I received a call from some of my best friends, saying I needed to get to their house ASAP.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Okay, I know many of you ask yourself, “how do I go about choosing the right taxidermist,” am I correct?
Of course, you could just speak into your phone an say, “taxidermist near me.”
But, that’s not going to tell you what you really need to know.
In this article, I’m going to explain what you should be looking for in a taxidermist that you will be contracting to mount your trophy of a lifetime.
Just like anything else, first impressions are everything. If something doesn’t sound, look or even feel right, always trust your gut.
Questions That Need Answers When Choosing a Taxidermist
The answers to the following questions do not necessarily determine whether a taxidermist is competent or incompetent. However, you might learn enough to know whether or not you feel comfortable enough to risk putting your trophy in that person’s hands.
Is The Taxidermist “Online?”
In this technology-dominated era, one question worth finding out is, does the taxidermist you are considering for your trophy have an internet presence?
These days, almost all legit companies have some sort of online footprint, whether it be a fancy website, or a social media business account. So, do your homework!
What Is Their Contact Information?
Does the taxidermist you are considering have a dedicated business landline? If the answer is no, this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it could be a sign of cutting corners if it is their home phone or a mobile phone only.
Do they have a local area code for their business phone number? If not, it could mean that this person moves a lot, bouncing around and taking deposits and trophies with them and just never changing their contact information.
There are a lot of “here today, gone tomorrow” taxidermists out there. So, be careful!
What Type Of Payments Are Accepted?
A very important question to find out the answer to is, does this taxidermist accept only cash and/or ask for full payment upfront?
Now, you can always expect to pay a deposit before the work is started, but usually 50% is sufficient.
Demanding full payment up front and/or only accepting cash is a big red flag!
Being paid in full could give a taxidermist little incentive to complete your project in a timely manner, or in extreme cases, complete it at all!
Cash only transactions could mean they are hiding, or trying to hide, something from the IRS or the bank. There is no reason to not at least accept a personal check or even credit/debit cards.
If they are running from the IRS, they could easily disappear on you.
Also, make sure you sign a work order or contract with them on the work to be done. This agreement should explain in detail what is expected in the end-product, as well as the deposit paid and balance due. This will help to keep both you and the taxidermist on the same page regarding your requests and desires for your trophy mount.
What To Look For In Quality Taxidermy
Now that we have the business end of the matter out of the way, let’s discuss quality.
There are many levels of quality in taxidermy, just as there are in any other service industry such as home repairs, mechanics, restaurants, lawn care, etc.
Are you looking at getting your buddy that practices taxidermy on the side or as a hobby to mount your trophy whitetail? Or, are you looking a high-end professional job when it is all said and done?
Remember, this is something that you are going to display in your home or office that reminds you of a memory of a special moment in your past. You will be looking at this “piece of art” for the rest of your life. So, think it through.
There are taxidermists out there for everyone’s expectations as well as budgets. But, don’t have high expectations on a low-budget and do not settle for shoddy work when paying premium prices. It’s up to you to determine what you want, and what you are willing to pay for, in your taxidermy work.
Taxidermy Details (There’s More To It Than You Think!)
On to the work itself! Are you looking for standard, what we call “straight out of the box” taxidermy?
Or, are you wanting custom, all the bells and whistles taxidermy, that gives you and your guests the “WOW” factor when walking into the room to see it? Again, this is your decision to make, and it’s your money you are spending.
Some of you may be thinking, “what are the ‘bells and whistles’ in taxidermy? After all, a deer head is a deer head. A life-size bear is a life-size bear, right?”
All taxidermy work is not created equal! For instance, do you want your finished whitetail mount to have a solid jet black nose? Or, do you want to have the nose look realistic and show all the depth and colors that are really in a deer nose (believe it or not a whitetails nose is not solid black)?
Do you want the high-end glass eyes that look alive with white banding and veining detailed into them? Or, do you want generic, solid brown or black plastic eyes, just to fill the void in the mount?
What about your mountain lion or grizzly bear, even something smaller like a fox, bobcat or coyote? Do you want them to look realistic and alive, or look like a cartoon character having a bad day? Because, you can get either one.
These are all things you NEED to discuss beforehand with the taxidermist to make sure he/she can meet your expectations.
Don’t go by the ad they have in a magazine, on a billboard sign with trophies and ribbons in the back ground, or their website covered with competition pieces they have put hundreds of hours into to get those plaques and awards.
Go into the taxidermist’s showroom and view other clientele’s work that is waiting to be picked up. Go view someone else’s mount in their home that has been completed by the taxidermist in question.
You want to see what goes out of the shop on a day-to-day basis and make your decision based on those pieces, as opposed to the ones that were meticulously done with the intent of pleasing a judge at a convention and had professional photographers doing photo shoots for the website or ads.
I’m not saying that the competition pieces are a fluke, but it’s worth questioning whether a taxidermist produces, within reason, the same high quality, eye-pleasing work for everyday customers.
More To Consider
There are some more things to consider when choosing the taxidermist you would like to handle your work.
What Is Their Niche?
All taxidermist have their niche. They may not admit it, but they do.
So, just because taxidermist (A) does an awesome job on your trophy mule deer from your Wyoming hunt last fall, do not automatically assume he/she will do a high-quality job on that largemouth bass or giant catfish you just caught out of your private farm pond, or that beautiful pintail drake you harvested back in the winter on that frigid coastal morning you’ll never forget. You very well may need to get taxidermist (B) and maybe even taxidermist (C) involved to take care of these projects for you.
Also, you do not have to settle for the local guy if his work is not up to your standards. Trophies are shipped all around the world daily, so don’t think you are limited to a certain area.
When Your Trophy Is Not In Your Town
If you are planning an out of state or even out of the country hunt, and you are using a taxidermist in your hometown, check with them to see about expediting your skins, trophy antlers and/or horns back to you, or to the taxidermy shop, BEFORE you leave for the hunt. They should know all the ins and outs of taking care of these sort of things.
Likewise, if you are using a taxidermist local to where you will be hunting, inquire about the cost and process of getting your trophies back home before you leave them. Failing to find out the answer to this question could cost you big money, or even worse, the loss of your mounts.
Turnaround time to get your work back is another big issue for most hunters and taxidermists alike.
Always ask when you can expect to get your trophies back. Keep in mind it is an estimated time frame.
So many things can happen between drop-off and pick-up that are out of the control of both parties. For example, work load, illness, weather, family issues, can all affect turnaround time.
No one wants to hear excuses for why something doesn’t go as planned, but if your taxidermist gives you a completion time of six months, don’t call them at the four month mark asking, “Hey, just checking on the progress…” Give them the six months you agreed upon.
Likewise, if he/she gives you a one-year turnaround time frame (and you don’t have a problem with it), and a year goes by without an update, by all means give them a follow up call and they should be able to give you a much more accurate completion time at that point.
If the turnaround time is an issue for you and you would like to get it back sooner, most taxidermists offer a rush service, and for an extra fee will jump your project in front of others and give you a certain pick-up date for the extra charge.
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to choose the right person for your taxidermy job. Just like the time and money you put into your hunting food plots, equipment, traveling, scouting and guide services, you should also expect to put that same effort into your search for the right taxidermist for the trophies you harvest and would like to mount. The animal deserves that from you.
Today, you can flip on the Outdoor Channel and see all sorts of activities. From bass fishing to buck hunting, the new age of technology has done wonders for the outdoor community via television and online streaming.
More money and notoriety continue to flood these sports which when coupled with new-age platforms, allows content creators like LunkersTV, John B, Lojo Fishing, and many more to reach audiences one would have never thought possible until recently.
Education Via YouTube
In the early 2000s, most people were only going to discover hunting or fishing was if their family member or friend introduced them to it.
Now, you can type “fishing” into the YouTube search bar and learn all about traditional and lesser-known types of fishing from scratch within hours. This opens up an entirely new world of possibilities for kids who aren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the great outdoors.
While these are certainly exciting times in the outdoor industry, one outdoor sport has been slower to gain an online identity… bowfishing.
This is not to say that bowfishing content isn’t accessible, but the people who are primarily posting online content about it are hunters and bass fishermen who try to shake things up for their fans while enjoying the occasional bowfishing outing.
While many of these content creators do a great job, the sport is really missing its own creators dedicated solely to bowfishing, just as there are many YouTubers, bloggers, and podcasters dedicated to bass fishing or deer hunting.
This could be due to stereotypes that often plague the sport, or simply because no one has taken that leap of faith yet into uncharted territory.
Why Bowfishing Will Thrive
So, let’s talk about why bowfishing has a bright future and why it should thrive online.
If you’ve heard about or seen videos of bowfishing, but aren’t familiar with the sport, you may be thinking “It’s far too barbaric to last; especially as society’s attitudes shift.”
However, bowfishing is better prepared to survive than it may seem at first glance.
The younger audience is alive and well
Most of the pictures submitted to us are from kids who are still in high school or are recently graduated.
“Okay, so we know people can do it, but it’s just so brutal. I mean, modern media can handle hooking some fish, but we are much more environmentally sensitive now, right?”
We are certainly more environmentally sensitive than in the past. But, that’s exactly why bowfishing can find acceptance.
Many of the fish we shoot are invasive species that pose a threat to the balance of the ecosystem. Even many of the other “non-invasive” targeted fish need some level of population control so that the “game fish” we all love to reel in can thrive.
Much like with deer hunting, bowfishing can serve as a means of maintaining balance in our waterways. Since bowfishing can be a powerful tool for conservation, there are not many restrictions in place currently pertaining to the number of fish one can shoot. This is something we think people could get behind and support, or at least accept out of necessity.
“Okay, so if bowfishing can grow with the times, and has a built-in future generation of capable participants, why can’t we just leave it be and hope this will be enough to carry the sport?”
In the early 2000s, bass fishing was doing well, but there was a pretty clear divide between recreational participants and its professionals.
Instead of being a passion that someone could pursue, it was deemed more of a hobby for country folk after a hard day at work or in school.
But, then YouTube came along, and before you know it, content creators emerged from the woodwork and took the sport by storm. Many individuals from different walks of life took up the sport. (Remember what we said about archery being one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S? Well, bass fishing is right there as well, thanks to these YouTubers and many others in the sport).
Sponsors have taken notice of this trend, and more attention is on the sport than ever before. Many of the tournaments can be watched on a live-feed, and before you know it, we are going to have a generation of kids that saw fishing for the first time on a phone screen.
Just like traditional fishing and hunting exposure has grown with the rise of social media, bowfishing will continue to grow as the outdoor community continues to be exposed to the sport.
But, regardless of how fast bowfishing may grow during this generation, we must be careful not to lose that peaceful connection with the outdoors that makes it so special in the 21st century.