Flatheads of Central Arizona | Advanced fishing techniques

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  • I love it when I am talking to people who moved to Arizona twenty years ago from Minnesota or Michigan or even Tennessee or Texas. In conversation, I always ask (especially if I like them) if they happen to fish. The normal response to this question is as follows’.

    “Heck yea I fish but you don’t have anything worth fishing for out here!” I nod my head and agree with them. I know what you are thinking. Why would an avid Arizona angler agree with a back easterner? The answer is simple. I do not like sharing my holes with people of any kind. Let alone anglers who do not know the rules of fishing in the “Zona” I am selfish and the fish that reside at my special spots are mine! I do not like to share.

    My point of this tirade is that there is fishing out here. There is Pike and Walleye in the north that is almost as abundant as the Pike and Walleye in Minnesota. The largemouth bass fishing is so good here that there are no less than three different lakes with pro tournaments on them. Stripers can be caught from Saguaro to Powell from Pleasant to Mead. We have an abundant Small mouth population that is the envy of the southwest. Our urban fishing program is better and more productive than Nevada Utah and New Mexico combined with a total of 2300 pounds of fish being stocked every two weeks from March until July and then again from September to November. This does not include the trout stockings that take place in the winter. When it comes to fish of size we are one of only two states that has such a large population of Flatheads that we have tournaments in which there is a fish fry afterwards. Most catfish tournaments are a catch and release policy but not here.

    Anyway, even though it is against my grain, I am writing this story today to impart to you collected knowledge on how to catch massive Flathead fish in Arizona.

    The first thing you should know is that like the state itself Flathead fishing is not easy. Sure every once in awhile you hear of a lucky angler who reels a big one up but to be a true Flathead fisherman it takes hundreds of hours of failure and being ignored by the pros around you who are reeling these beast up all night long. Here is list of things you are going to need when fishing for the big boys.
    • An ocean rig seven and a half foot tall with a well-maintained bait-casting reel is essential.
    • No less than fifty pound braided test line
    • A forty to fifty pound mono leader
    • Box of four ounce egg or no roll sinkers
    • 08 rounded barbed bait hooks(eagle claw)
    I know what you are thinking. Am I fishing for sharks? The answer is yes you are. Flatheads are the sharks of fresh water and they will earn your respect. They are the top of the food chain and they know it. A forty-pound catfish does what it wants and there is nothing you can do about it. Flatheads like their cousins the Channel cats are an intelligent species they are a predator fish that ambushes its prey from cover. That is right; you have to toss your bait into heavy cover. It is rare to find big Flats in open water. Do not try using dead baits or liver for Flatheads they like their pray alive and wiggling.

    I prefer to use young carp that I catch with worm or corn myself but anything smaller than a foot will do. A lot of the old anglers use blue gill or sunfish.

    Being a river angler, I fish for Flatheads in the lower Verde and upper Salt rivers. Because of this, I hook my bait fish threw the lower jaw and out its upper. Lake Fisherman prefer to hook their bait fish just below the dorsal fin. Both river and lake fisherman though, will slice the fish on the side just enough for it to bleed. Fresh blood in the water attracts Flatheads the same way it does Sharks in the ocean.

    With Flatheads, it is unwise to wedge your pole between two rocks and walk away. It is also unwise to use a rod holder. I have witness my friend’s rod and rod holder get yanked into river as if it was thrown there by invisible hands. The best way to fish for these monsters is to kick back in a comfortable chair with a cooler full of goodies holding your rod in your hand. It is important for you not to have your ____ set for there is no play with thirty to sixty pound monster. Once you have hooked the beast you have to keep it away from cover and your tug of war with Godzilla will begin. Some of the time you will not even know, you have a fish on until you go to check the bait as these kings of the water will swallow your bait and sit there at the bottom waiting for more food to come. Other times you will have hooked the fish threw the lip and you will be fighting from the minute it is on the hook.

    Final Thoughts on this subject are simple. I prefer to catch and release the big ones. I find their meat to taste a little muddy especially in the summer. Also if you head to the river this summer remember nothing past twelve horse power is allowed and for God’s sake pick up your excess line and trash its terrible when you go out to the river and find a hundred aluminum cans and two thousand yards of thrown out line. One last thought is catch and kill as many carp as you can for they are significantly destroying the rest of the fish population in the Verde and Salt rivers.

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  1. Tom
    Love the tip on cutting the fish to attract the big guys. I've tried a cast net at a few lakes to get some bluegill and small carp but it never really pans out. You really need to just put in some time with the worms and get some bluegill or carp for live bait as you mentioned. Or you can buy waterdogs if there selling them for about 2 dollars each.