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!
“I stuck my hand down in this hole and pulled out a giant catfish.”
If you’ve ever heard about noodling for catfish, you might wonder what in the world might possess someone to stick their hand into a dark hole and hope something latches on.
Or, maybe you’ve never even heard of noodling before now.
So, what exactly is “noodling?” Well, it’s basically catching a fish with your bare hands.VIDEOS BELOW…
Some call it hand fishing. Some call it grabbling (or grabblin) or hogging, and of course, some call it noodling.
Even though noodling might seem scary at first, it can be fun like you’ve never experienced when you #putahandN1!
We’ll talk more about how you do it later on in the article… But first, some photos of some flathead catfish caught while noodling…
So, Can I Go Noodling For Catfish In My State?
You may have watched these videos and read the stories on this page and said, “There’s no way I’m ever doing that!” But, you might love experiencing the thrill of catching a catfish with your bare hands and wonder, “Is noodling legal in my state?”
If you live in one of the following 16 states, you may be ready to put a hand N1! (But, be sure to check your local game laws for legality and restrictions on noodling for catfish.)
You can click on your home state name below to find out what the catfish noodling laws are where you live.Also, be sure to watch the incredible noodling videos further down the page!
If you want to see pure outdoor joy, watch these catfish noodling videos below of our friends, Andrew Urban and Luke-Avery Urban and “Aly from Alabama” as they noodle some huge catfish! The videos below will make you smile… we promise!
After watching these, you’ll understand why we decided it was time for us to try noodling (be sure and read about that trip below!) You can also read about some other noodling adventures and learn about some other interesting names for noodling and how to try it yourself!
MORE NOODLING VIDEOS BELOW THAT YOU WONT BELIEVE…
Another Monster Catfish Noodling Video Moment
In this noodling video, Andrew’s brother, Luke Avery-Urban, puts a hand N1! Check out this incredible catfish noodling video!
(Luke-Avery’s Catfish Noodling Moment video transcript below)
“Luke’s under there. He’s got a fish hitting. Let’s see what he’s got. Whoo! Yeah baby! Yeah baby! C’mon… c’mon. I got you. Who’s your daddy?”
“It’s a big, big fish. It’s a big blue, I think. Or, a good size flat. It bit me good. It’s got to be a blue.
I can’t get my hand in its gill. I wish you could feel this fish right now. Can’t tell what’s going on.
It just swallowed my whole hand! My whole hand is in its stomach. It’s starting to go crazy.
That’s big blue. I didn’t even think it was a blue. It swallowed my whole hand like that.
It stinks! She’s a stinky one.”
So, How Can I Learn to Noodle A Catfish?
You’ve seen some incredible videos and pictures of people noodling. So, after watching and reading about it, do you want to learn to Put A Hand N1? Read below for a step-by-step noodling tutorial!
How to noodle for catfish:
Always have at least one person in the water with you, spotting you, when you noodle for catfish. Noodling can sometimes require you to go under water and holding your breath. Don’t overestimate your ability to hold your breath. Also, catfish are extremely powerful fish, so be sure you don’t underestimate their strength. You may also want to wear gloves to protect your hands. They bite hard!
Find where they’re hiding…
Check under boat ramps on holes in the bank. Some people also noodle in man-made boxes that have been submerged to attract catfish during the spawn. You can use a stick to probe in the holes. If there’s a catfish in the hole, it will often bite the stick with a distinct “thud.”
Stick your hand in the hole
This can be the most unnerving part of noodling. Be sure to keep your 4 fingers together so you don’t break a finger unnecessarily (see picture below!) Slowly move your hand around in the hole and get ready to get bit!
Once the catfish bites your hand try to close your hand, grabbing its lower jaw. Once you get a grip on it, try pulling it from the hole. Once you are able, slip your other hand up under the catfish’s gil plate (see picture below). This helps prevent the catfish from “rolling” and getting away. The roll is very powerful, so don’t neglect this step. On larger fish, you may want to wrap your legs around its tail to lock it up.
There’s nothing like the rush of noodling. You’ll be able to handle this step with no problem! And be sure to shout, “Put A Hand N1!”
What Do Other People Say About Noodling?
Check out some quotes below about catfish noodling from some people you may have seen on social media catching huge catfish with their bare hands!
“I love noodling because there isn’t anything that can prepare you for it. Every aspect of noodling is based on your ability to conquer your own fears — you can’t prepare yourself and you can’t practice. There is a level of surprise that is untouched in any other sport or hobby, and the adrenaline rush is absolutely incredible.”
Aly “Aly from Alabama” Schreiber
“Noodling challenges me every time and the feeling of conquering fear is absolutely addicting!”
“There’s just something about the adrenaline rush of going into a hole blind, but expecting to get bit every time! That’s what I noticed the first time I tried it a 12 years old! From the first bite of a little 3 lb blue cat, I was hooked on that adrenaline rush! It’s become something of a passion for me, not just a hobby at this point! Couldn’t really see myself going back to not doing it at this point!”
“It’s just the adrenaline you get from getting on a big fish, and the experience of having fun while doing it. But it all comes down to putting a hand N1 and that’s what I love the most!”
What Is Noodling Anyway?
Watching catfish noodling videos like the ones above from the Urban brothers and Aly from Alabama made me want to put a hand N1 too! What was it about sticking your hand into dark holes where you couldn’t see anything and hoping something huge would bite your hand?
We weren’t sure what the buzz was all about, but we were fascinated to find out what it was like to get bit.
So, we scheduled our first noodling trip with Luke-Avery Urban on Clarks Hill lake in Lincolton, Georgia.
Luke-Avery was generous enough to spend the whole day with us, teaching the N1 Outdoors audience how to fish for striped bass and hybrid bass. So, we spent the first part of the day striper fishing and it turned into a striper and hybrid limit!
Once we had limited out on striped bass and hybrid, we were off to some boat ramps that had produced some quality noodling trips over the years for Luke-Avery.
Spawning time is the optimal time for noodling catfish. We learned that water temperature is key in learning when the catfish spawn happens. The female lays her eggs in hollow logs, crevices or caverns under the bank, and in holes or openings under boat ramps, which is where we would be searching.
Once the female catfish lays her eggs, the male guards the nest fiercely until the hatch occurs. We found out that they will bite down hard on anything entering the nest!
Optimal water temperatures for blue catfish is 70-84 degrees, while some believe that 81 degrees is the magical temperature for blue cats. Most believe that the flathead catfish spawn an temperatures of 66-75 degrees. Whatever the perfect temperature is for each, we were able to experience both species in one outing!
Hurt at first bite
At our first stop, I got to experience what it feels like to get bit on the hand when trying to noodle a catfish for the first time. I learned quickly that it’s best to keep your fingers together when noodling. The first bite was actually on just my little finger. It sure didn’t feel very good! If you have never experienced how strong the mouth of a catfish is, noodling will help you understand!
Luke-Avery said he’s taken a lot of grown men noodling and most of the have yelled underwater the first time they get bit. I was determined to not do that. But, I will say I was certainly startled.
I tried multiple times to grab the catfish in that first hole and just could get a grip fast enough.
Finally, Luke-Avery said to let him try. He stuck his hand into the hole and got bit as well. When he came up he said, “that’s a blue cat. They bite harder than a flathead catfish does.” (Flathead catfish are sometimes referred to as mud cats, yellow cats or shovelhead catfish.)
We left that hole and moved farther down the boat ramp. Eventually, we were both diving down in 10 feet of water checking other holes. Luke-Avery was able to pull out a nice blue cat.
My first noodling success
When we left there, we went to another ramp where Luke-Avery had noodled some 40+ pound catfish in prior years. We got bit several times but were having trouble landing any cats. Finally, I was able to get a hand N1 and land my first flathead catfish! It was a rush for sure!
I found out that noodling was definitely worth all the hype and I can’t wait to put a hand N1 again!
Another Big Catfish story
– By Charles Farmer
Summer is upon us and in Southern Illinois, and that means it’s time for catfish to start spawning, which means noodling! Catfish swim up in holes under all sorts of things such as stumps, boat ramps, and rocks.
With noodling, the first thing you do is feel around with a stick in the hole because fish this big will be in holes 15, maybe 20 feet, back. We found a big flathead catfish under a boat ramp and we knew it was time to put a hand N1. So, I went under the murky water and put my arm in the hole, waving it around inside there and… Bam, I got bit!
So, I grabbed its bottom jaw and ripped it out of the hole while putting my other hand under it. We ran a stringer in it to see how big it was once he broke the surface. It was a monstrous 40+ pounder! I’ll never forget the day I put a hand N1!