Flathead catfish (Pylodictis)
Flathead catfish, as the name implies, have long flat heads, small eyes and a large mouth with the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper jaw. Their eight, black feelers or barbells help them to locate food. The mottled back and sides are dark brown to yellowish brown, and the belly is yellowish, almost white. Another distinguishing feature from other catfish is a squared tail, rather than the more common notched tail. The average weight of an adult ranges from 20 to 50 pounds; their length as adults range from 10 to 60 inches.
Flathead catfish are opportunistic and omnivorous, feeding on both plants and animals. As they increase in size, their diet changes and a wider variety of food items are eaten. Young flathead, up to 10 inches long, feed on vegetation, aquatic insects and crayfish. As they grow older and larger, their diet changes to include fish such as bass, bream, shad, and crayfish. The larger flatheads have been known to take the possible terrestrial and amphibious animals such as mice or frogs when presented.
Flathead catfish are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio rivers. They are found as far north as North Dakota and Pennsylvania, as far west as New Mexico, and as far south as Florida and northern Mexico. They have also been introduced successfully in many rivers and reservoirs throughout the United States.
Flathead catfish prefer long, deep, slow-moving creek pools, rivers, and lakes. They will search for hard-bottomed areas with heavy cover to allow them to rest for the majority of the day.
- In Japan, flathead are caught and sold as pets.