Reservoir Flathead Catfish

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by Whistler, Sep 9, 2005.

  1. Whistler

    Whistler Well-Known Member

    Original post made by Justin Cantrell(Justin) on September 25, 2002


    The Flathead Catfish: Pylodictis Olivaris, is probably the most elusive of all catfish, even the most knowledgeable catfisherman can go days, or even weeks without a fish. It takes extreme patience & determination to successfully pursue these whiskered giants. I'm going to try and explain
    some of the information required to attempt to track and catch these elusive catfish. There are many variables to factor in when tracking flatheads but i'm going to start with the basic information about the flathead. The Flathead Catfish, unlike other catfish, is a predator, therefore it prefers its food to be alive. Flathead feeding activity peaks at night. They have well-defined territories, & relate heavily to cover. If you remember nothing else in this article, those four rules should put you on a flathead or two. But, understaning the seasonal patterns can make those encounters a little more frequent.

    When Flatheads emerge from their winter haunts in early spring they have two things on their mind, eating & spawning. This is one of the best times to catch a Trophy Flathead, after winter they eat very heavily regaining their energy and feeding up for the spawn, reaching their biggest size of the year right before spawn. The water is very cool at this time so fishing can be good day or night, although flathead activity usually peaks at night, cool water coupled with Spring weather such as heavy winds & rain can make for some excellent day fishing opportunities for those willing
    to get a little wet & cold. Flatheads dont generally come very shallow this time of year "unless a good rain has caused some creek or river swelling", nor do they hang out in the deepest water available, opting instead for mid-depth areas with good cover. This feeding frenzy will continue until spawn, although just before the spawn flatheads will start searching for a spawning area with the biggest & baddest flats taking the best available areas. This is a great time to start fishing the Rip-rap & the Dams. Practically every flatty in the lake will visit the rip-rap & the dam while searching for their spawning sites. When spawning begins when the water temperature reaches approx. 72-78 degrees I always get a sharp decrease in the catch rate, flatheads dont eat while their spawning, this is why they feed so heavily before hand. After Spawning, the male will drive the female from the nest and tend to eggs until they hatch & maybe until they disperse. The female will eat after being driven off by the male, this & the fact that not all flatheads spawn at the exact same time mean you can still catch flatheads during the spawn, just not usually quite as many. After the spawn the water is getting pretty warm & summer is setting in, this means hotter days, less wind, less rain, & less cloud cover, which makes the flathead almost exclusively Nocturnal.

    Summer Flatheads are very hard to catch during the day "or at least I haven't figured out how to do it yet" so I would have to recommend fishing only at night with live-bait.

    Fall is another great time to catch some Hefty Flatheads, the water temp starts to continually decrease and the fall feeding begins. Flatheads have to feed up before winter just as they did before the spawn, the patterns are also fairly similar to spring in reverse without the spawning stuff. Winter is almost impossible, most flathead anglers take the winter off, flatheads dont fare well in cold water. Some studies claim they burrow partially in the mud where the sediment can be five degrees warmer than the water, although some have success jigging soft plastics in early and late winter. The information just posted can give you a basic idea of what the flatheads are doing at any given time, but understanding Weathers affects on flatheads can increase your success a little more. Weather plays an important role in flathead activity, heavy winds, overcast skies, & rain? You might as well set some milk out cause its time for the kitties to eat! Flatheads are predators, therefore, their favorite time to eat is any time they have a credible predatory advantage. By this I mean they take advantage of their strengths against their preys weakness. For example: its a well know fact that flathead feeding activity usually peaks at night, why? Flatheads have extremely good vision at night, their prey does not, thus giving them an extra advantage over its prey. Same goes for heavy winds, heavy winds can cause turbulence in the water, disorienting baitfish such as perch & shad making the flatheads job a little easier. But its when the flathead has a mixture of different advantages on its side that can really put them into a feeding frenzy. Heavy winds, combined with overcast skies & rain can make an excellent opportunity for a catfisherman to cross a few eyes. I told you there where a lot of variables to factor in. I just have to cover one more cause I don't know how much I can put in this one post. Finally we will talk about forage, an important part of locating flatheads is locating its prey. Shad, Perch, & Crappie are some favorite foods of the Flathead, when they spawn it makes for an easy target for flatheads. While flathead fishing may be slow & tedious at times it can be fast & furious when everything comes together. Don't give up, I caught my first flathead 42# on accident, it took me 6 months to catch another one on purpose. I never gave up & have had some unbeleivable days on the water. I would also like to mention my dad Ron "BareFoot" Cantrell, the Master Catman who took the time to teach me everything I Know about flatheads. Catfishing has made a greater bond between me & my dad, so I'll always love him and this great sport!!!!! Below is my Dad!!