Three flat head catfish fishing tips

The flat head catfish is one of the most popular of all the catfish varieties because of their sheer size and the great flavor of their meat. Its head is wide and flat which is where it gets its name and it does not have scales but a thick tough skin as do other catfish. They can be found in rivers that have slow currents, large ponds and lakes from the Great Lakes to the southern states. When introduced to a non-native body of water, they can take it over. For this reason, many fishermen who do not fish for catfish find this species incredibly invasive.
The following are three flat head catfish fishing tips:

1. Where the Fish are Located – Once you have found the right body of water, or if a local has told you that there are flat head catfish in a lake or river, you need to know what part of the water that they can be found in. Look at areas that have rocky overhangs or sunken stumps or tree roots. They love shady area and this can present a bit of a problem for fishermen. Where there are catfish can be areas that are difficult for you to get your bait too. Some fishermen do not even bother with bait, they get in the water and noodle the fish out.

Noodling is not recommended for everyone however. It is a very tricky sport and you can lose fingers or more if you do not do it carefully. This technique requires you to get into the water and tickle the underside of the fish noodling it out of place. Then you grab it and throw it onto the shore. The location of fish makes this possible. If they were located further out in the water, then it would be impossible to get these giants to shore.

2. Baits and Fishing Techniques – If you are not up to grabbing the fish out of the water with your hands, and not many are, then you need to know what it takes to catch the flat head catfish. The first thing that you need to understand is that this species of catfish prefers live fish above all else. Sure, there are stinky baits that can be purchased or made at home and these work great for other catfish, but not the flat head. If you want to catch large fish, then you need to have large bait. This bait needs to be kept alive as dead bait does not entice the cats to strike. You can use a large cooler with a battery operated aerator to keep the bait cool in the hot summer months and offer them oxygen when not in use.

In order to keep the bait fish alive in the water, hook them just behind the dorsal fin. This allows them to swim free to attract the attention of the fish and they stay alive longer than when they are hooked in the mouth. Use a sinker to get the bait fish to the bottom of the water but keep enough line between sinker and the hook so the bait fish can swim freely.

3. When to Fish – It is just as important to know when to fish as what to fish with and where to find them. When the flat head catfish are spawning, they are not as active as other times of the year. Spawning season is at the end of June and through July. Just as a side note, this is the perfect time to try your hand at noodling if you are so inclined. The larger males are guarding the nest fiercely so make sure you have some strong gloves on. Otherwise, fish all the other times of the year and you can get some pretty big cats. The time right before spawn is great because both the males and the females are fattening up for the egg laying.

These fish tend to feed more at night, though they do not pass up a free meal during the day. Do not bother fishing during a full moon as it is too bright and the flat heads are hiding from the brightness of the moon. Instead, choose the new moon cycle to fish if you want to be successful.

Fishing for flat head catfish is not very difficult to do if you keep the three tips above in mind. Always use live bait and keep them alive in a cooler. You should fish on the shore around rocky outcrops and sunken stumps where the cats are lying in wait for their next meal. Pay attention to the time of the year and do not bother during their spawning season unless you are noodling them. This can mean the difference between landing a nice sized fish and heading home empty handed.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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