Recreation

Arizona Fishing Regulations

The information in this article has been adapted from the Fishing Regulations booklet that is published each year by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). For the most up-to-date regulations, please consult the AZGFD’s website: https://www.azgfd.com.

When is a state fishing license required?

A state fishing license is generally required to fish any publicly accessible water in Arizona.

When is a state fishing license not required?

A state fishing license is not required to fish:

  • private waters, tanks, or ponds with the permission of the owner
  • if registered and participating in an AZGFD-sponsored fishing clinic
  • on Free Fishing Day, which usually takes place on the first Saturday of National Fishing and Boating week

Who must purchase a state fishing license?

A state fishing license is required for anyone 10 years of age or older who wishes to fish any publicly accessible water in Arizona, with the exception of blind residents of Arizona, who are not required to have a state fishing license.

For how long is a state fishing license valid?

A state fishing license is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Is a state fishing license transferrable from one person to another?

No. A state fishing license is non-transferrable.

What makes a person eligible to pay the Arizona resident rate for a state fishing license?

An Arizona resident is anyone who claims the state of Arizona to be their true, fixed, and permanent home and principal residence – and is therefore domiciled in this state – for at least six months immediately preceding the date of application for a license.

A member of the armed forces of the United States who is on active duty and stationed in Arizona for either permanent or temporary duty is also considered to be a resident of Arizona, as is any member of the armed forces of the United States on active duty stationed in another state or country who lists Arizona as their home of record at the time they apply for a license.

How much does a state fishing license cost?

There are five kinds of state fishing licenses, and the cost of each depends on whether the purchaser is a resident or a non-resident of Arizona:

1. General Fishing License

A general fishing license permits the purchaser to take all fish species (including legal fish species, crayfish, frogs, waterdogs, and softshell turtles) statewide, including at Community Fishing waters. It costs $37/year for residents and $55/year for non-residents.

2. Combination Hunt & Fish License

A combination hunt & fish license permits the purchaser to take all fish species statewide, including at Community Fishing waters, plus small game, fur-bearing animals, predatory animals, nongame animals, and upland game birds. It costs $57/year for residents and $160/year for non-residents.

3. Youth Combination Hunt & Fish License

A youth combination hunt & fish license (for children ages 10-17) permits the purchaser to take all fish species statewide, including at Community Fishing waters, plus small game, fur-bearing animals, predatory animals, nongame animals, migratory birds, and upland game birds. It costs $5/year for both residents and non-residents.

4. Short-term Combination Hunt & Fish License

A short-term combination hunt & fish license permits the purchaser to take all fish species statewide, including at Community Fishing waters, plus small game, fur-bearing animals, predatory animals, nongame animals, and upland game birds. It costs $15/day for residents and $20/day for non-residents.

5. Community Fishing License

A Community Fishing license permits the purchaser to take all fish species at Community Fishing waters. It costs $24/year for both residents and non-residents.

Is anyone eligible for a free state fishing license?

Yes. Individuals who are 70 years of age or older and have resided in Arizona for 25 or more consecutive years immediately preceding application for a license may obtain the license free of charge, as may disabled veterans of the armed forces of the United States who have resided in Arizona for at least one year immediately preceding application for a license.

What native fish are protected statewide?

The following native fish are protected statewide and may not be angled for, taken, possessed, pursued, or captured: beautiful shiner, bluehead sucker, bonytail chub, Colorado pikeminnow, desert pupfish, flannelmouth sucker, Gila topminnow, Gila trout (except Frye Mesa Reservoir, Goldwater Lake and West Fork of Oak Creek), humpback chub, Little Colorado sucker, Little Colorado spinedace, loach minnow, Mexican stoneroller, Quitobaquito pupfish, razorback sucker, Sonora chub, spikedace, Virgin spinedace, Virgin roundtail chub, woundfin, Yaqui catfish, Yaqui chub, Yaqui topminnow, and Zuni bluehead sucker.

What if one accidentally catches a protected native fish?

If one accidentally catches a protected native fish, that fish must be released immediately and unharmed.

What is a “daily bag limit”?

A daily bag limit is the maximum number of fish that may be legally caught and reduced to possession in a single day. Once a fish is caught and not released, it counts toward the daily bag limit. This includes any fish that is caught and given away to someone else. Daily bag limits are for full days (midnight to midnight).

What is the “possession limit”?

As a general rule, the possession limit is twice the daily bag limit (unless otherwise noted). No one should have in their possession – whether in the field, in camp, in transit, or at a permanent residence – more than two daily bag limits of any fish species. Fish are in an angler’s possession whether on hand, in cold storage, in transport, at home, or elsewhere under their ownership.

After an angler has caught and kept the daily bag limit, the following acts are prohibited:

  • fishing for the same species of fish and practicing catch-and-release
  • fishing for the same species of fish with the intent of replacing fish in the bag with ‘better’ fish (which is known as “culling”)
  • fishing for the same species of fish with the intent of ‘helping’ another angler get their daily bag limit
  • fishing for a species of fish when the angler already has the possession limit (twice the daily bag limit) for that species (e.g., in an ice chest at camp or at home in their freezer)

What is the difference between “statewide” legal fish and daily bag limits and “special” legal fish and daily bag limits?

Statewide legal fish and daily bag limits apply as a general rule to all open state and federal refuges, parks, and monuments, while special legal fish and daily bag limits apply to specific bodies of water. In specific bodies of water, statewide legal fish and daily bag limits may not apply – which is why it is important for anglers to know not just the statewide regulations but also the Special Regulations that apply to particular fish in particular places.

NOTE: Anglers are fully responsible for knowing what regulations apply to the body of water they are fishing.

What are the statewide legal fish and daily bag limits?

For 2019 and 2020, the following statewide regulations apply (except in those areas in which Special Regulations apply):

              FISH                                                                                    DAILY BAG LIMIT

trout (including rainbow, cutthroat, brown, brook, tiger,                    6 (any combination)

Gila and Apache, and grayling)

bass (including largemouth and smallmouth)                                    6 (any combination)

striped bass                                                                                      10

walleye                                                                                        6

northern pike                                                                                              unlimited (immediate kill or release)                                  

catfish (including channel and flathead)                                                    10 (any combination)

crappie (black and white)                                                                               unlimited

white amur (grass carp – minimum size: 30 inches)                               1                                                                                     

roundtail chub                                                                                           catch and release only

sunfishes (including bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish                         unlimited

and hybrid sunfish)

all other species (except protected native fish),                                      unlimited

including, but not limited to, white bass, yellow bass, carp,

suckers, buffalofish, bullhead, yellow perch, and tilapia

 

In 2019 and 2020, the following daily bag limits apply to Community Fishing program waters:

 

FISH                                                                                                 LAKES                    PONDS

catfish                                                                                           4                             2

trout                                                                                              4                             2

bass (minimum size: 13 inches)                                                        2                             1

sunfish (including bluegill, redear, green, and hybrid)                          10                           5

white amur (grass carp – minimum size: 30 inches)                             1                            1

 

What hook and line methods may anglers use?

Anglers may fish with two poles or lines simultaneously. No more than two lines may be used at the one time. “Angling” means the taking of fish by one line and not to exceed two hooks, by one line and one artificial lure, which may have attached more than one hook, or by one line and not to exceed two artificial flies or lures. Moreover, fishing lines must be constantly attended and in the angler’s immediate control.

The hook, fly, or lure must be used in such a way that the fish voluntarily attempts to take it in its mouth. For artificial fly and lure waters, anglers should check the Special Regulations to determine whether hooks must be single-pointed barbless.

What other fishing methods may anglers use?

Bow and arrow, crossbow, snare, gig, spear or spear gun, and snagging are valid methods for taking carp, buffalofish, mullet, tilapia, goldfish, and shad statewide unless a closure or Special Regulation restricts it.

Bow and arrow fishing for catfish (5 catfish daily bag limit, any combination) is valid at Apache Lake, Canyon Lake, and Saguaro Lake. Spear and spear gun fishing for striped bass is valid at Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave (between Hoover Dam and Cottonwood Landing), and Lake Pleasant.

What are the rules about baitfish and crayfish for bait?

Live baitfish may be used only in areas approved for certain species. Very specific rules apply to particular parts of the state and to particular bodies of water. 

Live bait itself may be taken by minnow trap, dip net, cast net, pole and line, handline, crayfish net, or seine. Cast nets may not exceed a 4-foot radius (or an 8-foot diameter). Seine nets may not exceed 10 feet in length and 4 feet in width. Landing nets or dip nets may be used for the capture of legal baitfish or crayfish or only to land a legally hooked fish.

Any unattended traps or devices used to catch or hold aquatic wildlife or fish must have attached water resistant identification legibly bearing the name, address, and fishing license number of the person using the device.

All aquatic wildlife taken accidentally while live bait is captured with nets or traps must be returned immediately and unharmed to the water.

All live legal baitfish and live crayfish caught must be for personal use only and may not be sold or used for commercial purposes.

Live crayfish may only be used as bait on the same body of water where they were captured.

All unwanted baitfish should be buried on land far from the water. 

What are the rules concerning the transport and storage of fish?

Anglers may transport up to the possession limit of any fish species.

It is illegal to transport live fish, including in live wells or other containers. All fish must be killed or released before transportation from the body of water. (This does not apply to some live baitfish that are transported from licensed bait dealers.)

Fish must be transported in a way that they can be counted and species of fish can be identified. All fish must have a piece of skin attached to the carcass or fillets so species can be determined. If minimum length limits apply to the species, the head, tail, and skin must be intact so fish length and species can be determined.

What are the most common violations of Arizona’s fishing regulations? 

The most common violations of Arizona’s fishing regulations are:

  • fishing without the appropriate license
  • fishing with an unattended line
  • exceeding the daily bag and/or possession limit
  • transporting live fish away from the water where they were caught
  • littering while fishing

What are some of the other ways people violate Arizona’s fishing regulations?

Other violations of Arizona’s fishing regulations include:

  • using or possessing live bait in areas or on waters where fishing is restricted to the use of artificial flies and lures only, or where the use of live baitfish is restricted
  • offering recreationally caught fish or aquatic wildlife for unauthorized sale or barter
  • using electrical devices, explosives, firearms, drugs, chemicals, or poison that may kill or injure fish and aquatic wildlife

What are the possible penalties for violating Arizona’s fishing regulations?

Individuals who violate Arizona’s fishing regulations may have their fishing license privileges revoked for up to 5 years (A.R.S. § 17-340).

Civil penalties (in the form of hefty fines) may also apply (A.R.S. § 17-314).

To whom should violators be reported?

Violators should be reported to the 24/7 Operation Game Thief hotline, at 1 (800) 352-0700.

Sources and further reading

Arizona Administrative Code – Title 12 (“Natural Resources”) Chapter 4 (“Game and Fish Commission”): https://s3.amazonaws.com/azgfd-portal-wordpress/PortalImages/files/Agency/12-04commissionrules.pdf

 

Arizona Game and Fish Department – “Fish AZ”: https://fishaz.azgfd.com

 

Arizona Game and Fish Department – “2019 & 2020 Fishing Regulations”: https://s3.amazonaws.com/azgfd-portal-wordpress/azgfd.wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/19104537/2019and2020-AZGFD-Fishing-Regs.pdf

 

Arizona Game and Fish Department – “License”: https://www.azgfd.com/license

 

Arizona Game and Fish Department – “Operation Game Thief”: https://www.azgfd.com/ogt

 

Arizona Game and Fish Department – “Special Regulation Waters”: https://azgfd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=b44c91b62459418bb6f95ed55c17c61d

 

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) Title 17 – “Game and Fish”: https://www.azleg.gov/arsDetail/?title=17

 

 

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