When seeking out various types of fish, it’s good to have some general knowledge about not only that particular species’ preferred habitat but also about its habits, food preferences, and lifestyle in general.
While it’s not common for humans to think about animals and fish having a “lifestyle”, the idea is quite important to determining the best tactics to use in hunting or fishing for a species. This is definitely true of certain types of catfish, especially flathead catfish. Fishing for catfish is a popular sport throughout the United States, but tactics for catching different types of catfish vary greatly.
For example, most catfish are considered to be opportunistic feeders. This means that they are literally scavengers, seeking out the easiest meals they can find. They’ll eat other hunters’ “leftovers” – pieces of dead fish and other bits and bobbles – to avoid having to hunt down food. They’ll survive off insects and invertebrates native to their waters, and they’ll even eat plants to satisfy their hunger.
However, flatheads are different, meaning that flathead catfish fishing requires a different approach.
Flatheads, which may also be referred to as mud cats, shovelhead cats, johnnie cats, yellow cats, Mississippi cats, and Opelousa cats, are not simply scavengers. While they would not turn down an opportunistic meal, they are predators and prefer to hunt down live fish.
They are also one of the largest breeds of catfish around, growing regularly to sizes of three or four feet in length and weighing up to 100 pounds. Therefore, unlike many smaller species of catfish, you’ll need heftier equipment and specialized bait to attract these monsters.
Flathead catfish fishing requires live bait. In fact, the live bait you use should be sizeable in order to attract the flatheads because they do not appreciate a small meal. While you can use invertebrates, like worms, you will have to stuff your hook with several night crawlers to increase your chances of drawing in a flathead.
More useful bait would consist of large minnows or small shad and carp, as these are typically included in their diet anyway. If you choose not to use live bait to attract a flathead catfish, fishing with stink bait is probably the only way to attract your catch. This works on occasion because catfish find food mostly based on smell rather than sight, and large chicken livers or other rotting stink bait foods will permeate the water and drawn in your prey.