Arizona Fat Cat Challenge
Arizona is home to fantastic large flathead and channel catfish fishing! The Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) works to provide great opportunities for anglers to catch huge flathead and channel catfish (catfish) all over Arizona.
Arizona Fat Cat Challenge is an incentive-based conservation program designed to encourage anglers to learn about and pursue prize sized flathead and channel catfish while encouraging catch-and-release on individual fish that exceed the designated weight or length.
Designated lengths and weights
Flathead catfish- 40 pounds or 45 inches
Channel catfish-15 pounds or 36 inches
How to complete the challenge Catch a 40 pound or larger flathead catfish or a 15 pound or larger channel catfish. Verify your catch by taking a picture of the fish while being weighed or measured following the rules and guidelines listed. Release your fish quickly (immediately after weighing and measuring) back into the lake or river where you caught it. Submit your picture via BFishing@azgfd.gov. Make sure you include a valid email address so that you can be contacted. A Department biologist will contact you to discuss all the great details of your catch and get your information to send you an AZ Fat Cat Challenge fishing shirt and decal for your truck or boat to celebrate your catch. Your picture will also be posted on the Fat Cat Conservation Board on https://fishaz.azgfd.com.
- Encourage catch-and-release of the biggest, oldest, most valuable individuals
- Excite anglers about Arizona fishing, encouraging them to purchase licenses and fish more resulting in benefits to anglers, fishing-related businesses, local communities and the fisheries by having more support and funding for conservation
- Collect valid information through citizen-science about large catfish to help the Department better enhance, conserve and promote prize catfish fishing
- Share information about fishing opportunities and destinations to make fishing more enjoyable.
Arizona Fat Cat Challenge Rules
Fish must be released alive in the same water where caught.
AZ Fat Cat Challenge is a citizen-science conservation rewards program for anglers that emphasizes immediate live-release of prize sized fish weighing or measuring at or above the designated levels per species. AZ Fat Cat Challenge fish will be accepted year-round and require photographic documentation for verification.
All fish entered into AZ Fat Cat Challenge must be caught legally, including a proper license or exemption, in an Arizona or border (Colorado River) water using an active hook-and-line method, and documented following guidelines (below). Anglers without a license, fishing in a clinic or event not requiring a license will not be eligible.
Submit a photo of entire fish, including tagged fish (displaying head-to-tail, with no part of the fish cut out of the photo) on the scale with the weight showing. Hand scales must be held by the designated handle without interfering with or touching the chain, shaft, or the fish while weighing. All scales, including panscales, should be properly tared in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Supplemental photos holding or releasing the fish, close-ups of the scale with at least half of the fish visible, images of the entire fish on a bump-board or tape-measure, and girth photos are encouraged to be submitted. However, the required photo is of the entire fish on the scale with the weight clearly visible.
Anglers should submit high resolution photographs (good overall clarity, 3 megapixel camera or above recommended), with at least one photograph of the whole fish on a spring or digital scale with the weight clearly visible. Anglers are encouraged to submit three or four additional photographs of the fish: the whole fish on a measuring board with the length clearly visible, close-up on scale, the girth, being released, and/or of themselves or a friend with their catch (please remove sunglasses). Photos and documentation will be reviewed by a team of biologists. If the fish’s weight is not clearly visible in the photo, it does not show the entire fish, or the submission is questionable in terms of the size of the fish or location/method of catch or live release, the AZ Fat Cat Challenge team may verify or deny the entry based on their professional judgment.
Anglers may upload a video snippet in .mov or MP4 format, up to 50 MP in size for one or more of the five photos. Suggested documentation includes beginning with a wide angle showing the entire fish (head to tail) being properly held on the scale and then zooming in to ensure the weight can be read. Video is a great way to also document the live release of your catch.
Since catch-and-release of trophy fish is a goal of AZ Fat Cat Challenge, anglers who catch an eligible fish while participating in a fishing tournament must release the fish immediately to participate in the challenge. Any sized fish that are retained as part of a legal bag limit to be weighted at a weigh-in will not be eligible for the Challenge. Anglers should become familiar with handling procedures to ensure fish are healthy upon release. Fish not certified live or kept by an angler will not be accepted for the AZ Fat Cat Challenge.
Terms for Participation
To participate in Arizona’s Hawg Bass and Fat Cat Challenges, the angler must have caught the submitted fish themselves, in accordance with the current year fishing regulations of the State of Arizona at the time of the catch. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The angler must be properly licensed or have an approved exemption. Fish caught during clinics or events that do not require a license will not qualify
- The angler must use legal gear (moreover, for angler recognition the gear must be an active hook-and-line method, which does not include bush hooks, trotlines, or bow)
- The angler must abide by all size, bag, season and location-specific fishing regulations
- Anglers must attest that they successfully live-released the fish in the water where it was caught (after documenting it) and that it was able to swim off. Fish submitted to the program cannot be harvested or kept.
Your submission to this program, including photos and other data provided to any Department program or challenge, constitutes a release for the Arizona Game and Fish Department to use them without compensation or further notice. Such use would typically include research, informational, and other public purposes, such as being posted on AZGFD.gov, FISHAZ.AZGFD.gov, Department Social Media or other third-party promotional use such as websites or publications, and in other related news releases, articles, brochures, advertisements, or reports.