We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Flathead Catfish?

By Dave Fidlin
Updated Mar 05, 2024
Our promise to you
AllThingsNature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllThingsNature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Like its fish cousins, flathead catfish are noted for their whisker-like barbels around the mouth and scaleless skin. This particular breed, however, has a flat head — as the name suggests — that sets it apart from other types of catfish. A true flathead also can be marked by its projecting lower jaw, in addition to a slightly notched tail fin. Flatheads — sometimes referred to as a yellow cat, opelousas or shovelhead cat — can grow as long as 4 feet (about 1.2 meters).

Some of the larger varieties weigh upwards of 100 pounds (about 45 kilograms). In terms of physical appearance, flathead catfish typically have a pale yellow appearance, hence the nickname yellow cat. Depending upon the variation, they also can have an olive or light brown tint to their skin, though at infancy their appearance can be much darker. In most instances, a flathead's stomach region is cream colored or pale yellow. Other characteristics include sharp spines on the back and shoulder fins.

In addition to the few notable physical features, flathead catfish differ in terms of their eating habits as well. They are far more finicky than other types of catfish, which are oftentimes deemed scavengers. Flatheads live solely on live fish. A typical meal for an infant flathead consists of crayfish, insects and worms. As they grow into adulthood, they begin to eat such species as largemouth bass, other catfish — including fellow flatheads — sunfish and carp.

Flathead catfish can live in a variety of climates; for this reason they are native to a number of bodies of water throughout North America, from as far north as the lower Great Lakes region to as far south as the northern portion of Mexico. Mating season for a flathead is generally between May and August, when water temperatures range between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 27 degrees Celsius). According to water biologists, flatheads in optimal living conditions have a life expectancy ranging from 12 to 14 years.

Throughout most of their lives, flathead catfish tend to swim in solitude. This is in direct contrast to other types of fish that swim in schools, or groups — oftentimes in unison with one another. The one notable exception for a flathead is during the fry stage. Young flatheads typically band together for a few days after hatching, but eventually go off on their own, seeking shelter from prey as they sojourn on to their adult lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Flathead Catfish?

A Flathead Catfish, scientifically known as Pylodictis olivaris, is a large species of North American freshwater catfish. It's distinguished by its broad, flat head and brown, mottled body. These fish are bottom-dwellers and are known for their predatory nature, often consuming fish, insects, and crustaceans.

Where can Flathead Catfish be found?

Flathead Catfish are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins, extending into northern Mexico. They inhabit a range of freshwater environments, including rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, they have been introduced to other areas, expanding their presence across the United States.

How big can Flathead Catfish get?

Flathead Catfish are one of the largest North American freshwater fish species. They can grow up to 5 feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds, although the average size is typically around 15-40 pounds. The world record, as noted by the International Game Fish Association, is a specimen weighing 123 pounds.

What do Flathead Catfish eat?

Flathead Catfish are opportunistic predators with a diet that includes fish, insects, annelid worms, and crustaceans. They are known for their preference for live prey. Their role as apex predators in their ecosystem helps maintain the balance of aquatic life in their habitats.

How do you catch a Flathead Catfish?

Catching a Flathead Catfish often requires patience and the right technique. Anglers typically use live bait to attract these predators, as they prefer hunting live prey. Night fishing is popular, as Flatheads are nocturnal feeders. Heavy tackle is recommended due to their size and strength.

Are Flathead Catfish good to eat?

Flathead Catfish are considered excellent table fare, with firm, sweet-tasting flesh that is less muddy than some other catfish species. They are a popular catch among anglers not only for sport but also for consumption. Proper handling and preparation can result in a delicious meal.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

AllThingsNature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllThingsNature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.