Recreation

Fishing in the SRP Canals

It is not unusual to see people on the banks of the Salt River Project (SRP) canals with their fishing poles in the water.  In addition to providing water to valley homes, parks, farms and businesses, the canals provide local residents with exercise and recreation.  Many people enjoy walking and running along the canal banks; others like to sit on the bank and fish.  You can find a variety of fish in the SRP canals.  Any fish that lives in Arizona lakes and rivers may be found in the canals.  People report catching carp, bass, crappie, bluegill, and stripers.  You may even see turtles. If you enjoy fishing and plan to fish the canals, make sure you know the rules.

Fishing in the SRP Canals – Do’s and Don’ts

In order to fish in the canals, you must have a valid fishing license issued by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  An urban fishing license is not sufficient for fishing the canals. An urban fishing license costs about $16 per year, much less than a state recreational fishing license. Urban fishing licenses allow local residents to fish in municipal park lakes and ponds.  Canal water, however, is Arizona river water and contains many of the same fish one can find in state rivers and lakes.  A state fishing license is required. 

Catching White Amur is Strictly Prohibited.

You may keep any fish you catch in the canals except white amur.  White amur are catch and release only.  Removing a white amur from the canal is considered theft.   If you spot someone stealing white amur from the canal, please telephone Arizona Game and Fish at 1-899-352-0700 to report the theft.

What are White Amur and Why are they Special?

The white amur is a type of carp, native to China.  They are valuable to the canal system because they eat weeds and algae.  In 1989, SRP was given permission to import this non-native species and introduce them into the Tempe Canal.  It was an experiment to see if the fish could aid in canal clean-up.  The fish were surprisingly effective, and SRP went on to stock all the canals.  Today, SRP has about 50,000 of these large fish working in our canals. Each fish must be individually imported and sterilized under SRP’s special stocking permit. SRP is not permitted to breed the fish because they are a non-native species.

A seven-pound white amur eats two-thirds of its body weight in weeds and algae every day.  Prior to introducing the fish, SRP cleaned the canals manually, using herbicides and scraping the canals with heavy chains to clear plants and debris.  Today, the use of chemicals and scraping has largely been replaced by thousands of white amur swimming throughout the system, eating all the unwanted plant material. 

Distinguishing White Amur from Other Carp

While white amur are similar in appearance to local carp, there are several distinct characteristics that make it easy to distinguish them from other fish.  Amur have a white underbelly; carp do not.  They lack barbels (those slender, whisker-like fibers near their mouths).  Native carp have a long dorsal fin with bony spines on their backs.  White Amur do not.

Know the difference.  If you catch a white amur, throw it back in the water unharmed.  People who fish in SRP canals are required to obey all Arizona fishing regulations, including catch limits, number of poles allowed, types of fish, and allowable bait. If you have a fishing license, follow the rules, and avoid white amur, you are free to relax on the bank and enjoy fishing on the canals.

Resources

www.azgfd.com/PortalImages/files/regs/2017and2018%20Fish%20Regs.pdf

www.srpnet.com/environment/amur.aspx

www.srpnet.com/water/canals/azfallstour/WhiteAmur.aspx

www.srpnet.com/water/canals/fishing.aspx

 

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