Discover The Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught In Indiana

Flathead catfish
© M. Huston/

Written by Patrick Sather

Updated: May 8, 2023

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The flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) goes by several names, including the “mudcat” and “shovelhead cat”. You can find this large species of catfish throughout much of North America. Despite its somewhat unappetizing appearance, sport anglers prize flathead catfish for their size and taste. In fact, many people argue that it’s the best-tasting fish in the catfish family. 

Many anglers in Indiana strive to catch flathead catfish with rods, limb lines, or bare hands. This begs the question, “What’s the largest flathead catfish ever caught in the state?” Keep reading to discover the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Indiana. We’ll also discuss where you can find flathead catfish and how to catch them. 

5 Amazing Flathead Catfish Facts

  • Flathead catfish are notoriously solitary, which makes them practically impossible to breed in captivity. 
  • Unlike some other catfish, flathead catfish will only feed on live prey. 
  • Flathead catfish require a specific water temperature in order to spawn, typically between 19 and 24 degrees Celsius. 
  • Male flathead catfish will guard the nest with their eggs and keep them clean and aerated until the eggs hatch. 
  • Introduced flathead catfish populations have reduced native fish populations in numerous waterways, leading many people to label the flathead catfish as an invasive species. 
Catfish, Fish, Mississippi River, Underwater, USA

The flathead catfish can reach up to 41 pounds on average.


About The Flathead Catfish

The flathead catfish belongs to the North American catfish family Ictaluridae in the catfish order Siluriformes. The family name derives from the Ancient Greek words ἰχθύς (ikhthús), meaning “fish,” and αἴλουρος (aílouros), meaning “cat.” To date, the flathead catfish is the sole species in the genus Pylodictis. The genus name stems from the Ancient Greek words for “mud” (pylos) and “cat.” Its common name refers to its characteristic flat head, which appears much flatter compared to other catfish species. Meanwhile, the flathead catfish goes by various other common names depending on the region. Some of its other names include the mud cat, yellow cat, pied cat, Mississippi cat, Johnnie Cat, and shovelhead cat. 

Flathead Catfish Distribution And Habitat

Historically, you could find flathead catfish west of the Appalachian Mountains and throughout much of the central United States. In the south, their range extended from west Texas and northern Mexico to northwestern Georgia. In their north, they ranged from eastern Wisconsin to western Pennsylvania. However, over the past several decades, sport fishers have purposefully introduced flathead catfish into several waterways. You can now also find them throughout most of the Great Lakes Region, the central United States, the American Southwest, and east of the Appalachians. 

Flathead catfish thrive in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. That said, they prefer slow-moving water with plenty of submerged debris, such as logs, that they can use as cover. While they can occur over sandy substrates, they prefer waterways with rocky or hard bottoms. They tend to live in shallow water at night and during the summer and move to deeper water during the day or winter. Flathead catfish occur most frequently in turbid rather than clear water.  

Flathead Catfish Predators And Prey

Adult flathead catfish have essentially no predators in the wild due to their size. The only animals that prey on flathead catfish are other catfish or humans. However, large wading birds such as herons and other birds of prey may target juvenile flathead catfish. 

Flathead catfish consume only live prey and eat a varied diet. These opportunistic predators will eat practically anything that moves that they can fit in their mouths. Their diet includes insects, fish, worms, and crustaceans. Some species they target include American shad, crayfish, sunfish, and carp. As juveniles, flathead catfish mostly feed on insects and insect larvae. As the juveniles grow, their diet expands to include the prey mentioned above. 

Average Flathead Catfish Size

Flathead catfish vary in size depending on the region and the environment. They reach maturity at around 4 or 5 years old, at which point they measure around 18 inches. However, they can live up to 28 years in the wild. Compared to other North American catfish, only the blue catfish measures larger on average than the flathead catfish. Generally speaking, adult specimens average between 15 and 45 inches long and weigh from 1.5 to 41 pounds. 

Two flathead catfish on bottom of the river floor.

The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Indiana weighed 79 pounds, 8 ounces.


What’s The Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught In Indiana?

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources keeps track of all the record-setting fish caught in the state. Presently, the record for the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Indiana belongs to Glen T. Simpson. Simpson caught his prize catfish in 1966 while fishing in the White River in Lawrence County. While the Indiana DNR does not track the length of catches, it does record weights. Simpson’s record-setting flathead catfish weighed in at 79 pounds, 8 ounces. 

Where Is The White River Located On A Map?

The White River is a river of central and southern Indiana and rises in Randolph County in the east-central part of the state. It flows past Muncie, Anderson, and Indianapolis, the state capital, which is located on the river. The state of Indiana is located in the mid-west area of the United States, at the “Crossroads of America” and is part of the Great Lakes Region. It is bordered by Lake Michigan to the northwest, Michigan to the north, Ohio to the east, Kentucky to the south, and Illinois to the west.

The Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught In The World

The record for the largest flathead catfish ever caught anywhere in the world belongs to Ken Paulie. Paulie caught his record-setting flathead catfish on May 19, 1998, in the Elk City Reservoir near Independence, Kansas

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks verified Paulie’s catch as legitimate. His record-setting flathead catfish measured approximately 5.08 feet long and weighed in at 123 pounds. Talk about a massive fish! According to experts at the Department of Wildlife and Parks, Paulie’s catfish was most likely around 22 years old when it was caught. This means the fish must have grown extremely quickly to reach such a size at that age. 

How Do You Catch A Flathead Catfish?

Anglers use a wide variety of techniques and tools to catch flathead catfish. While many use rod and reels or limb lines, some prefer to catch flathead catfish with their bare hands!

In terms of equipment, opt for a medium-heavy to heavy rod between 6 and 10 feet long. Your rod and line should be rated to sustain between 20 and 80 pounds of force. This will ensure your line won’t easily break when fighting with a larger, heavier flathead catfish. 

When fishing for flathead catfish, you should target locations with plenty of submerged coverage. Look for bends in rivers, as these areas tend to collect a lot of debris. You’ll also want to adjust your location depending on the time of day. If you’re fishing at night, try fishing in shallow water near the shore. If you’re fishing during the height of the day, shift your attention to deeper waters where flathead catfish like to congregate. 

Where To Find Flathead Catfish In Indiana

Generally speaking, you can find flathead catfish all throughout Indiana. They are widely distributed throughout the Ohio River and the drainage channels of Lake Michigan. However, if you want to find a prize flathead catfish in Indiana, your best bet is to speak to a local. At the same time, the best catfish holes tend to be highly guarded secrets, with anglers each hoarding information on the hottest fishing spots. 

The White River ranks as one of the best spots in Indiana to catch a prize flathead catfish. This river was where Glen Simpson caught his record-setting flathead catfish over 60 years ago. Other popular spots include the Wabash River, St. Joseph River, Patoka Lake, Brookville Lake, and Monroe Lake. 

Flathead Catfish

The largest flathead catfish ever caught in the world weighed 123 pounds.


Cooking Flathead Catfish

When it comes to freshwater fish, few compare in terms of taste to the flathead catfish. In fact, many anglers swear that flathead catfish ranks as the tastiest freshwater catfish. The white flesh possesses a firm texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor. 

You can prepare flathead catfish in various ways depending on your preference. The most popular cooking methods include frying, grilling, and baking. It’s often used as a substitute for cod or halibut in fish and chips and also makes great fish tacos. 

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