Fishing on Our Water Canals

White amur

Lorin Hicks, Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club

The Salt River Project (SRP) canals offer many recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing. However, fishing is a very popular pastime that is not often explored on the canals. Fishers are invited to pursue their sport on the canals and will find the experience to be productive and challenging. With 131 miles of canals in our Valley, opportunity is closer than you may think.

While fishing is allowed on the canals, a valid Arizona fishing license is required.

According to Arizona Game and Fish, “all resident and non-resident anglers 10 years and older require a valid permit” in any publicly accessible waters, which includes SRP canals.

The most common fish to catch in the SRP waterways are carp and white amur. Per Arizona fishing regulations, all white amur must be immediately released unharmed. These weed-eating fish are part of an SRP program to help keep the canals clean and clear without using chemicals or machinery. A seven-pound white amur can eat nearly three-quarters of its weight in weeds every day. Carp and white amur can also be caught in the lakes throughout Sun Lakes, along with catfish, bass, and bluegill.

SRP began stocking the canals with fish in 1989 when 1,800 fish weighing one pound each were released in portions of the SRP canal system. The last 23-mile section of the system was stocked in 2005. Special stocking permits from the Arizona Game and Fish Department require the white amur to be certified and sterile before it can be introduced to the canal. The white amur receives “special treatment” during canal maintenance operations. Each winter when SRP drains portions of its canals, the white amur is carefully herded and relocated to wet canal areas. How do you tell white amur and carp apart? Common carp have long, spiny fins along their backs and whiskers (called “barbels”) near their mouths. White amur have similar coloring to carp but have a white underbelly, lack of barbels, and no bony spines on their back. White amur can grow to be over three feet long.

Fishers are asked to observe “best practices” while using the SRP waterways. This means being respectful of others using the property. Please clean up all line and other tackle so runners and cyclists don’t trip or get tangled up.

Expert advice on fishing the SRP waterways can be obtained from members of the Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club (SLFFC). The club meets twice monthly and sponsors many outings locally, throughout Arizona, and across the Western U.S. One primary objective of the SLFFC is to support Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Program, a national program to introduce disabled veterans and active military to the sport of flyfishing.

If you are interested in obtaining additional information on SLFFC or donating fly-fishing and camping gear to support PHW, please contact SLFFC President George Abernathy at 480-521-1060 or [email protected], or visit our web page,