when they will be harvested and released.

The fish are randomly sampled, weighed, and put into trucks to be transported to locations around the state. On a day in October, Lyons transported around 1,250 fish to Lynx and Goldwater lakes.

Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News: Steve Penrod, assistant hatchery manager, weighs a sample of rainbow trout at Page Springs Hatchery on Oct. 16, 2023.

Lynx Lake was the first destination. Lyons measured the pH levels of the water and checked the temperature. The tests came back with good results, and the rainbow trout were released. Anglers and onlookers watched in awe as a jet of fish-filled water streamed into Lynx Lake.

Lyons, an avid outdoorsman, is proud of the work he does.

“I’m able to aid in something I love,” he said. “By me putting fish in lakes, I allow other people to also enjoy fishing.”

Goldwater Lake was the last stop of the day. Lyons conducted the same pH and temperature tests and released the rainbow trout after recording good results.

Photo by Kevinjonah Paguio/Cronkite News: Dan Esh, a fisherman visiting from Pennsylvania, catches a rainbow trout at Goldwater Lake near Prescott on Oct. 16, 2023. “Out here, the fish are very healthy and they’re a good fighting fish,” Esh says.

Esh had been fishing since 10 a.m. and had a difficult time catching anything before Lyons’ arrival. He was glad to see the truck come by and release fish into the water.

“They stock these lakes with trout and it’s just a great time,” he said. As soon as Lyons finished releasing the fish, Esh was able to catch several trout.