Fish return to Tempe Town Lake

CATCH OF THE DAY: The Arizona Game and Fish Department lent out fishing rods to Tempe residents Tuesday after fish were released into Tempe Town Lake. (photo by Annie Wechter)

More than 200 spectators gathered at the Tempe Town Lake Marina Tuesday to watch about 5,000 rainbow trout be released into the water.

An official from the Arizona Game and Fish Department said the event attracted about twice the number of people it did last year because the lake was empty for several months.

Water and fish were swept away after the lake’s west dam broke in July. The lake officially reopened Oct. 26.

The department and the city of Tempe commemorated the day with free fishing, providing poles and bait to visitors of all ages.

“People are excited to come out,” said Eric Swanson, the urban fisheries program manager for Arizona Game and Fish.

Stocking the lake with trout is important to Tempe because it increases the usability of the lake, said Alicia Stuebner, an assistant events coordinator for the city. She said the turnout showed that people appreciated the lake more after it spent several months dry.

“People recognize how vital this lake is to the community,” Stuebner said.

Five hundred of the trout added to the lake were mature fish between 12 and 18 inches long. These are known as “incentive” fish because they draw people out to the lake.

“Everybody likes to see a big one,” Swanson said.

The rainbow trout stocking is an annual event at the marina, located on College Avenue south of Curry Road.

It is necessary to restock the lake with cold-water fish every year because the rainbow trout die off in the summer because the water gets so warm, Swanson said.

The lake is also home to bass, blue gill and catfish, which live in the lake all year, he said. It takes about three years for these populations of fish to mature. These fish are not stocked because they come into the lake when runoff flows downstream.

After the dam burst, many of these mature communities of fish were swept away, Swanson said.

Louis Padilla, 10, and his brother Gabe, 8, were fishing with their dad and caught two bass before the event started.

The boys fished with their Boy Scout troop from St. Theresa Catholic School in Phoenix during the event.

Gabe said he enjoyed fishing for one main reason.

“I get to touch slimy things,” Gabe said.

David Czupak, an engineering graduate student, said he caught a 16-inch trout but he threw it back because he would rather one of the kids have a chance to catch a big fish.

Witnesses confirmed Czupak was not telling a
“fish tale.”

Czupak said he was having a pleasant afternoon and water sports like fishing were a big part of his life.

“It’s an addiction — no, it’s a lifestyle,” he said.

Reach the reporter at mary.shinn@asu.edu