Discover The Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in Alabama

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: April 23, 2023
© iStock.com/stammphoto
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From the Tennessee River in the north to the Alabama and Coosa Rivers near Montgomery, there is some fine catfishing in the state of Alabama. Some anglers swear the biggest catfish can be found below the Guntersville Dam on the Tennessee River, but the truth is there are good-sized catfish throughout the state. While there are more blue catfish and channel cats, flatheads are also common catfish in the state. Therefore, read on to find out about the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Alabama!

What Kind of Catfish are in Alabama?

There are five main types of catfish found in Alabama; blue, flathead, channel, white, and bullhead catfish. Of the bullhead there are five kinds of bullhead catfish in Alabama; brown, black, snail, spotted, and yellow, ranging in size from 7-15 inches. State fishing records are kept for the blue, flathead, channel, and white with the blue catfish being the largest catfish species in the state. Flatheads are typically next followed by channel cats and white.

Catfish, Fish, Mississippi River, Underwater, USA
Flathead catfish are a common type of catfish found in Alabama.

©iStock.com/stammphoto

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What is a Flathead Catfish?

A flathead catfish is easier to differentiate from other catfish due to its (yes, you guessed it) flat head. The area between its eyes is wide and flat and highlights the wide mouth of the flathead catfish. They have protruding barbels that come off the face that looks like whiskers, which is how catfish get their name. They have a mottled coloration of olive, brown, and light yellow.

Flathead catfish are heavy-bodied that have a tail that tapers off. The caudal fin (tail) fin is squarish compared to the forked tail of blue catfish and channel cats. Their skin is nearly scaleless and they have barbed spines on their pectoral and dorsal fins. Therefore, they can use their fins as a defense mechanism. Flathead catfish are a sport fish that anglers love to catch for their size as well as their tasty meat.

How Large are Flathead Catfish?

Flathead catfish average 18-24 inches long but can reach 29-30 inches. Large ones caught in Alabama usually fall in the 30-50 pound range. Flathead catfish are typically larger than the channel, white, and bullhead catfish. However, they are smaller than blue catfish.

What is the Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in Alabama?

The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Alabama was 80 pounds! For reference, a large labrador retriever weighs 70-80 pounds. This record-breaking catfish was caught by Rick Conner of Selma, AL in Selma on the Alabama River. The Alabama River starts where the Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers come together then passes through Selma which is about 50 miles west of Montgomery. The Alabama River is quite the meandering river with many twists and turns, but Conner certainly found a lucky spot in the summer of ’86. Conner’s record dates back to June 22, 1986, making this a 36-year-old record and counting.

What about the Flathead Caught on Lake Guntersville on October 28, 2022?

A massive flathead catfish was caught on Lake Guntersville in 2022, but was it bigger than the record breaker? Not quite. Ten-year-old Nick Parcus was fishing with his grandpa when he reeled in a giant flathead catfish. It took Nick a 20-minute battle to get the fish up to the dock. With the help of his grandpa, Larry Stephens, they were able to get it up on the dock where they took a picture with the flathead next to Nick…they were about the same size! Stephens estimated the fish was around 70 pounds. However, they didn’t have it officially weighed. They decided to release it so some other lucky angler would have a chance at catching it.

Flathead Catfish
A flathead catfish is heavy-bodied and can reach up to 50 pounds.

©slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

What is the Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in the World?

The largest flathead catfish ever caught in the world was 123 pounds! This monster of a fish was caught by Ken Paulie who reeled it in from the Elk City Reservoir in Independence, Kansas. Paulie’s record was set back on May 19, 1998. His flathead measured 61 inches long which is 5 feet 1 inch. This record-breaker had a girth of 43 inches around; now that is a big catfish!

What is the Largest Catfish Ever Caught in Alabama?

When it comes to catfish the largest North American species is the blue catfish. Blue catfish are typically in the 20-40 pound range with a “trophy size” being considered anything over 50 pounds. They can weigh more than 100 pounds with the heaviest recorded weight in the world being 143 pounds. Therefore, the largest catfish ever caught in Alabama was a blue catfish that weighed 120 pounds 4 ounces and was caught on the Holt Reservoir by John Paul Nichols, of Northport, AL. Nichols caught his record-breaker on March 9, 2012. The Holt Reservoir is just northeast of Tuscaloosa and Northport.

Flathead catfish
The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Alabama weighed in at 80 pounds.

©M. Huston/Shutterstock.com

Are there Flathead Catfish in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta?

There are flathead catfish in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The Tombigbee and the Alabama River come together to form the Mobile River which in turn flows down to Mobile Bay. This area also has plenty of channel catfish and blue catfish with the Delta including many tributaries, bayous, and creeks where catfish love to live. Some anglers have found excellent catfishing in the Tensaw River as well. However, the water tends to get saltier the closer you get to the Gulf.

If you are targeting flatheads, you will want to stay closer to the inland area of the brackish tidal system since flatheads tend to stay away from water that is too salty. Now you have several tips to start (or continue) your effort to catch the next largest flathead catfish in Alabama!

Where is the Alabama River Located on a Map?

The Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers converge roughly 6 miles north of Montgomery, close to the town of Wetumpka, to form the Alabama River, located in the state of Alabama in the United States.

Here is the Alabama River on a map:

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The Featured Image

Two flathead catfish on bottom of the river floor.
flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, on bottom of Mississippi River
© iStock.com/stammphoto

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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