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Two free fishing days coming up

The Daily Courier/
File<p>
Bobo Castaneda takes a break from fishing and catches some Zs during the Free Fishing Day 
on the south shore of Lynx Lake in Prescott June 9, 2007.

The Daily Courier/ File<p> Bobo Castaneda takes a break from fishing and catches some Zs during the Free Fishing Day on the south shore of Lynx Lake in Prescott June 9, 2007.

Unlicensed anglers in Arizona are getting an unexpected late spring windfall.

They can fish state waters without a valid fishing license on two Saturdays in a row - June 7 and June 14 - this year, Arizona Game and Fish Department officials said.

To celebrate free fishing day, Yavapai County residents can enjoy free fishing events at three locations on Saturday, June 14.

Prescott National Forest and Arizona Game and Fish will host an event at Lynx Lake east of Prescott from 7 a.m. to noon. The Forest Service, Wal-Mart, and Maurice Sporting Goods donated prizes for the event, and a raffle will benefit the Children's Miracle Network.

Arizona State Parks, Prescott National Forest, Town of Cottonwood, and Game and Fish will host a free fishing event from 8 a.m. to noon June 14 at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. The park is waiving entrance fees. Wal-Mart is providing raffle prizes and helped organize the event.

A free fishing event at Garrett Tank near Seligman will begin at sunrise and continue until sundown. Youth will be eligible for raffle prizes. Sodas and water will also be available, and personnel will be cooking catfish as people catch them.

Although participants are encouraged to bring their own equipment, Game and Fish will have loaner poles and bait available at all of the three events in Yavapai County.

In preparation for the events, Game and Fish stocked 1,000 pounds of catfish at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and 500 pounds each at Lynx and Garrett Tank.

"This provides a great opportunity for both the experienced and novice angler," said Andy Clark, fisheries program manager at the Game and Fish Kingman office.

"For those wanting to learn, there will be equipment available and personnel to assist."

The Prescott National Forest also will waive parking fees at the Lynx Lake north and south shores, the Playa Day Use area and boat launch at Granite Basin Recreation Area, and Mingus Lake on June 14, so people can fish for free on their own if they want.

Throughout Arizona on June 7 and June 14, no one needs a fishing license unless they are fishing on Indian reservations.

"Since there has been some confusion on the 'real' free fishing day - June 7 or June 14 - we decided that the only fair decision is to allow anglers to fish state waters on either of those Saturdays without a valid Arizona fishing license," Game and Fish Department Fisheries Chief Kirk Young said.

Here's the story.

Eight years ago, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) took National Fishing Week in early June (which was a seven-day event) and created National Fishing and Boating Week, which typically is a 10-day event that includes two Saturdays.

Each year, Arizona would set the second Saturday in June as free fishing day.

That is why the current fishing regulations for Arizona, which cover a two-year period, say free fishing day for 2008 is June 14.

However, RBFF scheduled the 2008 National Fishing and Boating Week for June 1-8, which is only eight days and one Saturday - June 7.

That created some confusion, even within the Arizona Game and Fish Department itself. Some groups set up free fishing day events for June 7, while others picked June 14.

"On the bright side, this is the perfect year to have two free fishing days," Young said.

He explained that thanks to exceptional snowpack and runoff, most of our lakes are full of water.

"This is an exceptional fishing year. Free fishing day gives you the chance to get out there and sample it, twice if you like, then maybe you'll consider joining our growing cadre of licensed anglers," Young said.

For a list of the fishing clinics throughout Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/fishing and click on the link for free fishing day events.

Arizona's free fishing day covers all state waters, including Urban Program lakes, and along the Arizona shoreline of the Colorado River. The state free fishing day does not extend to tribal waters.

By the way, for 2009 the National Fishing and Boating Week will revert to 10 days and two Saturdays again (June 6-14, 2009).

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