Sure, it’s Arizona. It’s hot, we have mountains, cacti and the occasional tumbleweed, but there is more to desert life than what one may see in an old western flick.
Did you know the City of Surprise has a lake? Yup! And it’s a fishing lake at that.
Most would never expect to find this type of oasis in the middle of a park, in the Sonoran Desert.
At five acres and a max depth of 12 feet, Surprise Lake is home to many different species. On top of the gaggles of geese and droves of ducks, here is a look at what you might find swimming in the glistening, sun-veiled water and tips on how to catch them:
LARGEMOUTH BASS: This warm water species is stocked once each spring, trucked in from Arkansas. They are a predator fish, so if too many are added to the lake, they will eat younger, juvenile fish. Bass may be caught using night crawlers (worms) or various bass lures like jigs and crankbait.
CHANNEL CATFISH: A warm water species, stocked every other week from March through June and September through November – also trucked in from Arkansas. Catfish lay on the bottom of the lake and prefer stinky baits such as liver, stink bait, garlic scents, hotdogs, shrimp and fish.
SUNFISH: You may have guessed by the name; Sunfish are a warm water species. The Bluegill and Redear variety are stocked once each spring from Arkansas. Sunfish can be caught using a bobber set up in shallower water (4-8 feet) or near the edges of the lake. Use a smaller hook and cover it with your bait. Sunfish will bite almost anything but may go for meal worms, night crawlers and corn.
RAINBOW TROUT: Stocked every other week from November through March, these fish are brought in from La Jara, Colorado. Trout will bite on power bait, salmon eggs, marshmallows and specific trout lures such as spinners and flies.
WHITE AMUR: Also known as Grass Carp, White Amur are stocked periodically by the City of Surprise. These fish are weed-eating fish, specifically stocked to control aquatic vegetation and help keep the weeds and algae down. White Amur are expensive and certified as sterile, meaning they will not reproduce. If caught, please consider releasing these fish back into the lake to help prevent the need for chemical treatments or restocking.
RED EAR SLIDERS: Turtles are unwanted guests in Surprise Lake. These little “bait-stealers” are generally released into the lake by pet owners and reproduce rapidly. Please, refrain from purposely feeding these turtles. If one gets caught on a fishing hook, take caution when removing… they bite! Turtles are also known to carry salmonella so wash your hands after handling.
None of these species are native to Arizona. They’re stocked as sportfish for recreational opportunity.
No fish are stocked in July and August due to the high water temperatures.
Catfish, Bass and Sunfish will reproduce in these community waters. Trout will not reproduce. In fact, the high summer water temperatures will kill trout. None will carry over to the following season.
If you plan to cast away, please help keep park-goers and animals safe by tossing hooks and fishing line in the trash. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the bag limits:
2 Bass (13” minimum)
1 White Amur (30” minimum)
*Statewide limits apply to all other species
A fishing license is required for ages 10 & up.
Community Fishing License: $24 Will allow you to fish at any designated Community Fishing Program lake.
General Fishing License: $37 for residents | $55 for non-residents Will allow you to fish Community Fishing Program lakes as well as all other state waters
Short Term Combo Hunt/Fish License: $15/day for residents | $20/day for non-residents
Youth License: $5 (ages 10-17)
Licenses can be purchased online at www.AZGFD.com, any Game and Fish Office and select outdoor gear retailers. Licenses are good for 365 days from date of purchase.