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Tonto National Forest Proposed Rate Increase
Before I begin, let me start by saying I have no skin in this issue, other than the fact that I love fishing, as do most of you. I do neither work for the government, nor have any family or friends who work for the government. That being said, Tonto National Forest is planning on changes to the fees we pay at the forest’s lakes (Bartlett, Saguaro, Canyon, Roosevelt, and Apache), some increase, some decreases, depending upon how you use the lake. I contacted TNF today to get some clarification on the proposed changes, and to see how I could provide my input without personally attending one of the meetings, which would take away from valuable fishing time.
The first thing I discovered is that their funding has been reduced significantly enough over the past few years that the current fees simply do not cover the daily costs of operations and maintenance. Options were discussed at several public roundtables: (1) Close areas. (2) Hire an outside vendor to take over the parks – this would surely result in higher fees and (3) Increase fees. 95% of the public involved in these roundtable discussions did not want either options 1 or 2, so they were left with raising fees.
The changes proposed that would affect anglers are as follows:
*Increase the cost of the day pass from $6 to $8.
*Leave the cost of the watercraft sticker unchanged at $4.
*Reduce the price of the annual pass from $95 to $80.
*Increase the cost of developed overnight campgrounds (Windy Hill, Cholla, and Burnt Corral) from $6 to $25
I would expect if you are reading this that you have an opinion, as do I. And since it has already been determined (roundtable meetings) that fee increases are the only viable option, then in reality the only comments they are likely to consider are those having to do with the fees. (I know we all would like to see showers at Apache Lake, but until Obamacare is repealed, the lake will have to do). Would you camp if the fee was $25 at Windy Hill, or is that too much? Or would you rather pay an extra dollar for watercraft to keep the campground rates a bit more affordable? TNF would like to hear your opinion as well, but unfortunately they do not accept Facebook as a valid source for comments. Your options (1) Do nothing, and go along with whatever is approved or (2) Voice your opinion. You can read more details (one page) at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tonto/home/?cid=STELPRDB5405154. You can send your email comments to email@example.com.
I asked Chris Cantrell, fisheries chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, for a brief update on our bass fisheries.
Q1: Regarding the stocking of Florida Strain largemouth into Roosevelt Lake, can you provide any updates regarding recent actions or future plans?
A1: Roosevelt is still moving forward. We will likely start planning purchasing fish next spring. I think at this point we are at 6k. Efforts are still moving on the habitat. I don't have a date for the next roundtable yet.
Q2: What is the status of the development of Bubbling Ponds into a warm-water hatchery for bass?
A2: Bubbling ponds work is on hold until we can obtain cultural clearances but that should happen by next month. Once the clearance is obtained we can begin cleaning out the ponds and reshaping them for bass production.
Q3: Regarding Lake Pleasant, is there any news that might get our anglers excited about that lake once again?
A3: We will be conducting a creel survey this year on Lake pleasant and working on a lake management plan. Since we are spending a lot of resources on Roosevelt, we won't be starting any habitat or stocking plans on Pleasant this year.
At the Roosevelt Lake BBQ, Midweek angler Gary Senft shared some ideas for custom rigging for both drop shot and carolina rigs. The bobber stop he spoke of is made by 6th Sense, and he mentioned they are available at both Sportsman's Warehouse and Tackle Warehouse.
Everyone seems to want to know what is going on with Alamo Lake, so I decided to place a call. I spoke with one of the local park rangers, Larry, and had a few questions.
How is the lake level and launching conditions? The lake level has come up a couple of feet from the recent storms. Cholla Ramp is closed, but they are launching boats easily at the dirt ramp located by the ranger station. The ramp has a pretty good hard-pack, able to launch pontoons easily, and can launch up to two boats at a time.
What is the status with the dam? Per Larry, what he know is that it appears the gates on the dam are working, and he is not aware of any other repairs planned on the dam, but with several government agencies having jurisdiction within the lake, things can change.
Why is the water so low? Lack of rain, primarily. In addition, a couple of years back, it was mandated that there be a constant 25 cfs release from Alamo in order to meet water needs for ranchers behind the dam.
How is the fishing? Depends much on the same conditions that affect our other lakes; weather, water flows into the lake, but overall it sounds pretty good. There are still tournaments being held at the lake.
Is it safe boating? There is a restriction against water skiing (yeah!), but other than that nothing unusual. As many of you know, there are a lot of submerged trees in the river end of the lake, so caution must be exercised when travelling in that area.
Fishing Wednesdays, not weekends.