Freshwater Fish Species
The Catfish family species
Saltwater Fish Species
Flathead Catfish Fish Identification, habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Flathead Catfish have long, sharp spines on the front edges of their dorsal fins that are connected to venomous glands. Catfish is a very large fish with a scaleless body and barbels that look a little like a cat's whiskers. It is most commonly found in big rivers away from the main current. Flathead catfish love to hang out near sunken logs in the backwaters and pools of big, muddy, slow rivers. They usually lie on the bottom of the river with its barbels dangling up above its head. When the barbels sense a meal swimming past, the fish sucks it in. Sometimes, a catfish might open its mouth to look like a cave, then eat animals that go inside looking for protection.
The flathead catfish has some relatives: catfish that swim upside down, catfish that can walk from one body of water to another and even catfish that can give an electric shocks. A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
Flathead Catfish - Pylodictis olivaris, also known as Yellow Cat, Opelousa Cat, Pied Cat, Mississippi Cat, Mud Cat, Shovelhead Cat. Ranging from the lower Great Lakes region to northern Mexico, they have been widely introduced and are an invasive species in some areas. Native to the large rivers of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio basins from southern North Dakota, south into northern Mexico, and east as far as Lake Eries southeast coast and the western most tip of the Florida panhandle.
Flathead catfish have the smooth, scaleless skin, whisker-like barbels around the mouth, strong long and slender body and the well-developed long, sharp spines on the dorsal fin and one on each side of the pectoral fin. The tail is only slightly indented, or may appear square or rounded. The dorsal fin is high, and the lower jaw projects past the upper jaw.
The upper portion of the flathead catfish’s body is pale yellow brown to dark, even purplish brown, with black or brown mottling on lighter brown sides. The belly is cream grayish or yellowish white. Catfish has a flat-looking head, very wide and depressed. The chin barbels are white to yellow, the fins are mottled, and the anal fin, which has fewer than 16 rays, is short and rounded. Except for very large adults, flathead catfish have a white tip on the upper lobe of the caudal fin. Young flathead catfish may be very dark, almost black on the back.
Flatheads grow to a length of up to 4 feet (1.5 m) and may weigh up to 56 kg (123 lbs). Catfish have long, sharp spines on the front edges of their dorsal fins that are connected to venomous glands. Although the spines can tear skin, the glands excrete venom.
Habitat and Habits
Flathead catfish prefer deep pools of streams, rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs, where the water is turbid (cloudy) and the currents are slow. It frequents deep sluggish pools with hard bottoms in large rivers. It seems to have a distinct preference for fish, but it is omnivorous and will eat most anything that suits its fancy. Adult flatheads are found near cover in larger pools and deep holes. They like old brushy tangles, submerged logs and undercut banks. Flathead Catfish prefer large creeks, rivers, and lakes usually in heavy cover.
Unlike other catfish which are scavengers, flatheads prey only on live fish. Young flathead catfish feed mostly on invertebrates such as worms, insects and crayfish. When 10 inches or larger, their diet consists entirely of fish-shad, carp, suckers, sunfish, largemouth bass and other catfish (including their own kind). Flathead are only rarely caught on dead bait. They much prefer live food over a hunk of dead fish or stink bait. Flathead catfish are eaten by alligators, water snakes, turtles, larger fish, and humans.
They reach sexual maturity between the third and sixth year. Spawning season is from late May through August, when the water temperature is between 75° and 80° F. Adults are usually solitary, each staking out a favorite spot under a tree or in a cove, in deep water. At night, they move into shallow areas to feed. Males select hollow logs, caves or areas beneath the banks for their nest sites. They may even improve their selected sites by creating shallow depressions for the females to lay their eggs.
Female lay in average 100,000 eggs at a time depending on fish size (female lay 1200 eggs for every pound she weighs). A female flathead that weights 50 pounds might release 60,000 eggs at a time. Males defend their nest and eggs aggressively. They will fan the nest with their tails to keep the eggs clean and provide them with oxygenated water. If females have been eating poorly, their bodies may conserve resources by not releasing eggs. Poor overall health and certain environmental conditions such as drought or flood can reduce flatheads' ability to spawn. In healthy times, clutches can reach 100,000 eggs, but only a small number will survive.
After an incubation period of 4 to 6 days, the fry will school together at the nest for several days after hatching; afterwards they will seek shelter beneath rocks, roots and other cover and begin their independent lives. Average lifespan of the flathead catfish is 12 to 14 years, but one recorded flathead catfish lived 24 years.
Fishing Methods include: trotlining, juglining, limblining or noodling. Sport fishing for flathead catfish using either rod and reel or bare hands (noodling) can be an exciting pastime. Anglers target this species in a variety of waterways including small rivers, large rivers, and reservoirs. A common element of flathead catfish location is submerged wood cover such as logs and rootwads which often collect at bends in rivers. A good flathead spot usually also includes relatively deep water compared to the rest of a particular section of river, a moderate amount of current, and access to plentiful baitfish such as river herring, shad, carp, drum, panfish, or suckers.
Anglers targeting large flathead catfish usually use medium-heavy or heavy action rods from 6–10 feet (1.8–3.0 meters) in length with large line-capacity reels and line ranging from 20–80 lb test. Generally large live baits are preferred such as river herring, shad, sunfish (such as bluegill), suckers, carp, goldfish, drum, and bullheads ranging from 5–12 inches (12–30 cm) in length. Flathead catfishing often takes place at night either from a boat or from shore once a catfisher has identified a likely looking flathead spot.
Live bait and good habitat are the most important ingredients for catching flatheads. Bait will stay fresh and lively longer if kept cool. Larger bait catches larger fish. Small bait may catch large fish, but by using big bait you exclude fish that are not large enough to take the bait. Checking and rebaiting your lines once or twice during the night will net you less sleep but more fish. Bare hooks do not catch fish, and many times a large portion of your bait will be gone by midnight. Lots of cover combined with deep water often produces larger flatheads. Flatheads will use brush piles in slow or little current, however the odds of catching gar and other rough fish increase in calm water. A full moon generally means poor fishing. Large flatheads are primarily nocturnal feeders and do not move well during the near daylight conditions of a full moon. In smaller rivers and streams, flatheads generally will not bite well if the water level is falling, but may bite more readily with rising water levels. Flatheads often feed heavily before and after spawning but seldom feed while actively spawning.
One of the catfishing techniques to use is to use bait with notable scents. Catfish will find food by smell with their whiskers, and they will be more likely to find baits like chicken livers and gizzards. Catfish will feed more often in the nighttime. Therefore, it is best to go catfishing later in the day so that they can be caught easier. Catfishing just before and after sunset is prime time and your catfish fishing can stay good until midnight when river catfish fishing. The flathead catfish is the most difficult kind of catfish to get. This requires tougher catfishing techniques, as they are harder to hook. Also, this kind of catfish tends to swim alone. They can be found at shallow bodies of water, and with heavy tackles, trotlines, larger hooks and cut fish for bait they can be found at deep depths. Focus on rocks, deep holes and submerged tree trunks. If fishing in lakes, look for timber along bends or at the points, sometimes even the boat docks.
This popular food fish has an excellent flavor. Its large size makes it especially popular with anglers.
Great rods for Flathead catfish fishing are:
11 ft Light Casting Rod
13 ft Tele Casting Rod
12ft Casting Fishing Rod
15 ft Telescopic Fishing Surf Casting Rod
18ft Telescopic Surf Casting Rod
4.5m Telescopic Surf Casting Rod
15 ft Telescopic Surf Casting Rod 98% Carbon