The Flathead Catfish

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The FlatheadPylodictis olivaris

Pylodictis olivaris

Pylodictis olivaris

The Oklahoma Flathead Catfish


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World Record: 91.25 pounds, caught on Lake Lewisville, Texas, in 1982.

Description: A flattened head, tiny eyes, squarish tail and protruding lower jaw distinguish the flathead from other catfish and contribute to it being placed in a genus of its own. They are yellow-brown and usually mottled above, with a creamy-white or yellow belly. Small flatheads may be confused with yellow or brown bullheads.

Other Names: yellow cat, mud cat, shovelhead cat, johnnie cat, goujon, appaluchion, opelousas  

Subspecies: There are no known subspecies; however, they have been known to hybridize with channel catfish.

Habitat: Flatheads are found mainly in large rivers and their major tributaries,just about every lake in Oklahoma. They prefer long, slow-flowing, moderately-turbid streams. Adult flatheads are solitary and spend most of their time in deep water near cover such as log jams or fallen trees.

Spawning Habits; Spawning occurs in late spring when water temperatures reach 70 to 80 degrees. One or both parents excavate the nest that is usually made in a natural cavity or near a large submerged object. Females lay a golden-yellow mass of up to 100,000 eggs. The nest is guarded and the eggs are agitated by the male to keep them clean and aerated. The young remain in a school near the nest for several days after hatching, but soon disperse.

Feeding Habits: Flatheads are predatory fish and will consume bass, bream, shad, crayfish and often feed on other catfish. The Flathead feeds mostly on live bait unlike it's cousins in catfish family. The young rely more extensively on aquatic insects and crayfish than do the adults. Large flatheads sometime congregate where food is plentiful such as near tailraces of dams. They often feed at the surface or in shallow water at night, returning to their residence in a hole or brush pile to rest during the day. They rarely eat dead or decaying matter.

Growth: Although flatheads have been aged by biologists to 19 years, the species is probably capable, based on its maximum size of about 56 inches, of living much longer. They grow faster than any other catfish except blue.

Sporting Quality: Extremely strong fighters. Their solitary lifestyle, however, makes them more difficult to catch than other catfish. They bite best at night while in shallow water looking for food. To catch flatheads, anglers typically fish on the bottom using heavy tackle with live or freshly cut fish. Trotlines are effective in catching this species. Hand fishing or noodling is very popular in Oklahoma, I experienced this ONCE, that was enough for me!

Eating Quality: The species is highly regarded as a food fish when taken from clean water. The meat is white, firm, and flaky, with an excellent taste.

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