Flathead Catfish Overview

Are you interested in catching some flathead catfish and curious about the best way to do so? 

You can find flathead catfish in warm waters. They are delicious fish but one of the most challenging catfish to catch because of their shyness and distinct diet. Using this guide, you can learn how to catch this unique catfish.

Continue reading this article to learn everything you need to catch flathead catfish. With this information in mind, catching the challenging flathead catfish will be simple. 

Flathead Catfish Overview

If you’re a frequent angler, you might be curious about how to catch a flathead catfish. They are a common species but are surprisingly one of the most challenging fish to catch because of their temperamental behaviors.

Because of its shyness, you are much less likely to catch a flathead catfish than others. It takes the flathead catfish a long time to bite, so you should expect patience.

Flathead Catfish

How Big Do Flathead Catfish Get?

The record for a flathead catfish in the United States is 53 pounds by an angler in Hobart, Indiana. The flathead measured almost 50 inches long.

Most flathead catfish do not get that large, averaging a length of 30 inches.

Flathead Catfish Characteristics

  • Square tail
  • Yellow and brown colorations
  • They have an underbite
  • Males turn dark during spawning season

Reproduction Cycle

Flathead catfish begin spawning during April and continue through July. The water temperature needs to reach 71 degrees Fahrenheit for spawning to begin.

The pair of flathead catfish dig into the bottom of rivers and lakes to deposit their eggs. It takes a week for the eggs to be incubated, during which time the male catfish guards the nest. The larvae take two weeks to develop into baby flathead catfish.

How to Fish for Flathead Catfish

Where to Fish

Flathead catfish generally live throughout rivers, lakes, and bays. It is normal to find them in murky water. Flathead cats live in the usual places where most catfish live.

Here are the best places to fish for flathead catfish:

  • Rip rap shorelines
  • River mouths
  • River bends and undercuts
  • Holes in ponds
  • Shorelines
  • Flooded areas
  • Channels
  • River holes

The Top 10 Places Catfish Live will help you learn more about where flathead catfish live.

What Bait to Use

Fishing for flathead catfish can be challenging. When fishing for the flathead catfish, you should not expect to catch the same amount as you would on a regular fishing trip since they have a specific diet. 

Luckily, they are ways to lure them in. They become more active when anglers use live bait, making it better to choose live bait over lures. Our article, The Ultimate Guide to the Best Catfish Bait, details options when fishing for flathead catfish.

It can take a long time before you catch the flathead catfish, so patience is essential in catching these fish. Set up your fishing pole on a mount and relax as you wait.

Flathead catfish prefer live bait because of their high activity levels. Live bait entices flathead catfish to move closer to your hook and take a bite. The type of bait while fishing for a flathead catfish is critical because these fish can be temperamental with their diets. They are also timid fish, so they are unlikely to approach the hook unless enticed.

The best live bait for fishing flathead catfish include:

  • Bluegill
  • Perch
  • Most other panfish

Flathead catfish are much more likely to bite if you give them live bait. It entices them to move closer to the surface and emulates the natural ecosystem. Live bait is essential when fishing somewhere with little or no current. The movement in the water will alert the flathead catfish. It can decrease the time it takes for the fish to bite and increase the number of fish you catch.

Cut bait is not the best option for flathead catfish because they prefer movement. However, some anglers suggest mixing live and cut bait if you have difficulty catching flathead catfish. It can rouse their attention and influence the flathead catfish to bite. Some anglers claim live bait is a good choice, so it cannot hurt to try it. 


Flathead catfish are challenging to catch but can be a delicious and rewarding treat if you can! Using live bait is the best option for catching flathead catfish and increases your chances of catching the challenging flathead catfish. If you have difficulty catching the catfish, you can try using cut bait or mixing the cut bait while fishing.