The Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in Washington was an Aquatic Colossus

Flathead catfish
© stammphoto/ via Getty Images

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: October 4, 2023

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Washington State has some of the best fishing opportunities in the country. Here, you can look for bass, trout, catfish, and sunfish. Some of the best fishing lakes in the state include Lake Kapowsin, Ross Lake, Angel Lake, and Lake Roosevelt. A favorite for many anglers is the flathead catfish. They are large and strong fish but not as common as bass. Can you guess the state record? Follow along to discover the largest flathead catfish ever caught in Washington.

What is the Largest Flathead Catfish Ever Caught in Washington?

The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Washington State weighed an impressive 22.8 pounds. C. L. McCary has held this record for over 41 years. This angler caught the large flathead catfish in Snake River on June 28, 1981.

Flathead catfish

The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Washington State has held the record since 1981.

©M. Huston/

About Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish are popular gamefish. They are caught for the fun and thrill and also to eat. Flathead catfish are considered one of the best-tasting catfish species in North America. They are also powerful solitary swimmers and are tough to catch. This challenging fish attracts hundreds of thousands of anglers yearly to Washington State lakes. Are you interested in learning more about flathead catfish? Keep reading!

Two flathead catfish on bottom of the river floor.

Flathead catfish are challenging. They are caught for sport and eating.


Description and Size

Flathead catfish are olive, white, and yellow fish. They are olive-colored on their sides and dorsum and white on their undersides. However, flathead catfish vary in coloration. These catfish also have dark, mottled markings on their bodies, which tend to be more noticeable in young flathead catfish in clearer waters.

Flathead catfish are best known for their flat heads and protruding lower jaw. They also have small eyes and anal fins with 14 to 17 rays. Flathead catfish range in size. They are typically between 15 to 45 inches long but can measure up to 69 inches. The largest flathead catfish ever caught weighed 123 pounds.

Distribution and Habitat

So, where can you find flathead catfish? Flathead catfish are native to parts of North America, from the lower Great Lakes region to northern Mexico. Although native to parts of North America, it’s considered an invasive species in some states, including Delaware.

Flathead catfish are solitary animals. They spend most of their time in deep pools of streams, rivers, canals, lakes, and reservoirs. In these pools, the water is typically cloudy or murky and slow. Flathead catfish take shelter under trees or fallen debris.


Flathead catfish are excellent hunters. Their diet consists of live prey, including other fish species, insects, and crustaceans. Their diet, though, changes depending on their size. Young flathead catfish under 10 inches long mainly eat invertebrates. Flathead catfish aren’t picky. They’ve been recorded consuming other, smaller flathead catfish.


Adult flathead catfish have few predators. They are so large and fast that no known species frequently attack them other than humans and other flathead catfish. However, young flathead catfish are vulnerable to attacks. Other fish, birds, and turtles eat them.

Other Fish in Washington State

Washington State is home to a lot more fish than just flathead catfish. Below are a few common fish species in the state, including their state records. Who knows, maybe you’ll beat one of these records!

White Catfish

The first fish on our list is the white catfish. This lovely catfish species is native to the Eastern United States river systems. White catfish are found as far north as New York State and south as Florida. Another name for the white catfish is the white bullhead. This catfish species is common and listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

This fish species is a member of the family Ictaluridae. They have eight barbels and are completely scaleless. White catfish are nowhere near as large as flatheads. On average, they weigh between 0.5 to 2 pounds. The largest flathead catfish ever caught in Washington was a jaw-dropping 19.85 pounds. Donald W. Huffman caught this massive fish on April 17, 2002, in the Walla Walla River.

white catfish

White catfish are abundant in Washington State. The largest white catfish ever caught in the state was nearly 20 pounds!

©M Huston/

Yellow Perch

The next fish on our list is the yellow perch. These vibrant fish are native to a large part of North America. They are members of the Percidae family and go by many names. Other names for yellow perch are American river perch, striped perch, and preacher.

Yellow perch are long and laterally flat fish with a long, blunt snout. They are rough to touch and have two separate dorsal fins. Most yellow perch vary in color and shade but are generally green, yellow, olive, or golden brown. These fish can reach about 20 inches long. However, they mainly stop growing at approximately 7.5 inches. The largest yellow perch ever caught in Washington was 2.75 pounds. No one has beaten this record in over 50 years!

Yellow Perch underwater in the St.Lawrence

The largest yellow perch ever caught in Washington State weighed 2.75 pounds.

©RLS Photo/

Black Crappie

Another fish you can find in Washington State is the black crappie. Black crappie is a fish species in the genus Pomoxis. They are also members of the Centrarchidae family. Black crappies have a wide range. They live in all 48 contiguous U.S. states. Interestingly, experts aren’t sure of the native range of black crappies as they’ve been widespread for years.

Black crappies are about 4 to 8 inches long. They weigh up to a little under 6 pounds. For instance, the current all-tackle fishing world record for black crappie is 5 pounds and 7 ounces. So, how does the Washington State record compare? The largest black crappie ever caught in Washington weighed 4.5 pounds. John W. Smart has held this record since May of 1956.

The largest recorded black crappie weighed a little under 6 pounds.

©SteveOehlenschlager/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Golden Rainbow Trout

The golden trout is also found in Washington State. Golden trout are native to California but are found in other states. Golden trout are golden yellow with red horizontal bands along the lateral lines on each side of their bodies. On the red lateral lines are dark parr marks.

Golden trout are about 6 to 12 inches long but can measure as much as 28 inches. In its native range, you can find golden trout at elevations from 6,890 feet to 10,000 feet. Although golden trout are not native to Washington State, they’ve been introduced. The largest golden trout ever caught in this state was 4.17 pounds. This record is recent. Arthur Jackson caught this lovely 4-pound trout in 2010 in Gunn Lake.

Golden trout

The largest golden trout ever caught measured 28 inches long and weighed 11.25 pounds.

©Sean Lema/

Mountain Whitefish

Last but not least is the mountain whitefish. This lovely fish is very common in the western United States. It’s widely distributed and abundant. According to the NatureServe conservation status system, mountain whitefish populations are secure. You can find these amazing fish from the Northwest Territories to Utah.

Mountain whitefish live in the wild for about 7 to 9 years. They are slender silver and olive-green fish that can grow up to 28 inches long and weigh up to 6.4 pounds. Mountain whitefish have a wide diet. They are evening feeders and mainly consume snails, crayfish, and amphipods. You can find these sparkling fish in cold and deep mountain streams and lakes. The state record for the largest mountain whitefish is 5.13 pounds. Steven Becken caught this record in the Columbia River on November 30, 1983.

Rocky mountain whitefish being released back into the river in Alberta

In the wild, mountain whitefish live for 7 to 9 years.

©Jennifer de Graaf/

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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