Southern CA Freshwater

La Quinta: Huge flathead catfish caught at Lake Cahuilla

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff Writer Published: Feb 12, 2020

LA QUINTA — The fact that Lake Cahuilla is a productive “off-season” catfish spot is no secret to lake regulars, or readers of the WON Form Charts for that matter. The All American Canal not only feeds the lake with water, but it’s also constantly delivering catfish to Cahuilla that add to the respectable populations of holdovers from the actual stocking that goes on all summer. Even with all those things considered, even those most familiar with this desert fishery were surprised by this big catch.


THIS 50.46-POUND flathead catfish was caught in Lake Cahuilla by Desert Valley Outdoors angler Jose Rafael Torres, who was targeting catfish with cut bait on 20-pound test. This fish likely got into Cahuilla a long time ago via the All-American Canal.

Palm Desert angler Jose Rafael Torres was dunking cut bait for channel cats when he came tight to something that really put his 20-pound line to the test. After an epic 40-minute battle, Torres had a double-fisted death grip on the lips of a 50.46-pound flathead catfish. Torres is a member of Desert Valley Outdoors (DVO), a local club that calls Lake Cahuilla home and refers affectionately to it as, “The Mud Hole.”

“This catch is amazing, like winning the lotto,” said DVO Founder, Julian Rangel. “Catching a monster like this out of Cahuilla is an absolute catch of a lifetime, and simply put, there’s only 3 to 5 more fish this size in the lake, if that, and these monsters very rarely show themselves.”

Rangel went on to tell Western Outdoor News that the big flathead likely came into the lake via the All American Canal before grates were installed over the inlet. These days, smaller channel cats can slip through the grate, but nothing like this fish, so it’s been in there for a while. Rangel did say they do catch “baby flatheads” from time to time, so maybe more trophy flats are in the lake’s future.

coronaextraCORONA EXTRA — Mike Rickard of Corona fished with Mat Herrera of SoCal Fishing Excursions and fooled these rainbows using Hookup Baits.

Torres and several other anglers tried extensively to revive the tanker fish, but those efforts were not successful.

It is trout season at Lahe Cahuilla, too, but fishing has been very slow, according to Rangel, who gets reports from any member of DVO that fishes it. It is getting stocked, with the last plant going in on Feb. 5 and the next one slated for Feb. 19. So, theoretically, trout fishing can’t stay slow forever. Nightcrawlers work best for trout (garlic scent and inflating them doesn’t hurt for rainbows) and the standard channel catfish the lake kicks out. When trout do turn on, guys fishing minijigs or Mice Tails do fill stringers.

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