Much like the blue catfish the flathead catfish is a highly sought after species. The flathead catfish is a popular species because there are populations in much of the United States and they are well known to grow to trophy class sizes, all in addition to being excellent table fare. The existing world record flathead catfish weighed in at 123 lbs (also see 130 lb world record blue catfish).
For years anglers choosing to chase after big catfish targeted flathead catfish but the blue catfish has gained significant popularity in recent years.
Here are some basic facts and information on the flathead catfish species.
Other Common Names
Yellow Cat, Opelousa Catfish, Opp, Appaloosa Catfish, App, Pied Cat, Shovelhead Cat
As the flathead catfish name suggest they have a “flat head” but other than the flat head at first glance it really looks like the other species of catfish (with the exception of coloring). The flathead catfish (like other species of catfish) has smooth skin (no scales), whiskers around the mouth and long sharp spines on the back (dorsal fin) and sides (pectoral fins). Flathead catfish can easily reach lengths of three to four feet and can easily exceed one hundred pounds in weight.
Pylodictis is Greel and means “mud fish” and olivaris is Latin for “olive colored” obviously due to the dark olive and yellow coloring of the skin of the species. They are typically pale yellow to light brown on their backs and sides and this coloring is also very mottled with additional coloring for black and brown. The underside is usually a much lighter cream color or pale yellow color. The young are often very dark brown.
The heads are very broad and flattened (hence the name “flathead”) and often look like that of a shovel that has been turned over, which is why the species is often referred to as a shovelhead. The lower jaw projects out. The lower jaw resembles that of what would be referred to as an “under bite” in humans.
Tail fins have a slight notch in them and are not deeply forked like the typical tails of blue and channel catfish.
Unlike the channel and blue catfish that are scavengers (or opportunistic predators) flathead catfish prey only on live fish (as a general rule). The young feed primarily on crayfish, worms, invertebrates and crayfish. Once they grow larger the diet consists entirely of fish of any species (including other catfish).
Spawning season runs typically from May through August when water temperatures are between seventy five and eighty degrees.
To spawn the males select undercut banks, hollow logs, trees and other similar habitats for their nesting sites. Once a nesting site is selected the male fish have also been known to improve the nesting sites by creating shallow depressions in the mud for the female to lay the eggs in. Marine biologists have estimated in the past the female fish will lay 1200 eggs for every pound of her body weight (which is why it is important to live release the larger fish back into the waters by practicing catch and release).
Adult flathead catfish are most often solitary fish known to pick out a favorite spot under a tree, log or undercut bank and remain alone in deeper water. At night the flathead catfish will move into shallow water areas to feed. Their preferred habitat is deep pools of creeks where water is cloudy and currents are very slow.
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