Post date: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 17:05
Updated date: 4/20/17
Pylodictis oliveris - flathead catfish


The legendary flathead is one of the toughest aquatic predators in North America. 


Barbels and Spiny Fins: Catfish have eight barbels around the mouth - which are used for tasting and smelling the water. These "whiskers" are harmless. However, they also have three sharp spines - one at the front of each pectoral and the dorsal fin. Watch out for those spines! The spines can deliver a painful sting - they are coated in an irritant toxin that can cause pain and swelling around the wound. Immersing the wound in water that is as hot as the wounded person can tolerate will detoxify the irritant and relieve the pain. As they get bigger, the spines lose their sharpness, so larger specimens are less of a threat.


Other names: mudcat, yellow cat, Hoosier, goujon





The Flathead is our largest catfish. In the Midwest, it tops out at weights around 70 pounds, but they get to well over a hundred pounds in the south. It's quite possible that record-breaking flatheads are swimming in our midwestern rivers. Small flatheads could possibly be confused with bullheads, but their lower jaw projects outward far past the upper jaw, so there should be no confusion. Flathead catfish are also called Yellow Cats or Mudcats. They live mostly in rivers, and are largely nocturnal.




Flatheads do not eat anything that isn't alive, and large. Two-pound white suckers are primo flathead bait. The flathead catfish has a huge mouth. They can slurp up a four-pound carp and swallow it whole. During the day, flatheads lurk in thick cover or deep water. Then, at night, they hunt, roaming the shallows looking for suckers, carp, bass, walleyes, or small children to devour. To catch flatheads, first spend the daylight hours catching large live bait. Good baits are white suckers, creek chubs, bullheads, and extra-large shiners. Where legal, sunfish, bass, and walleyes make great flathead bait too. Once you have a good supply of lively bait, find a deep hole with some downed trees in it. As night falls, throw out your bait. Most flatheaders fish the bait directly on the bottom with a sinker heavy enough to keep the bait fairly stationary; some use a float rig to keep the bait suspended near cover. You should use the heaviest tackle you have. Saltwater spinning gear, or heavy bait-casting gear, is not overkill for flatheads. In fact, there is no overkill for flatheads - you can expect to do battle with 30 pound fish that know every nook and cranny of the river, and each head-shake from a flathead is like a body blow from Mike Tyson. Whenever your bait stops struggling, change it. Smaller flats may take dead baits on occasion, but the big ones want their snacks alive. To be a good flathead catfisher, it helps to be big and hairy and to wear bib overalls. Failing that, you must own and operate a coleman lantern - there isn't a single serious catfisherman in the world who is not equipped with one. It also helps if you are a little bit crazy. If you are reading this site, you are obviously more than crazy enough to be a serious catfisher. It's a hell of a lot of fun.


Range Map

Lifelist Entries

Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 09:49
Lake St Croix
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Blue Grass, FWA
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Red River, LA
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Wisconsin River Portage, WI
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Aurora, IL
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Mississippi River
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Toledo bend
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De Pere Rapids on the Fox River in Green Bay, WI
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Mississippi River, Pool 2
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Grundy County, IL
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Crabtree Creek, North Carolina
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Lakeland, Mn
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Cape Fear River, NC
Post date: Monday, July 5, 2021 - 19:19
Dan River, NC
Post date: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 19:41
Mississippi River, St. Paul, MN
Post date: Saturday, June 16, 2018 - 12:40
Platte River near Platte City, Mo
Post date: Thursday, June 11, 2015 - 06:08