Flathead catfish are a species of catfish native to North America. Known scientifically as Pylodictus olivaris, the flathead catfish can be found in the waters of much of the interior portion of the United States from Minnesota to Texas and much of the Southern area. It has also been introduced into other locations such as Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Southern California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming,Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina.
The flathead catfish has a smooth, scaleless body that is an olive brown to light yellow color with a darker brown speckling of spots or blotches along its back and sides. It is distinguished from other catfish species by the shape of its head which is much flatter on the top and a protruding lower jaw. It also has a much more squared tail or caudal fin than other species such as the channel catfish, which has a forked tail. The flathead catfish also possesses four barbels and spiny fins, similar to other catfish. The typical size range is 18-24 inches long with a weight of 30 pounds. Older specimens have been measured at 3-4 feet long and can weigh up to 100 pounds.
Flathead catfish can be found in slow moving streams, rivers, lakes, and resevoirs and prefer to stay near the bottom where they like to hide under large rocks, logs, and holes in the ground. This type of catfish is a carnivorous predator rather than a scavenger and will prey on other fish that pass by that are detected using their barbels.They are not discriminatory and will eat what ever they can catch. Young flathead catfish eat insects, crustaceans, and other invertebrates and are also the prey of larger fish.
Introduced populations of flathead catfish are becoming a threat to native fish that the catfish prey upon. In North Carolina and Georgia, introduced flathead catfish are responsible for the reduced numbers of native species such as the bullhead catfish, redbreast sunfish, shad, crayfish, and American eel. Anglers who fish in areas where the flathead catfish are becoming a problem are asked to retain all flathead catfish that are caught, regardless of size, and not to release them back into the water.
In Alabama, where it is native, flathead catfish is a favorite fish to eat. At one point, it was estimated that over 30,000 pounds of flathead catfish were harvested from the Mobile Delta and Tombigbee River in 1981. Like other types of catfish, flathead catfish can be cooked in an assortment of methods. The meat is said to be white and firm with a mild taste.