How Big Do Flathead Catfish Get? Here’s What You Should Know

Are you curious about the size of flathead catfish? Whether you’re a beginner fisherman or an experienced angler, understanding the size of this species is essential.

In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about how big flathead catfish can get, from the largest specimens ever caught to the average size of the fish.

Read on to learn more about this fascinating species and why size matters!

How Big Do Flathead Catfish Get?

Flathead catfish, scientifically known as Pylodictis olivaris, are some of the largest freshwater fish found in North America.

Native to large river systems in the eastern and central United States, as well as parts of Canada, Mexico and Central America, they can reach an average size of 4-6 lbs, with some growing up to 50 lbs.

The record goes to a 123 lb specimen caught in 1998 in Kansas.

Flathead catfish are a long-lived species, with some reaching up to 30 years of age.

As they age, they tend to get bigger and heavier, with the oldest one on record being 41 years old and 86 lbs in weight.

These fish are usually brownish in color, with a flattened head and a slender body.

They possess sharp teeth, making them effective predators of other fish, frogs and crayfish, as well as some insects and crustaceans.

Due to their size and predatory nature, flathead catfish are an important species for many North American fisheries, and their increasing popularity among recreational anglers makes them a great challenge.

What Do Flathead Catfish Eat?

Flathead catfish are opportunistic feeders with a diverse diet.

They mainly feed on bottom-dwelling organisms such as crayfish, insects, clams, mussels, snails, small fish, and other aquatic invertebrates.

They also consume frogs, turtles, snakes, and other vertebrates.

Flathead catfish are nocturnal feeders and use their highly sensitive barbels (whiskers) to detect prey in the dark.

Then, they crush their prey with their powerful jaws before swallowing it whole.

In addition to their carnivorous diet, these fish are also omnivorous and can be found eating vegetation and algae.

They may also take advantage of food sources around human populations, such as baitfish and other items thrown away by people.

Flathead catfish are also known to scavenge, though this behavior is rare.

They are mainly active hunters, adapting well to life in a variety of aquatic habitats, including rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

How Big Do Blue Catfish Get?

Blue catfish are one of the largest freshwater fish in North America.

Native to the Mississippi River basin, they can be found in other rivers, lakes, and reservoirs across the United States.

On average, they measure 3-5 feet long and can weigh up to 82 pounds.

The largest recorded blue catfish, caught in South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Reservoir, weighed in at a whopping 124 pounds!

Blue catfish are opportunistic feeders, typically dining on smaller fish, crayfish, and other aquatic life.

They prefer shallow, muddy waters, though they can also be found in farm ponds.

Their size is dependent on their age and the environment they live in.

Warmer, nutrient-rich waters tend to produce larger catfish, which can live up to 20 years and keep growing in the right conditions.

Due to their popularity among anglers, state regulations have been put in place to protect blue catfish.

In some states, the minimum size limit for keeping them is 20 inches and the daily creel limit is two fish per day.

This helps to ensure the species’ population remains healthy and provides a recreational opportunity for fishers.

Overall, blue catfish are an incredible species that can grow to be quite large.

With the proper environment and management, anglers can enjoy the challenge of catching these impressive fish for many years to come.

Where Did Flathead Catfish Come From?

Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) are native to the Mississippi River Basin in North America, extending into the eastern half of the United States and parts of Canada.

They inhabit rivers, creeks, small streams, and sometimes lakes in depths from one to ten feet, preferring clear to lightly stained water with moderate to swift current and rocky or sandy bottoms.

Flathead catfish are solitary creatures that feed mainly at night, consuming other fish, crayfish, insects, and aquatic plants.

They spawn in the summer when the water temperatures reach 70F.

These fish are important to the ecology of rivers, helping to regulate the populations of other fish.

They are also an important food source for people living in the regions where they are found and targeted by recreational and commercial anglers for their delicate flavor.

How Big Do Channel Catfish Get?

Channel catfish can reach impressive sizes, with a typical range from 12 to 24 inches in length and two to four pounds in weight.

However, with the right conditions, they can grow much bigger – the world record for the largest channel catfish caught on rod and reel was 58 pounds and 41 inches long, caught in South Carolina in 1964.

These fish typically inhabit large rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

In the Great Lakes area they can reach up to 33 inches and 25 pounds in weight, while in the Mississippi River basin they can reach even larger sizes of up to 40 inches in length and 40 pounds in weight.

Their growth rate depends on the environment they live in – in areas with plenty of food and ideal conditions, they can reach their maximum size in four to five years, while in areas with a lack of food or extreme weather conditions, they can take up to eight years.

Channel catfish are an incredibly hardy species and can live for an average of 10 to 15 years.

How Did The Flathead Catfish Get To The United States?

The flathead catfish, native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico, is believed to have been introduced to the western United States in the early 1900s through fish stocking efforts of state and federal agencies.

In the 1970s, anglers released the species into the wild, having acquired them from fish farms and hatcheries.

The flathead catfish is an opportunistic omnivore that can survive in a variety of waters and habitats.

As a result, its range and distribution are expanding.

This species has also spread to new waters in the western United States due to illegal stocking and introduction of baitfish.

The flathead catfish has become a popular gamefish throughout the United States, due to its large size and aggressive feeding behavior.

Anglers can easily catch it using jigging, trolling, or fly-fishing.

However, the flathead catfish can become a nuisance species due to its ability to overpopulate and out-compete other species.

It has become a major invasive species throughout the United States, damaging native fish populations.

It is believed that the species has become established in many waters due to the dumping of baitfish, intentional stocking, and release from aquaculture facilities.

Given the flathead catfish’s ability to tolerate a wide range of conditions, it is likely to continue to spread throughout the United States.

Therefore, anglers should be aware of its potential to become a nuisance, and practice responsible angling techniques to reduce its spread.

Where Are Flathead Catfish Invasive?

Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) are an invasive species that have been found in many areas of the world, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

These catfish are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins, but have been introduced to other rivers and lakes in these countries.

In certain places, they have become a major issue, out-competing native fish and disrupting the local ecosystem.

In the United States, Flathead catfish have been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Additionally, they have been spotted in the Great Lakes region of Canada and in Mexico.

Flathead catfish are particularly damaging to native fish populations in the south-central US, where they consume smaller fish and prey on the eggs of some of the most common species in the area.

As a result, some states have implemented regulations to prevent the release of flathead catfish into waters outside of their native range.

However, the introduction of flathead catfish to new areas is still occurring due to individuals unknowingly releasing them from aquariums or using them as bait.

Therefore, it is critical to be aware of the potential risks of releasing non-native species into new ecosystems.

Final Thoughts

Flathead catfish are an exciting species for anglers, as they can reach impressive sizes.

The biggest flathead catfish ever caught was an astonishing 123 pounds! However, the average size of the fish is much smaller.

Knowing the size of flathead catfish can help you make the most of your fishing trips and increase your chances of a successful catch.

So if you’re looking to catch a trophy flathead catfish, make sure you brush up on your knowledge of this species’ size and put it to use the next time you go fishing!


James is a creative and imaginative individual. He loves to write and express himself through the written word. He is also a passionate pet fish owner, caring for and nurturing his fish with great enthusiasm.

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