The US is home to more than 30 species of catfish! However, anglers are typically after “The Big Three” – the blue catfish, the channel catfish, and the flathead catfish.
In the past decade or so, the flathead catfish has skyrocketed in popularity amongst anglers. They are known to grow to trophy sizes over 60 pounds and put up an excellent fight.
But the million-dollar question is, are flathead catfish good to eat?
Or are these whisker fish only good for the sporting quality fight?
Are Flathead Catfish Good To Eat?
Flathead catfish are not only considered good eating but have been labeled the best-tasting catfish species by a long shot! Some even say they are one of the all-around best-eatin’ fish from the river.
Flathead catfish, unlike bottom-dwelling blue catfish and channel cats, are hunters and prefer, almost exclusively, to eat live bait like bluegill.
‘Flatties‘ as they are sometimes called, tend to scavenge far less than their catfish kin, and some speculate this difference in diet is what gives them their unique flavor and makes them preferable to other catfish species.
While many species of catfish have a reputation as ‘bottom feeders‘, and rightly so, the Flathead catfish is a bonafide predator!
Flathead catfish seek out live fish, and have even been known to eat native fish at alarming rates. They are aggressive, hungry and active fish and that makes them much different than other catfish species.
What Do Flathead Catfish Taste Like?
Flathead catfish meat is white, firm, moist, sweet, and said to have a buttery flavor.
Compared to other catfish meat, flathead meat is considered to be the most flavorful and the least fishy…especially when its caught in a healthy watershed free from pollutants.
What Size Flathead Catfish Is Best To Eat?
Like most species of fish, the bigger they get, the strongy the fishy flavor. Big catfish are notorious for getting a strong fishy, weedy or sometimes muddy flavor once they get above 10-12 pounds.
In my opinion, the best size flathead catfish for eating is in the 6-8 pound range. This size fish yields substantial sized fillets (enough for 3 or 4 people) and usually has a mild flavor with delicate fillets.
The big boys are fun to catch, but let them go for someone else to enjoy. In many cases these larger flathead catfish are important to spawning, and wont taste very good anyway.
Note: In many states flathead catfish have become invasive and a nuisance, and catch and release may be prohibited. Always check the fishing regulations in your area.
Are Flathead Catfish Safe To Eat?
There is nothing innately toxic about flathead catfish, so healthy flatheads are considered safe to eat.
Most flathead habitats are low in chemical contaminants, but certain bodies of water have been known to contain contaminants at levels of concern.
Be sure to check your local fish advisories for your areas, as well as the recommended servings per week that are safe to consume.
Is Flathead Catfish Good For You?
Flathead catfish, like most fish, provide many well-known health benefits.
They are an excellent source of lean protein and are packed with vitamins, minerals, and omega-fatty acids. They are especially high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition, these fish are low calorie, low sodium, and contain a large amount of Vitamin B12.
How To Prepare Flathead Catfish
For a full tutorial on how to skin a catfish follow our step-by-step guide, with pictures or follow the simple instructions below.
First, begin by locating the two bones behind the gill plate.
Start by cutting behind the front fins and curve around to the underbelly, where the gills meet. Then cut the dorsal fin all the way to the base of the ribs.
It is recommended to cut out the bloodlines and soak the meat in ice-cold water in order to remove a lot of the fat. Doing this will give you the whitest catfish meat around.
Make sure to remove all the yellow meat from the shoulders and the dark meat from the fillets in order to minimize fishy flavors.
How To Cook Flathead Catfish
Flathead meat is incredibly versatile and can be broiled, fried, sauteed, or baked. It is light and flakey and pairs well with many different ingredients.
One of our favorite recipes is blackened flathead catfish on the grill!
What You Will Need:
- 3 flathead catfish fillets
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 cup Ginger Dressing
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp lemon pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- pinch of salt
- pinch of ground pepper
Place a large heavy skillet on the burner and heat to medium-high temperature. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil and warm until hot.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a medium baking dish
Mix the herb mix together, lightly coat fillets with canola oil, and coat with the herb mix.
Sear both sides of the fish in the cast iron pan for 2 minutes per side, until lightly blackened. Do NOT fully cook the fish at this point.
Take the fillets and place them in the baking dish. Pour ginger dressing over the fillets and brush with the spicy dijon mustard.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Bon appetite. Hot sauce is optional but encouraged!
How To Catch Flathead Catfish
Flathead catfish are a solitary species that prefer slow currents and muddy waters. The best time to catch flathead catfish is usually at night, when they prowl the shallow river banks in search of food.
They are super adaptable and can be found worldwide, with strong populations in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins.
Their favorite hiding places are in large, deep bodies of water and can often be found hiding under debris, like logs, trees, stumps and even old barrels.
Some anglers are brave enough to forego the tackle, and ‘noodle’ for live flathead catfish…catching them with their bare hands!
No matter what tackle or method you use, flathead catfish are strong powerful fish, often found in flowing water which makes landing them fun and challenging.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Flathead Catfish Dangerous?
Many species of catfish have venomous barbs but flathead catfish are not venomous at all.
Flathead catfish do, however, have two short spikes on either side and on top of their heads, that contain a mild toxin This toxin, fortunately, is not fatal but can cause pain and possible infection.
Are Large Flathead Catfish Good To Eat?
Technically speaking any size catfish is edible, but larger catfish are often described as tough or fishy. From a conservation standpoint, many anglers release the larger catfish back into the wild.
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