It's a crisp Sunday morning at Kennedy Lake. A choir of birds fills the air with song. Anglers perch at the water's edge, casting their lines. And just on the horizon, peeking through the mountain ranges, is the downtown Tucson skyline.
Kennedy Lake, along with two others in the Tucson area and one in Sahuarita, are part of the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Urban Fishing Program.
The department launched the program in 1985 for people who want to fish close by.
Program manager Eric Swanson said the department interviewed fishers at lakes around the state. They were asked whether they were interested in higher quality fish and if they were willing to pay to offset some of the costs to deliver fish.
Urban fishing was born.
Lakes are stocked every two weeks from September to June, according to the Game and Fish website. In the spring they're stocked with channel catfish. In the winter they're stocked with rainbow trout.
Andrew Ruiz, 43, and his 10-year-old son, Julian, fished recently from a portable chair near the edge of Kennedy Lake. Ruiz has been fishing since he was 2 years old and grew up across the street from the lake, where he fishes almost every other day.
"It's convenient," said Ruiz, who's fished all over Mexico, and worked on a charter boat there during his college days.
"My grandfather taught me how to fish," he said. "Now I have my boy here. My brothers with their kids, too, they come out here."
Anglers are limited to four catfish or trout a day. Bass, which are not stocked, are limited to two a day.
Just across Kennedy Lake was Mike Porter, 49, with his dog, Bandit, who has accompanied him on fishing trips since she was a puppy. Porter said he's been fishing at the lakes in Tucson for 30 years and prefers Kennedy.
With other, bigger lakes so far away, Porter said urban lakes are the next best option.
"This is the only place you've got to practice and keep up with fishing 'cause the next lake is 60 miles away," Porter said.
The catfish are delivered from farms in Arkansas, and the trout are delivered from farms in Colorado. More than 230,000 pounds of fish are stocked every year statewide at a cost of more than $650,000, according to the Game and Fish Department.
The best times to fish are in the early-morning hours and in the evening.
"There's still truth to the old, old adage that the early bird catches the worm," Swanson said. "And the early riser catches the fish."
The best days to fish are the first five to seven days after the lake is restocked. The Game and Fish Department doesn't divulge specific days it stocks lakes, but gives a range; lakes in Tucson will be stocked one day next Monday through Saturday.
"If people can't get to the fish, we'll bring fish to the people," Swanson said.
The lowdown on Urban fishing
Twenty-one lakes around Arizona are part of the Urban Fishing Program, and four are in the Tucson area and Sahuarita.
• Kennedy Lake at Kennedy Park, 3600 S. La Cholla Blvd.
• Silverbell Lake at Christopher Columbus Park, 4600 N. Silverbell Road.
• Lakeside Lake at Lakeside Park, 8300 E. Stella Road.
• Sahuarita Lake at Sahuarita Lake Park,15466 S. Rancho Sahuarita Blvd.
People 14 or older must buy a license to fish in urban lakes. A Class U Urban Fishing license costs $18.50, which covers all fish species in the Urban Fishing Program lakes, including trout.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish website, a Class L Super Fishing License is valid for all statewide and Urban Fishing Program waters. Other licenses valid at Urban Fishing Program lakes are: Class D resident or nonresident one-day fishing licenses; Class N Super Combination Hunt and Fish Licenses; resident youth-group two-day fishing licenses (sold to groups of up to 20), juveniles age 14-17; and Pioneer and disabled veteran complimentary licenses.
A regular Arizona fishing license (Class A, B, C, F or I) is not required, and is not valid, at Urban Fishing Program lakes.
Urban and one-day fishing licenses can be purchased from 340 dealers statewide that sell state fishing and hunting licenses - including most Walmart, Ace Hardware and Big 5 locations; at any Game and Fish office; and through the Game and Fish website, www.azgfd.gov/h_f/fishing.shtml
Go to www.azgfd.gov/eservices/documents/DealerMasterbyNum.pdf for a complete list of license sellers.
Scarlett McCourt is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or email@example.com