Flathead Catfish

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  • Flathead Catfish : (Pylodictis olivaris)
    Native to the lower Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin. Introduced into Arizona in 1940's. Back and sides mottled, dark-brown to yellow-brown; belly is yellowish-white. Head is broad and flat with small eyes. Large mouth, lower jaw projecting beyond the upper jaw. Adipose fin is large. Tail fin is flat or slightly notched. Length: 12 to 52 inches. Weight: 1 to 65 pounds. The max age is over 20 years.

    Location and Habitat
    Found in the lower Colorado River near Yuma, Gila River, Salt River, Verde River systems and reservoirs. Found near cover, in deeper, slower moving pools of rivers. Often congregate in swift water below dams to feed on live fish. In lakes, prefer to utilize river channels.


    Flatheads spawn in spring or early summer, building nests in caves, depressions under rocks or undercut banks. Will migrate upriver from reservoirs to spawn in deeper river pools. The eggs are gelatinous and they cling together in an adhesive mass on the bottom. The eggs are vigorously guarded and defended by the male. During incubation and hatching the male will agitate the egg mass to help circulation.

    Young flatheads (up to ten inches) eat insects and crayfish, switching to a fish diet as they grow older. Typically solitary, territorial and prefer to lie quietly, ambushing their prey, rather than foraging actively. Flatheads feed heavily at night.

    Live sunfish, carp and waterdogs fished close to the bottom of deep pools or in swift water below a dam is effective. Smaller flatheads can be caught with worms and chicken liver. Make sure to read the fishing regulations for special instructions about the use of live bait fish.

    Table Quality
    The meat is white, firm, flaky and has a good flavor. During summer months, meat may taste a bit muddy. Fish steaks can be cut from the larger flatheads.

    Information from The Arizona Game and Fish Department.

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