Summer is night catfishing time in the lower elevation lakes and rivers, including the urban lakes.
The hot spot for catfish, especially flatheads, is the upper Salt River just above Roosevelt Lake. "Active live bait is the key to catching flatheads no matter where you are fishing. If the bait is active, the flatheads will find it. Bluegills and small carp are good choices," said Andy Clark, Mesa regional fisheries specialist.
Clark advised that Apache Lake has also been good this year for flatheads and channel catfish. "If you are fishing a lake, try the primary points first, then the secondary points,’ Clark said.
The stretch of Verde River immediately below Horseshoe Lake has calmed down for flathead fishing, he said, but other holes a little further downstream have been producing. "If you don’t get any action at one spot for about 20 minutes, move. Eventually, you’ll find active flatheads," Clark said.
Canyon Lake has been terrific for channel catfish, especially in the LaBarge Cove area. The department stocked catfish in LaBarge Cove during June to augment the existing catfish population and provide more angling opportunity. Stink baits, such as chicken liver, are best for channel catfish.
Bartlett Lake is another good place for both flathead and channel catfish. "Catfish love wood. In the absence of wood, they will gravitate to rock piles or other such structure. We’ve had an ongoing artificial habitat project at Bartlett Lake where juniper and other woody plants have been placed underwater to provide more structure for the fish," Clark advised.
Maps of the artificial habitat are available at the Cave Creek Ranger Station, at the Game and Fish Mesa Regional Office, or by calling the department’s Fisheries Branch at (602) 789-3257. Saguaro Lake also has artificial habitat and provides good catfishing opportunities.
Night catfishing is perfect for shore anglers. Use heavier line (at least 8 or 10 pound test), and a slip sinker. Cast the bait out and let it settle to the bottom. Place you pole horizontally to the ground (two forked sticks can work). Reel in the slack. Then place a bite alarm on your line. Some like using small bells. A simple method is to place a small bobber on the line between two of the eyelets on your fishing pole. When a catfish starts nibbling, you will see the bobber start moving. Pick the pole up. Wait for a solid tug from the fish (showing it has taken the bait rather than nibbling it), then set the hook. Then hold on for some terrific action.