The Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in Tennessee Was as Big as a Bernese Mountain Dog

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: September 19, 2023
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From its widespread lakes to its lengthy rivers, Tennessee has plenty of great places to go fishing. Anglers in the state often seek large fish that present a serious challenge to catch, like catfish. Although the blue catfish is a larger species, the flathead catfish is another very large, desirable game fish to catch. Learn about the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Tennessee! Find out where it was captured, how large it was, and whether or not it was the biggest one found in the United States!

Description and Habitat of the Flathead Catfish

Catfish, Fish, Mississippi River, Underwater, USA

Flathead catfish,

Pylodictis olivaris

, are known for the excessively flattened tops of their heads.

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The flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) is a freshwater fish native to North America. They are also called the shovelhead catfish, mud catfish, and many other names.

These fish are known for the excessively flattened tops of their heads. Like other members of their family, they have small eyes and barbels around their mouths. The flathead catfish has a pronounced lower jaw that sticks out beyond the upper jaw.

Flathead catfish often have olive sides and backs, whitish to yellow bellies, and olive colorings on the sides of their bodies. They can have a mottled pattern instead of a solid color on their sides. These fish are easy to identify given their unique looks as well as their size.

The average adult member of this species measures between 16 and 45 inches overall, and they vary in weight between 10 and 15 pounds. However, much longer and heavier members of this species exist and are caught with some regularity.  

The flathead catfish consumes a wide assortment of different creatures including:

The fish they consume include other small catfish. Few other creatures attack flathead catfish due to their size.

Flathead catfish prefer to live in large, deep bodies of water like rivers and reservoirs. They’ll often live in depressions near structures or some types of vegetation.

What Was the Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in Tennessee?

Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish can have many color variations.


The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Tennessee was 85 pounds 15 ounces, and it was caught on July 25, 1993. An angler named Larry Kaylor caught the monstrous creature as he was fishing at Hiwassee River.

Since this is an official state record, Mr. Kaylor must have caught the fish using a rod and reel. However, little is known about the type of bait that he used or the specific kind of reel and line. One thing is for sure, though — the catfish must have put up quite a battle!

A fish that size would have been extremely challenging to catch, especially if the angler was not expecting to pull in a fish that large.

Where Is the Hiwassee River on a Map?

Hiwassee River flows through Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The body of water flows through the southeastern part of Tennessee from North Carolina.  

The river is a popular place for canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Of course, the river is also a great destination for people to fish. Some people fish from the shoreline, and other people fish from boats.

The river is home to many species of fish aside from the flathead catfish. Some of the other fish that people seek out when they travel to this river include:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Bluegill
  • Muskies
  • Lake trout
  • Channel catfish

These are just a few of the fish that anglers pursue when they come to this river. Many other kinds of fish are waiting in the water for people to catch them.

Anglers at this river also employ various means to catch fish. Not only do they use a typical rod and reel style, but they can also use flyfishing techniques and bowfishing.

Was the Largest Flathead Catfish in Tennessee the U.S. Record?

Longest Rivers in North Carolina - Hiwassee River

The Hiwassee River is the perfect place to catch large catfish.


No, the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Tennessee was not the largest ever caught in the United States. The biggest flathead catfish in the U.S. was 123 pounds. This massive fish was captured in Elk City Reservoir in Kansas. The angler was named Ken Paulie, and he caught the fish on May 19, 1998.

The gigantic fish was 61 inches long, and it had a total circumference of 43.75 inches! This was far larger than the biggest one ever caught in Tennessee. Nevertheless, the Tennessee record was still quite impressive.

Earlier, we compared the size of the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Tennessee to a Bernese mountain dog. The average female of this species weighs anywhere between 79 and 106 pounds, but the average male is between 84 and 115 pounds. The dogs can become absolutely massive.

In terms of sheer weight, the flathead catfish from Tennessee was on the small side of an adult male Bernese mountain dog. The all-time record flathead catfish weighed more than the average member of that dog species, though.

Overall, the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Tennessee was a very large specimen. However, it was not the biggest member of the family ever caught. Still, many lakes and rivers in Tennessee can produce very sizable fish. People who want an even larger game fish to catch in this area could try for a blue catfish. That species has the potential to get even bigger than the flathead catfish!

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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