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Alex Horsman

Alex Horsman is a Southern boy and proud of it. It was in America’s heartland that Alex learned how to hunt, fish and practice basic survival skills. (Cue up Hank Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive,” and you’ll get a pretty good picture of Alex’s upbringing). Alex studied Economics and Business at the University of Missouri.
brittany jill holding flathead catfish

Get To Know The Flathead Catfish

I received a call from some of my best friends, saying I needed to get to their house ASAP.

aly from alabama holding flathead catfish
Flathead catfish can grow to enormous sizes, like this one, held by Aly Hall.

When I pulled into the driveway a few minutes later, I saw one of the biggest fish of my life lying in front of the garage.

They had noodled a flathead catfish that weighed 50 lbs!

The mind blowing thing about the situation is that they didn’t even break the record for the biggest flathead catfish to be brought out of our local lake.

So, as you can imagine, flathead catfish can grow to incredible sizes and weights.

How Big Do Flathead Catfish Get?

Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) are the second largest species of catfish in North America (second to the blue catfish).

Flatheads have several other nicknames such as shovelhead cats, yellow catfish, mud cats, Opelousa Catfish, Opp, Appaloosa Catfish, App, and Pied cats. They are also sometimes referred to as goujan, appaluchion, and johnnie cats.

According to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife, the flathead catfish got their name due to their broad and flat-looking heads. They have a lower jaw that protrudes and a tail that is slightly forked.

The back and sides of a flathead catfish range from pale yellow to light brown and have splotches ranging from dark brown to black. They have a yellow-ish and/or cream-colored belly.

“Pylodictis” is Greek for “mud fish” and “olivaris” is Latin for “olive-colored.”

According to the International Game and Fish Association, the world record flathead catfish weighed 123 lbs. It was caught in the Elk City Reservoir near Independence, Kansas.

Compared to other popular game fish species such as bass, crappie or bream, flathead catfish are enormous. For example, the Kansas state record for largemouth bass is just 11 lbs 12.8 ounces.

Due to their enormous growth potential, it’s easy to see why fishermen love trying to catch monster flatheads.

Why Fish for Flatheads?

Fishing for catfish is extremely fun and easy to learn. Unlike many other styles of fishing, catfishing doesn’t require a ton of gear.

Flatheads put up a solid fight and they taste great! When you’re in desperate need of a meal, catfish are an outstanding food source.

Ideally, when fishing for food, smaller fish are preferred. However, large flathead catfish can provide you with several meals and not forfeit the quality of flavor.

Catfish can be caught using a variety of tactics which means the potential to have more opportunities to consistently catch fish. Check out some of the methods below!

Flatheads put up a great fight, especially if you’re in a kayak!

How to Fish for Flathead Catfish

There are a vast number of ways to fish for flatheads. Fishing regulations vary from state to state on how you can legally catch flathead catfish, so be sure to check your state’s regulations before you try a new technique.

  • Rod and reel: When we think of fishing, this is typically what we picture in our minds. Using a rod and reel, fishing line, weights, hooks, swivels, and bait. Cast out a line, put a hook N1, and reel in the fish. No boat required!
  • Bank poles: Using a bank pole is a great option when you don’t have a boat. You will need PVC, fiberglass, or similar material for the pole. The line length will be determined by where you are fishing, as well as what weights, hooks, swivels, and bait you want to use. Tie the line to the pole and find the ideal spot to push the pole(s) into the bank and let the line out. Sit back and let the fish find the bait!
  • Limb lines: Making a limb line is pretty simple and can lead to catching lots of catfish. You need line, weights, hooks, swivels, bait, and a boat. The length of the line will depend on the depth of the water you plan to fish. Keeping your bait just off the bottom is ideal. Find a strong limb overhanging the water where catfish are known to be and tie the line to the limb. Now relax and wait! Check your limb lines every couple hours!
  • Trotline: Trotlines are similar to limb lines, in that you are typically tying the line to a couple of trees. Stretch the line to whatever length you need to be able to tie it to a couple of trees or anchor points. Tie on drop leaders and swivels about 3 feet apart. Then, attach hooks, weights, and bait. Find a couple of solid anchor points and tie each end of the line to them and wait!
  • Jugs: You will need a boat for this technique as well. You can use old jugs, pool noodles for “jug fishing.” There are also companies that manufacture ready-to-use products for this type of fishing. Tie a line to the jug (the length will be determined by the depth of water you are in). Then, tie a weight and hook to the line and place the bait on the hook. Find the best spot possible to place the jugs and get after it!
  • Noodling (hand-fishing): This is how my friends caught that 50 lb monster flathead cat. Very little equipment is needed. However, bravery and strength is a must! Find an underwater hole or overhang where flathead catfish will nest and shove your hand into the hole. If there is a fish in the hole, you will feel it, or it will bite your hand. When it bites your hand grab ahold of its lower jaw and pull it out of the hole. Watch out catfish are extremely slippery. Be sure you have a good grip on the fish or it will get away!
Noodling, or hand fishing, is one way to catch big flatheads. Are you brave enough to try it!
spencer hardin holding big flathead catfish
Flathead catfish are a favorite among many fisherman (like Spencer Hardin here), especially in the eastern U.S.

What Do Flatheads Eat?

Flathead catfish are opportunistic feeders. Like other species of catfish, they will scavenge for their meals. However, they prefer to ambush smaller live fish such as shad, crappie, sunfish, white bass, etc.

Flatheads are aggressive and will eat just about anything that they can fit into their mouth. Small flatheads will eat worms, crawfish, insects, and minnows.

When choosing a bait to use to catch a flathead, try to use common baitfish or chunks of baitfish. Shrimp, chicken liver, and other stink baits often work. Since they prefer live food, try to stick with using live bait.

Flathead catfish themselves do not have many predators to speak of, but other fish will eat young catfish as well as some fish-eating birds.

Where Do They Live?

The Texas Parks & Wildlife states that flathead catfish prefer deep, slow-moving pools of murky water during the day. At night, they will move up into shallower water to feed.

They are typically found at the mouths of creeks, rivers, in lakes, and below lake dams. Flatheads hide under cover such as sunken trees and underwater overhangs where they can ambush their next meal.

Flatheads are found throughout the Mississippi River watershed and the lower Great Lakes.

Many fishermen across the eastern half of the United States target flathead catfish. Because they are fun to catch and also adapt well, they have been introduced into bodies of water where they are not native and have begun to hurt populations of other species of fish.

Flathead lifespan

The Texas Parks and Wildlife also states that the average lifespan of flathead catfish is 12 to 24 years, although there has been a flathead that lived for 24 years.

Flatheads spawning begins in the Spring as water temperatures rise. The month can vary depending on location, as bodies of water that are further South would typically warm sooner than those further North. Spawning months range from April all the way to even August in some cooler locations.

Final Thoughts

If you have never taken the opportunity to catch a flathead, you are missing out. Catching a catfish is always a thrill and doesn’t require an enormous amount of gear.

You can be at your local lake, river, creek, or pond catching catfish in no time at all. After reading this article, you now have some basic knowledge and understanding of flathead catfish and how to catch one for dinner tonight! Head to the water and get fishing… I hope you Put A Hook N1!

man holding duck hunting shotgun

Choosing The Best Duck Hunting Shotgun | 3 Things To Consider

No worse feeling exists in the sport of waterfowl hunting than pulling up to dust a flock of mallards and then… your gun misfires.

I’ve been in that frustrating situation before and I don’t want you to experience the pain I did. 

So, how exactly can you keep this from happening?

Well, it begins with the firearm you select. I’m not here to push one brand over another, but rather to help you find the gun and gauge that best fits you so you can go with it.

What exactly is shotgun “fit?” Scroll down and watch the video near the end of the article to find out!

Does price matter?

dead geese and duck
At the end of the hunt, you want a shotgun that has performed as expected, hopefully resulting in a successful harvest.

I’ve hunted with guys who bought the latest and greatest shotgun on the market only to watch them miss every duck that decoyed. I’ve also hunted with guys who were shooting a “pawn shop special” and they absolutely slaughtered every duck within a mile radius.

So, what was the difference?

Well, one group of guys thought the expensive gun would make them a good shot. The other group knew they needed a gun that they were extremely comfortable shooting in several different conditions.

Simply put, the best shotgun is the one you are most comfortable using.

But how do you figure that out?

Which type of shotgun fits your hunting style?

There are three main types of shotguns. The most popular is the semi-auto, followed by the pump-action, and the over-under. They all come in different gauges and all are solid choices when it comes to waterfowl hunting. I have personally hunted with all three for at least one season each. As I hunted with each, I found there are pros and cons to all.

I prefer to hunt with a 12-gauge shotgun, regardless of the type of shotgun I am shooting. But, enough about me, let’s look at three critical factors in determining the best shotgun for ducks and waterfowl.

The three criteria I used to determine the best type of duck hunting shotgun are as follows:

  • Dependability: How unlikely it is to malfunction in different weather conditions?
  • Ruggedness: How much abuse can it take from being tossed in the back of a truck and dragged through mud all season long?
  • Amount of birds in the blind: That should be pretty self-explanatory. If I was able to shoot more birds with it, I hunted with the firearm more often!

The Most Dependable Shotgun

shotgun and decoy
Part of having a dependable gun is knowing it won’t jam or misfire.

As far as dependability goes, an over-under is going to fire every time the trigger is pulled. A pump-action is going to fire basically every time, as well. The weather conditions are not prone to affect the firing capabilities of an over-under or pump-action.

The semi-automatic shotgun is a different story.

As long as they are clean and lightly oiled in warm conditions, a semi-automatic works great! However, in my experience, when the cold weather hits, semi-auto shotguns tend to become finicky. So, when I need a gun that is dependable, I hunt with a pump-action or an over-under. 

12 gauge shotgun shells
Shotgun types come in different gauges… my personal favorite is the 12-gauge.

The Most Rugged Shotgun

Ruggedness, once again, goes to an over-under or a pump-action. The over-under has so few moving parts that make it such a rugged gun. Now, this does not apply if your over-under is a gun that only comes out of the gun safe to get oiled and then gently placed back in its place. 

The over-under I used was as basic as they are made, perfect for the tough conditions I hunt. A pump-action has a few more moving parts, but in my experience hunting with one, they are just as rugged as an over-under.

The semi-auto shotguns I hunted with were not as rugged as I had hoped they would be, but in recent years semi-auto shotguns have made tremendous strides in ruggedness. 

The Most Deadly Shotgun

The most critical factor is the number of birds the firearm helps bring down cleanly.

semi automatic shotgun and black lab
Semi-automatic shotguns give you the ability to fire 3 shots rapidly, but may also lead the shooter to rush the shot.

The semi-auto shotguns are outstanding when I need to fire off all three shots quickly, but I have a tendency to rush my shot. That is my fault, not the firearm!

When hunting with a pump-action, I am forced to slow down just enough to be much more accurate and add more birds to my limit.

The over-under shotgun I hunted with drastically fell short because it lacked the third shot I was familiar with. My friend, Jason Cruise, claims the third shot is a wasted shot more often than not.

I would disagree.

Yes, many times by the third shot, the birds are out of range. However, when the ducks are back-flapping in your face, that third shot is a huge advantage. Every hunt I am on, I will consistently shoot all three shells in a single volley. When I hunted with my over-under, I desperately missed having that third shot. 

So, what exactly is “shotgun fit” and how do you get the right fit for you? Check out this video to find out.

And, the best shotgun type is…

As I mentioned above, all three shotgun types have their pros and cons. However the one that stands out the most is the 12 gauge pump-action shotgun.

The pump-action shotgun is a workhorse. It is not anything fancy but it consistently gets the job done. Time after time, adding birds to the limit. No matter the weather conditions, a pump-action shotgun will deliver what it promises… three shells. 

Why the Pump-Action Shotgun is the Best

The reasons I choose to hunt with a pump-action shotgun over the other two styles are because a pump-action is typically more dependable than a semi-auto, it is extremely rugged, and I shoot more birds with a pump-action than an over-under. 

I admit I am extremely tough on my gear. So, I need a firearm that will hold up to the abuse, enduring throughout the season. A pump-action shotgun does this for me more consistently than the other two styles. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t bring my other guns on a shoot or two during the season. I love shooting my semi-auto when the weather permits and my over-under has become my turkey hunting shotgun. 

Whether you are just getting into duck hunting or waterfowl hunting has been a lifestyle for a while now, a pump-action shotgun is a tool that won’t let you down.

Before purchasing any firearm, do your research. I would recommend not only reading the online reviews, but also getting your hands on the gun you intend to buy prior to buying it. This ensures that it fits you well and you are more than comfortable handling it.

Buying a firearm is a big purchase, don’t rush into it. Take your time and choose the best shotgun for you

*All photos used by permission from Brad Alan

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