Flathead Catfish

Species Information

Scientific Name:Pylodictis olivaris
Environment:Lake, River
Ideal Temp:65-75°F (18-24°C)
Technique:Bottom Fishing
Lure Type:Bottom Rig
World Record:55.79 kg (123 lb 0 oz) Elk City Reservoir, Independence, Kansas, USA 19-May-1998
Other Names:flathead, yellow cat, mud cat, Johnnie cat, goujon, appaluchion, opelousas, pied cat, Mississippi cat

The flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), also called by several common names including mudcat or shovelhead cat, is a large species of North American freshwater catfish in the family Ictaluridae. It is the only species of the genus Pylodictis. Ranging from the lower Great Lakes region to northern Mexico, it has been widely introduced and is an invasive species in some areas.

The flathead catfish grows to a length of 155 cm (61 in) and may weigh up to 56 kg (123 lb), making it the second-largest North American catfish (after the blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus). The average length is about 25-46 in (64-117 cm). Its maximum recorded lifespan is 24 years. Males are mature from 16 cm (6.3 in) and 4 years of age, while females mature from 18 cm (7.1 in) and 5 years of age, but may mature as late as 10 years.[citation needed] The world angling record flathead catfish was caught May 14, 1998, from Elk City Reservoir, Kansas, and weighed 123 lb 9 oz (56.0 kg). However, a record from 1982, caught by "other methods", shows that the flathead catfish would be North Americas longest species of catfish, after a specimen pulled from the Arkansas River measured 175 cm (69 in.) and weighed 63.45 kg (139 lbs and 14oz.).

The native range of the flathead catfish includes a broad area west of the Appalachian Mountains encompassing large rivers of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio basins. The range extends as far north as Canada, as far west as Texas, and south to the Gulf of Mexico including northeastern Mexico. 

The flathead catfish prefers live prey. It is a voracious carnivore and feeds primarily on fishes, insects, annelid worms, and crustaceans. It also feeds on other small catfish and almost anything that moves and makes vibration. They are known to eat crayfish, American gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), insects and larvae, channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), drum (Aplodinotus grunniens), other flatheads, green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), and carp. Insect larvae are the major prey type until an individual reaches approximately 100 mm (3.9 in) in total length, at which point the diet expands to include crayfish and small fishes. Individuals above 250 mm (9.8 in) in length feed almost exclusively on other fishes.

Sport fishing for flathead catfish using either rod and reel, limb lines, or bare hands (noodling) can be an exciting pastime. Anglers target this species in a variety of waterways, including small rivers (barely large enough for a canoe), large rivers (such as the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Colorado 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 stout tackle such as medium-heavy or heavy action rods from 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) in length with large line-capacity reels and line ranging from 20–80 pounds-force (89–356 N) test breaking strength. 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 in (13–30 cm) in length.

Latest Flathead Catfish Fishing Reports and Spots

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It's been hot. Fortunately we have above average flows and cold water still. Fishing has been good depending on angler ability. Dry fly fishing (View)

Recfishwest's State-wide Fishing Report 29 July 2022 🎣 - 7/28/2022 11:46:51 PM

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28 July 2022 - 7/28/2022 2:49:27 AM

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Recfishwest's State-wide Fishing Report 22 July 2022 🎣 - 7/22/2022 3:26:48 AM

96 Recfishwest Newsletter View this email in your browser Recfishwest Fishing Report 22/07/22 Han Yeoh @hanyeoh13 always produces the goods whe (View)

21 July 2022 - 7/21/2022 3:50:06 AM

Hervey Bay With strong SE winds forecast for the next couple of days it’ll be rough in open waters so fish for sand whiting flathead and grunte (View)

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  This 30 inch slot fish took a three inch Cocahoe mounted onto a small jighead. Expect to find some big fish feeding on small bait in the comi (View)

See what's biting across WA in Recfishwest's State-wide Fishing Report 15 July 2022 🎣 - 7/14/2022 11:53:48 PM

96 Recfishwest Newsletter View this email in your browser Recfishwest Fishing Report 15/07/22 Queenfish underwater - Marco Fraschetti Our contr (View)