How to Catch Flathead Catfish 2023

Flathead catfish are one of the most challenging fish to catch. They are not only elusive, but they are also powerful, making them a prized catch for anglers. If you’re looking to catch a trophy flathead catfish, you need to know the right techniques and strategies to use.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when fishing for flathead catfish is that they are predators. They hide around or within submerged logs, driftwood piles, toppled trees, snags, and riverbank cavities, waiting to ambush passing prey. 

Therefore, you need to think like a predator and use the right baits and lures to attract them. Stink baits, chicken livers, and cut bait can catch some younger flatheads, but if you’re going after big flatheads, it’s best to stick with healthy and active live bait. After dark, flatheads tend to become more active, leaving their solitary hideouts and moving into more open waters to feed.

Understanding Flathead Catfish


Flathead catfish are freshwater fish that can be found in rivers, lakes, ponds, and channels throughout North America. They prefer deep water and are often found near submerged logs, snags, and other forms of cover. These fish are loners and tend to stay hidden during the daylight hours, waiting to ambush passing prey.

Flatheads are predators and feed on a variety of live bait, including bluegill, sunfish, bullheads, and crawfish. They have a keen sense of taste and smell and can detect the scent of prey from a distance. To catch flathead catfish, it’s important to use live bait that is native to the area and that mimics the prey they are feeding on.


Flathead catfish are known for their aggressive behavior and can be challenging to catch. They are most active during the nighttime hours and can be caught using a variety of techniques, including trolling, still fishing, and drift fishing.

When fishing for flatheads, it’s important to use heavy tackle and a strong fishing line to prevent the fish from breaking free. These fish are strong and can put up a fight, so it’s important to be patient and use a steady hand when reeling them in.

Flatheads are attracted to the taste and smell of stink baits, live fish, and other types of bait. They can also be caught using lures that mimic the movement of their prey. To increase your chances of catching a flathead catfish, it’s important to fish in areas where they are known to feed, such as near dams or in deep pools.

In summary, understanding the habitat and behavior of flathead catfish is key to catching them. These fish are predators that prefer deep water and can be found near submerged logs and other forms of cover. They feed on a variety of live bait and can be caught using a variety of techniques. To increase your chances of catching a flathead catfish, it’s important to use the right bait and fishing gear and to fish in areas where they are known to feed.

Best Techniques for Catching Flathead Catfish

Selecting the Right Bait

Flathead catfish are known to be opportunistic predators and will feed on a variety of live prey. Some of the best baits for catching flathead catfish include chicken liver, worms, carp, goldfish, and live prey such as bluegill and suckers. Professional anglers swear by chicken livers as they tend to be irresistible to flathead catfish. Cheese and crustaceans like crawfish also make excellent baits.

Choosing the Right Rig

When it comes to catching flathead catfish, the rig you use can make a big difference. The slip sinker rig is a popular choice among catfish anglers as it allows the fish to take the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. Circle hooks are also a great choice as they tend to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, reducing the likelihood of the fish swallowing the hook.

Fishing in the Right Spot

Flathead catfish are known to be bottom dwellers and prefer to hide in caves, under logs, and in other submerged structures. When fishing for flathead catfish, it’s important to fish in the right spot. Look for areas with plenty of cover and structure, such as deep holes, submerged logs, and undercut banks. Dusk is also a prime time for flathead catfish as they tend to be more active during low light conditions.

Timing Your Fishing Trip

Timing your fishing trip can also make a big difference when it comes to catching flathead catfish. It’s important to check local fishing regulations and obtain a fishing permit before heading out. Many states have specific seasons and regulations for catching flathead catfish, so be sure to do your research before heading out. Additionally, flathead catfish tend to be more active during the warmer months, so plan your fishing trip accordingly.

In summary, catching flathead catfish requires selecting the right bait, choosing the right rig, fishing in the right spot, and timing your fishing trip. With the right techniques and a little patience, you can increase your chances of catching these elusive fish.

Tackle and Equipment for Flathead Catfishing

When it comes to flathead catfishing, having the right tackle and equipment can make all the difference in your success. Here are some tips on selecting the right gear for your next flathead catfishing trip.

Selecting the Right Rod and Reel

For flathead catfishing, you’ll need a sturdy rod and reel that can handle the weight and power of these fish. Look for a medium to heavy action rod that is at least 7 feet long. A good reel should have a high gear ratio and a strong drag system.

Choosing the Right Fishing Line

Braided line is a popular choice for flathead catfishing because it is strong and can handle the weight of these fish. Look for a line that is at least 50-80 lb test. Tough tackle is necessary for flathead catfishing, as these fish are strong and can put up a fight.

Using the Right Hooks

When it comes to hooks for flathead catfishing, bigger is usually better. Use a hook that is at least 5/0 in size. Circle hooks are a popular choice for flathead catfishing because they are less likely to be swallowed by the fish.

In addition to these essentials, you may also want to consider using a net to help you land your catch. Look for a net that is at least 3 feet wide and has a long handle. Drop-offs are a good place to find flathead catfish, so be sure to target these areas. Finally, using live bait can be effective for catching flathead catfish. Consider using live bluegill or shad to entice these fish to bite.

With the right tackle and equipment, you’ll be well on your way to catching flathead catfish on your next fishing trip.

Conservation and Ethics

When it comes to catching flathead catfish, it is important to keep in mind the principles of conservation and ethics. These principles ensure that the fish population is sustained for future generations and that the fish is treated humanely.

One of the biggest threats to the flathead catfish population is overfishing. Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than can be replaced through natural reproduction. To prevent overfishing, it is important to follow local fishing regulations and practice catch and release whenever possible. This means releasing the fish back into the water after catching it, instead of keeping it for consumption.

Another aspect of conservation and ethics is the humane treatment of the fish. When catching flathead catfish, it is important to handle the fish with care and avoid causing unnecessary harm. Using barbless hooks, handling the fish gently, and releasing it quickly can all help minimize harm to the fish.

In addition to these principles, it is also important to respect the environment in which the fish live. This means avoiding littering and other forms of pollution that can harm the fish and their habitat. It also means avoiding fishing in areas where the fish are spawning or nesting, as this can disrupt their reproductive cycle.

By following these principles of conservation and ethics, anglers can help ensure that the flathead catfish population remains healthy and sustainable for years to come.

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