Fishing Flathead Catfish
There are several species of catfish, but today let's talk about one, FLATHEADS. This fish as it's name implies, has a flat looking head that is very unique. If you were to lay them and a channel cat side by side you can see the main 2 differences ( the head is flatter and the color is more of a brown.) The meat of a Flathead is also very white compared to that of a channel cat. Most people will tell you it is milder than channel also. Some believe the reason for this is Flathead prefers live bait, where as the Channel cat is a scavenger feeder. Now that we have that out of the way, let me try to give you a few pointers on catching these monsters of the river. Flatheads like the same areas as the rest of the catfish family but with a few exceptions. Like I said earlier they prefer live bait, but they tend to be a lazy fish. With that in mind, we look for areas that lazy fish can lay in wait for live bait to come by. Most rivers have dams all of them are there to keep water back and keep the depth for river traffic. Bait fish coming thru the dam get stunned, disoriented a little or even injured. This makes them easy prey for the Flathead. So below the dam is the place you look for them. Remember to stay 300 feet below as the currents are horrible closer and it is also illegal as well as dangerous there. Always wear a life jacket here. Somewhere downstream (usually about 400 feet) is a pocket of deeper water. This creates a deep pool from water coming thru dam. When the water starts to come to normal river depth the bait fish like to hang there. Using your depth finder find that spot anchor above and fish into the base of the ledge. Flatheads prefer what they find in the water they live in. I know some use small carp or shad (4 to 7 inches ). I prefer Bluegill, Bullhead at about 4 to 6 inches, which I catch in the backwaters. I also my Schrock Flathead rig with a 1 ½ oz up to 3 oz weight. That way the bait can swim but not a long ways or hold sinker off bottom very long. All my rigs have sinker slides that make it easy to change weight as needed. My Schrock rigs come with Schrock weights and Sinker slides. My Flathead rigs have 7/0 Eagle Claw Kahle hooks and Eagle Claw swivels with 20 lbs test Trilene. I prefer to hook my bait thru the lips from bottom to top, this keeps trying to swim against the current and lets be easy pray for the flat head. This one spot to try. Another spot is structure exposed or just below water. These can be tricky as snags are possible but they always hold fish, Flatheads like to cruise around structure looking for bait fish or just lay in wait. I always anchor when fishing Flatheads on up stream side of structure. That way you line can go into area where they are, using same system because my Schrock Flathead Rigs allow the fish to bite not feeling the resistance of weight or line. Use the same bait as above, shad will also work here.
When fishing structure a lot of times they are brush piles exposed or maybe not. These also ver good at night fish above or on outside edges as Flatties will slowly cruise these at night looking for an easy meal. Fishing at night can be dangerous so always keep your anchor light and navigation lights on while out at night. A yellow lense flashlight is also nice because it does not attract bugs. On the Mississippi River we have rocky wingdams all along both side of river these are used to direct current into main channel. Just above at the base is a good place to start, or you can anchor on wingdam and fish below it in the deep pocket bot are excellent places. Another place that is excellent ins the outside edge of these where the current is flow around end. Anchor above the outside edge as where the water flows around the end there is a pocket of still water, and these bad boys like to hang there. Now when I anchor for these guys I always use a reel with a bait clicker. I have three I like. Cat Maxx-CMX3000B on a Cat Maxx on a CAX70MHT 7ft rod, Bass Pro shop combo, The Next is a Abu Garcia ambassadeur 6500-C3 reel on a Berkley Pro Signature PSB 16-6ft Med.Heavy Casting rod. And Finally the Shimano TR200-G reel on a Bass Pro Brawler BRL66MT 6ft 6inch medium action rod. All three have the bait clicker option which I use when anchored. What feature does is when a fish takes line it clicks. On my Flatheads a lot of time they take line in short burst about 3 times then I take it out of rod holder and wait for the line to get tight and set the hook like your life depends on it. The other bite you get is they take it don't stop till you set the hook. With these monsters when you set the hook hang on. HAPPY HOOKING
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