Flathead catfishing is made easier when you learn a bit more about the Flathead species. In terms of eating fish, the Flathead is a great choice. It does present a challenge in terms of reeling them in as they fight back and are one of the largest species of catfish you can find.
Even though this catfish species came first from the Mississippi River in the United States, they can now be found all across America. They are extremely popular for both catfish and hunters and those who love to eat fish and have therefore been transplanted all over the US.
Flathead Catfishing: Size & Description
As far as size goes, when you’re fishing in lakes and rivers, you’ll usually find that 40-50 pound Flatheads are caught. However, that’s not to say that you can’t find much larger ones…even over one hundred pounds. As of this writing, Ken Paulie holds the world record for catching a 123 pound Flathead in 1998 at the Elk Reservoir in Kansas.
With its noticeably flattened head, it’s easy to see where this species gets its name. You’ll notice that its jaw protrudes past its upper jaw and that it has oval shaped, flat eyes as well. This species of catfish differs from other catfish in that its tail fin is slightly notched and is more straight-edged.
Color wise, the Flathead is usually found in shades of yellow and mottled brown, with their underbellies being yellow and the brown showing on their sides and back.
The Flathead Diet
Because of their diet, the Flathead can be quite detrimental to some species of sunfish. In smaller bodies of water, entire populations of sunfish can be wiped out as Flatheads feed on them. Flathead catfish also eat perch and bream, with their favorite delicacy being bream.
Although the above foods are their normal diet, be aware that the Flathead isn’t always “picky” and will grab most other types of fish and food it can find in its path. This catfish species feeds both during the day and night. It does so through sight and is why it’s attracted to light.
Since they feed mainly off the lake or river bottom, you’ll want to keep your bait there in order to attract the catch when Flathead catfishing. Using live sunfish as bait will greatly enhance your chances of the big catch because this species would rather eat live fish than anything else.
Flathead Catfishing: Spawn
Summertime is their spawn time and the male acts as guard after the female lays anywhere from four to ninety thousand eggs that keep to the bottom of logs (or anything else they find for good cover) because of their stickiness.
As they grow, this species of catfish will grow to about 15-20 inches long, at which time they’re considered “mature”. However, they keep growing throughout their life span, which can get to over 25 years.
Where To Find Your Flatheads
Look for the Flathead species at river bends (outside edges of the bends) where they like to take cover in the deep holes created by rocks, tree stumps, big logjams, etc. Sometimes, though, these outside edges can have strong currents and you’ll need to cast where there is less current at the inside bends.
You can also go to larger reservoirs and lakes and find your Flatheads in places like flooded brush piles where they like to take their cover. A great time to catch this species in these areas will be at night, when they move along older river and creek channels and end up in shallow waters looking to eat.
Daytime fishing can be quite good for you, too. Just realize that Flatheads aren’t going to travel great distances in the early evening or morning to feed. This means you must understand where they are taking cover, depending on the body of water you’re fishing in, so that you can cast your bait in the correct area.
Flathead Catfishing: Best Gear
While an old fashioned rod and reel can work well for Flathead catfishing, you may want to also follow the lead of other successful anglers, who use bank poles and jugs or throw-lines to make the catch. For your hooks, try a size 7 or 8. These catfish have wide mouths so the larger hooks come in quite handy.
If you haven’t ever done so, try using a flathead set, as it’s a great way to reel this particular catfish species in. No matter the method or gear you use for Flathead catfishing, get ready for a great fight between you and the Flathead. This species will fight you tooth and nail, which makes the requirement for quality gear that much more important to your success.