Flathead Catfish



Flathead catfish are a much larger and more common fish species. However, it is one of the ugliest freshwater catfish clan members because of its larger size. You will find them giving a good fight on the hook and line. Flathead catfish is crucial for recreational and commercial use and is often done at night. We will cover everything you need to know about the iconic flat!

How much does a flathead catfish grow per year?

Flatheads are one of the fastest-growing fish in the country, except for grass carp. Flathead catfish are quick-growing. Usually, it weighs around 10-15 pounds when it is young. However, adults can reach three to four feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds well on another day, becoming a record.

Flatheads put on 2-5 pounds a year between 3 and 8 years old. Monster cats grow upward of 10 pounds a year. Cats have grown as much as 30 pounds in some southern rivers and reservoirs in 10 years. Flathead catfish reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 6 and have an average life span of 20 years.

Remember that this is only an average. A 70 lb flat could be 40 or 50 years old, 123-pound fish could be older, but it could be in a fishery with more food. One common ingredient is good water quality seems to help the bigger ones grow.

What does a Flathead Catfish Look Like?

Flathead catfish have a distinctive appearance; you cannot confuse them with other fish species, and we’ll cover that here. Besides having a flat head, it has a forked tail and a relatively long body. As they near a medium to large size, they establish a potbelly. It has beady eyes and a broadhead. The eyes highlight the head’s flatness.

Its head has an oval shape. The lower jaw sticks out further than the upper, accentuating the head further. This one has an anal fin short along the base compared to the other catfish species. There are 14-17 fin rays.

The fish doesn’t have a specific color. Because it varies with the environment, usually, it is mottled with different brown sides with yellowish sides. It tapers to a whitish or lighter mottling on its belly.

Like the other catfish, flatheads also come with sharp and heavy dorsal and pectoral spines. Nicknames are not uncommon due to their appearance, also known as the mud or yellow catfish.

What do Flathead Catfish Eat?

Flathead catfish are predators. It ambushes its prey by waiting for it undercover—the fish usually feed at night. Adult flatheads are opportunistic feeders and eat only other fishes like gizzard shad, bullheads, and carp. On the other hand, young ones feed on insect larvae until they become about three inches long, when their diets enlarge to include other small fishes. Young flatheads usually feed on clams, crayfish, insects, and assorted small fishes such as shad, shiners, and sunfish.

So, while you fish, live fish can be good bait for flatheads as they are unwilling to consume smelly or old bait.

Even though flatheads aren’t exclusively nocturnal, it tends to be more active at night and around June. Thus, they are usually shallower and will feed at different levels. So, it might be inactive during the daytime in the deep water or can be undercover.

What is the Habitat of a Flathead Catfish?

Flatheads are commonly found in large water bodies. They usually prefer a big river and a reservoir as its tributaries. In a river, the fish generally like to be in a deep pool where the water is slow. It is also commonly found in tailraces present below dams. Usually, their local has a rigid bottom and timber or driftwood.

In a large reservoir, it is found deep in the river beds at the point where the channel submerges. Commonly found throughout the Ohio River, Mississippi, and Missouri basins, Flatheads may also appear in records from Lake Erie to North Dakota.

Unique Habitat

This massive cat species, specifically the flatheads, is primarily located in large water bodies: especially big rivers, reservoirs, long channels, and tributaries in the current. In rivers, the fish prefer deep pools where the water is slow with depressions or holes and bottom areas with eddies. It could be docks, underwater structures, railroad crossings, dams, or bridge pilings.

Flatheads can position themselves on hard channel bottom or a piece of debris on the lake bottom like old timber or driftwood. In large lakes or reservoirs, a cat is in deep more time than not. On old river beds, cats enjoy submerged junctions in underwater channels and near the headwater tributary, all great spots to fish.

Is Catfish Good to Eat?

Flathead catfish is one of the oldest fish species in freshwater. It adapts to the environment so well that it is found worldwide, except in a few places with high temperatures.

You will find catfish on restaurant menus everywhere. Flatheads are good to eat and prepared in different ways can be quite delicious. It is known for being rich in omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. The fish comes with a plethora of health benefits.

  • It’s excellent lean protein, the most crucial source of energy in your diet. Protein can also build and repair muscles and tissues. It serves as a building block for different enzymes, hormones, and other molecules. So, including flathead catfish in your diet can help with weight loss by making you feel full.
  • One of the highly recommended reasons to have flatheads is because it offers more omega-3 fatty acids than other food items. It may help in improving your mental and neurological conditions. People suffering from memory loss can benefit significantly from this fish.
  • Many fishes are high in vitamins, but flatheads are a particularly great source. A significant level of vitamin B12 is related to several health benefits. It protects against heart disease and can treat anemia.

How to Fish for Flathead Catfish?

Firstly make sure you have a local fishing license. In most areas, fishing permits can be obtained online from local fish & wildlife government agencies ‘ websites. These permits help to provide resources for restocking and maintenance of the fishery and, in some case, prevents overfishing when needed. Fishing without a license is an expensive fine; it could even lead to the seizure of property in extreme cases.

So, you want to go fishing and catch flatheads on the hook and line? A regular-size fish exceeds 50 pounds and is 3 to 4 feet long. Even though they belong to blue or channel catfish, the shovel-headed fish is much different in their physical characteristics and habits. Make sure you learn how they differ from their kin to fish correctly.

Flathead catfish are popular with catfish anglers in the river and large lakes. It provides a stubborn, deep-digging, and intense fight. Larger ones might take some time to subdue and are pursued with heavy tackle, mainly as they exist in snag-filled environs. So, bottom fishing with prepared or natural bait is a widely practiced way to fish for flatheads.

Essentially getting big flatheads by the lower jaw is often the best way to land them, no matter the technique. This practice could lead to a way to land your record game fish. Other anglers near you may record and keep a record of fishing at night and even often in wintertime. The fish’s pounds may not matter to you, but keep in mind the game of choosing the right bait. Cover much often leads to winning the game and getting the record.

Continue to read; below are a few tips you can follow while fishing for flatheads.

How do you catch flathead catfish?

When fishing for flatheads, you can use a hand line or a fishing pole. Many others refer to the third technique as catfish “noodling.” It’s a unique approach to fishing but effective once mastered. These options could yield an angler’s dream catch of a delicious fish.

If a conventional method is chosen, the best tackle recommended for catching flatheads is at least a 7′ medium/heavy action rod (minimum size), and a bait-casting reel is best. 4/0 to 8/0 hooks are best, not smaller or larger, only based on your bait and fish size in the water, with no float. This might sound overkill; the gear is too much for freshwater fishing. But flathead cats are giants with big mouths, and your equipment, line, baits, and tackle should be significant too.

If you plan to keep one of these fish, you should focus on the smaller ones under 10 pounds, as they are more common and easier to catch. The daily and possession limit is 10.

Think Like a Predator

The first thing to do while fishing for flatheads is to grasp the bushwhackers. They may hide behind driftwood piles, submerged logs, snags, toppled trees, and riverbank cavities to ambush their passing prey carefully. They aren’t like their cousins and cannot go for extended chases. They roam very little during the night.

Knowing these will improve your chances of catching flatheads. Make sure you fish during day time and focus your efforts on shady near-shore and dense cover as you would for a Grass carp fish. Extracting them from their spots is not that easy. Nevertheless, if you fish using a heavy, tough tackle, it is possible.

Drift in the bait beneath afloat and be alert.

Learn About the Loner

The large flatheads are aggressive fish. They tend to be aggressive towards their kind. Thus, a primary piece of flathead habitat hardly has more than a single heavyweight adult. Hence, it might be useless to keep fishing around the same spot after you have caught one. So, grab one in one location and then move over to some other place. A common practice to see more flatheads when fishing.

Do Not Drop Deads

Several anglers think that large flatheads can eat almost anything. Flathead catfish usually scavenge and are not picky regarding their bait or food. However, this is only applicable to small flatheads when fishing. Young ones’ weigh only a few pounds and get attracted to chicken livers, stink baits, crawfish, worms and bait like live fish on a line.

However, if you seek heavyweight flathead fish, remember these baits will not work for all fish species. They don’t eat invertebrates for dinner; water temperature may differ in how the flatheads eat. The bait for a giant flathead is another live fish. Consequently, it would be best if you used that to entice them. Some right choices are suckers, chubs, goldfish, carp, sunfish, and bullheads. Know this could be different when fishing a lake versus a channel versus a river.

What to do with flathead catfish?

Flathead catfish are a favored freshwater fish among amateur and professional anglers. Let’s cover a favorite native species to North America; this cat is found in less than favorable underwater environments.

But the flathead catfish’s delicious taste also provides an excellent reason to fish for the species. Flatheads, Channel Cat, Blue cats, and Bullhead cats are excellent table food. Many hardcore catfish fishermen believe a young flathead has a delightful flavor that is preferable to the other cat species. Some say it’s got a buttery flavor and prefer flathead over its plain-tasting cousins any time.

Another question has been asked, where does the aged deceased fish go? I mean, being this big, do you think you would notice these things floating everywhere? In theory, supported by the Fish & Wildlife Department, a sick fish will float to the surface when deceased, and a healthy fish sinks to the bottom and becomes table food for all the other species in the water table.

Keep Things Clean

Flathead catfish can taste and smell specific compounds in water, even in smaller quantities. It can be a good thing as it will help zero in on the bait when fishing. However, ensure you observe how you handle items like sunscreen, gasoline, insect repellant, and tobacco. It can scare them away from the most attractive big fish-catching baits.

The flathead catfish are the toughest ones to catch of all catfish around. They are solitary and difficult species to find and catch. Once you hook flatheads, they put up a great fight day or night. Even the most experienced anglers are happy when they get one large catfish in a single trip.

Flathead Catfish are not the only Catfish Species.

Channel Cats a Cousin

The channel catfish is the most famous pound-for-pound catfish family member. It’s primarily found in reservoirs and rivers of any size. Channel cats are often stocked in ponds, providing fish to easy hook for novice anglers, unlike the flathead.

Freshly killed baitfish may be your best bet, try shad or suckers both make excellent fishing bait. Catfish anglers’ standard is to make batches of homemade stink bait, a favorite for Channel cats.

They use baits like chicken, cheese, blood, and fish parts, allowing them to be mashed together before smearing them on the line and hook. It also can be solely used as a dip channel for cats with their superior senses. Overwhelmingly most are caught on the bottom of the lake. In cleaner water, channel cats can suspend, providing the opportunity to land them on a hook, line, and tackle with a float.

Win against the Flathead Catfish?

It helps to understand their movements, habitat preferences, and seasonal choices to succeed in any fishing or species. Channel cats are unique and have different habitats in bodies of water. Their movements in creeks and rivers, including small streams, find them going upstream in the spring. In these cases, you can locate them by locks and dams. Because of the changing current and depth of water, tributary mouths can be hot spots. Look for places where smaller creeks enter larger rivers.

In summer, giant channel cats are in holes in streams, rivers, and mid-depth runs. The river that stretches with the wood cover bottom is often the ideal place. Look for channel catfish in the larger rivers near dams and other structures like bridges. Even barge mooring areas that break up current and create habitat diversity. Don’t overlook areas with logjams as well.

Another Cousin, the Blue Catfish

Like many of their cousins, the Big “blues” live in the river channel or reservoirs. In the Southeastern regions and Eastern side of the U.S., they are not picky about their diet, as they will eat live baitfish or dead bait off the bottom. These big blue catfish are more likely to be caught suspended in open water when feeding, mostly when shad or other baitfish are nearby. Again, this is uncommon for flatheads.

Favorite foods for blue cats include skipjack and shad. It’s not uncommon to catch giant blue catfish over 80 pounds on cut chunks of bait. They particularly like to eat Asian carp—your line and hook size depends on the fish’s length in your water. More giant cats use a whole baitfish or cut chunks for medium size fish. A variety of baitfish types is good practice; adjust your bait for the size of the fish.

Blue catfish, unlike the flathead like the current. In rivers, they are along steep dropoffs, ledges, dams, flats, and channel edges. These habitats depend on all seasons; they all work as long as it has water flow conditions. In colder water during winter, generally look deeper in lakes and rivers. But even in winter, a few days of mild weather can draw them shallow to feed because of water temperature. Lakes with underwater structures such as humps, extended points, and submerged channels attract baitfish such as shad overcover. Look for the blue cats to feed on them by the pound.

As described earlier, Blue cats, like most catfish, move seasonally, typically downriver in winter and upstream in June to eventual summer locations. Common on big lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, where a cat looks for deep water near the structure, moving up the lake into shallow creek arms and feeder rivers in spring. They settle into summer patterns after spawning, following, and feeding on baitfish schools in the central basin. However, they can be found lake-wide depending on how widely distributed the baitfish are. Blues also can suspend in open water.

A standard rig for all cats is a slip sinker rig, great for catching blue cats when you desire to go bottom fishing and want it to stay stationary. An old favorite is the three-way rig, which works as a drift rig along the bottom.

On the three-way rig, a single line holds the sinker while using a leader, which terminates with a hook. The key with this rig is the dropper’s lengths, which keeps it off the bottom, and the leader depends on the deep and current. A shorter leader or longer when you want to position the bait farther off the bottom. Shorter when you may be fishing around structures on the bottom. Most big cat anglers like a J hook or circle hook, even using up to an 8/0 hook size, which may help hover them in the lower jaw. Depending on the bottom and current conditions, you may want to use a 7.5 to 8-foot rod with a medium tip. Always use a float indicator.

If you have boat access, drifting for big catfish can be accomplished using the wind, current, trolling motor, or kicker motor to move the boat. Using this technique can provide all the control over your speed and bait position. Start drifting your baits at 0.5 to 1.0 mph, adjust based on current, and when you get a strike, vary the speed until you catch the first fish and duplicate. The key is to drift along with the structure and ledges that hold fish, so precise boat control is essential. Precisely where good depth finders and using your electronics will be very helpful.

Flathead Catfish


In size, flatheads are the second-largest sport fish in many states, like Texas, Mississippi, and others. Its cousin, the blue catfish, is the most popular and widely fished species in most countries.

These fish have rapidly accumulated in large freshwater rivers and basins ranging from northern Mexico to the lower Great Lakes region. Aside from its flat head, this fish looks like any other catfish.

Since agencies have begun collecting data on flats, numbers have dramatically increased nationwide, specifically in upper Potomac River sections.

Because they fished commercially, the larger fish seem caught by trotlines. Rod and reel anglers have the most success with an average number of fish. The most successful locations seem to be below reservoir dams. Their popularity with anglers has skyrocketed since they were introduced in many other states, where they have adapted very well. However, they have out-competed native fish species in some cases. Other native fish populations decline sharply, disrupting some natural ecological processes with any dominant species.

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