Maryland Fish Facts


Flathead Catfish
Flathead Catfish

Flathead Catfish
Pylodictus olivaris
Mud cat, Yellow cat
Key Distinguishing Markings:
  • Flathead catfish have a scaleless, mottled brown, yellowish, or olive-colored body with a light-colored or white underside.
  • Flathead catfish have a flattened head and the lower jaw protrudes well-beyond the upper jaw.
  • Flathead catfish have a square-shaped tail and rounded anal fin.

View the Flathead Catfish Gallery

  • The flathead catfish is native to the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Rio Grande river basins, extending from the upper midwest southward into parts of Mexico. Due to extensive introductions, their current range includes several Atlantic drainage systems from Pennsylvania to Florida, including Maryland.
  • Flathead catfish are established in the non-tidal Potomac River, Susquehanna River, and portions of the upper Chesapeake Bay. Populations also exist in portions of the tidal Potomac River.

  • Flathead catfish are the second largest of the North American catfish species and can attain weights in excess of 100 pounds.
  • The current Maryland State record flathead catfish is 57 pounds.

  • Flathead catfish live mainly in freshwater but can inhabit brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay tributaries.
  • Flathead catfish prefer low- to moderate-gradient rivers with rocky or hard substrates. They inhabit deep pools and prefer underwater structures like sunken logs and rocks.

  • Flathead catfish spawn in late-spring and early-summer, when water temperatures rise above 70 F. 
  • Males select nest sites in dark depressions, under rocks, cavities, or inside crevices, hollow logs, or man-made containers and guard the eggs until they hatch.

Fishing Tips:
  • Flathead catfish are very good to eat with mild-flavored, white flesh.
  • Flathead catfish are commonly caught on baits such as chicken livers and cut baits, but may prefer live baits like sunfishes, gizzard shad, and crayfish.

Fun Fact:
  • The world record flathead catfish is a 123 lb fish caught in a Kansas Reservoir. The Maryland record is a 57 lb fish caught in 20
  • Catfish have numerous external taste buds, many of which are located on the barbels. Consequently, they can taste something by simply touching it with their barbels.​

Family: Ictaluridae (North American freshwater catfishes)
Order: Siluriformes (catfish)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
​For more information on flathead catfish and their management, please contact Branson Williams.​