Understanding the fish

These fish will put even the most seasoned flathead fishermen to the test time and time again. Make no mistake this is not a fish for the weak minded individual. Each year many flathead fishermen give up way before they even land their first trophy fish.

Each year more and more people are discovering the beauty and complexity of this weary predator.  As they spread across the United States like wildfire invading river after river more anglers are now seeking this fish out. Whether it’s for food, or sport this fish has it all. 

The nights can be long and cold at times with few if any fish to show for the night. Time will pass as you start to doubt your new hobby and question if it’s even worth it. Other nights the bite can be fast and furious with double and triple hook-ups, you will feel as if you are fishing a stocked pond. With fish commonly running over 20 pounds add in the thrill of the hunt & this is quickly becoming one of the most addicting types of fishing one can do. With its ability to live in wide range of habitats and condition’s there are no limits to where this fish could go next.
This fish completely stands out from the other members of the large catfish clan. Its unusual shape makes him easily identified, with its flat shovel-like head and large mouth he’s unmistakable. 

They can vary from high yellow to jet black depending on water conditions. Their ability to change colors rapidly makes them even more remarkable. These fish can blend in with its backdrop like no other making for the ultimate predator. 

They are called many names depending on where you are from. Yellow cat, Mudcat, Shovelhead, Shovelnose, Appaloosa cat these are the more common names you will hear them called.

 They are also ranked among the best in fresh water for table fair, even higher than channel cats and blue cats, they even rank at the top of the list for food even compared with saltwater fish like grouper and snapper.  With their high protein diet of live fish, the flatheads meat is a prize worth hunting. The flatheads intelligence is top notch.

The Transition

Flatheads literally go through a transition like night and day. Once you understand how this works it will simplify the way you hunt flatheads. Many people repeat the same mistakes over and over again when targeting flatheads, such as fishing deep holes and bends at night with no bites. Or fishing shallow water or open water during daylight periods. I’m sure a lot of flathead fishermen do this because they may have caught a few fish this way on trips in the past.  Granted a flathead can be caught anywhere at any given time, but set your trap in his path and you’re sure to get bit in a hurry.
Day Time

During daylight hours flatheads will be hunkered down somewhere generally in deeper water. Flatheads will also hide under log jams and other dead timber during daylight hours. The majority of the fish will be found in the bends and holes in most rivers.   

These fish won’t move much at all during resting periods, so in order to trigger a strike you have got to get the bait right in his face in most cases. This may involve vertical fishing or actually tying directly up to a pile of structure getting baits right on top of the fish.

If you find a pile of fish in a resting area the bite will happen very quickly, as soon as your bait invades the space of a territorial flathead he will strike violently. If you have not gotten bit in 5-10 minutes reposition your baits, it may only take a few feet to find the fish.

Night Time

They say night time is the right time, and they are correct. Obviously, you can catch flatheads during the daylight, but if you want a spectacular fishing trip you have got to hunt them under the cover of darkness.

Once the sun starts to set the fish will begin swimming in a circular motion in and out of their resting areas looking for quick meals. This is called the twilight bite, the period in-between day and night; generally, this will be when you get your first few fish.

Once the sun has set flatheads will leave the protection of their dark snaggy resting areas and start to venture in search of prey.  The fish will spread out over a good distance up to a mile from their home, returned at daylight after a long night of hunting.

Flatheads will start to move onto sand bars and in feeder creeks where small fish can be found resting, they will use channels and edges to travel on like highways as they move in-between feeding grounds.  

These hunting flatheads will be on heightened alert so stealth is a big factor in catching big old trophy fish. When setting up for these fish try not to run over the area you want to fish with your boat or the fish will retreat to cover and may not come back out for over an hour.

Set up in front of log jams, the head of deep holes and creek mouths to intercept these fish as they move and feed.
Try not to fish directly in the deep hole itself after dark, this is a resting area for flatheads, if fish are still in the deep holes these will be neutral fish that may have already gotten a meal and are digesting for now. You want to target the active feeding fish, this is the first concept in understanding how flatheads work.
                                          After Dark Movements