Channel Catfish Vs Flathead Catfish – Basic Differences

When it comes to freshwater fishing, catfish are among the most sought-after species for their fighting ability and delicious meat.

Among catfish, Channel and Flathead are two of the most popular types, but they are not the same.

If you are not familiar with these species, you may find it challenging to tell them apart, and you might be wondering which one is better for you.

In this article, we’ll go over the differences between Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish to help you choose the right species for your fishing trip.

Channel Catfish Vs Flathead Catfish

Appearance

Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish have several physical differences. Channel Catfish have a dark olive-brown to slate-blue coloring with a light belly and scattered black spots.

They have a forked tail and sharp spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins.

Flathead Catfish, on the other hand, have a brownish-yellow color with mottled brown and black spots on their sides.

They have a rounded tail and a wide, flattened head with a lower jaw that extends beyond the upper jaw.

Habitat

Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish also have different habitat preferences. Channel Catfish are more adaptable and can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

They prefer water with moderate current and are often found in deeper pools or around structures like logs, rocks, or brush.

Flathead Catfish, on the other hand, are more selective and prefer slow-moving or still water, such as large rivers or lakes with deep, clear water.

They are also more likely to be found in rocky or woody areas.

Feeding Habits

Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish have different feeding habits. Channel Catfish are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything, including insects, fish, crustaceans, and plant matter.

They are often caught using stink baits, worms, or cut bait. Flathead Catfish are carnivorous and prefer live prey, such as fish, crayfish, and other aquatic animals.

They are often caught using live bait, such as bluegill, shad, or bullheads.

Behavior

Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish also have different behavioral traits. Channel Catfish are more active and tend to move around more than Flathead Catfish, which are generally more stationary.

Flathead Catfish also tend to be more territorial and will defend their territory against other fish, while Channel Catfish are more social and tend to congregate in schools.

Table: Channel Catfish Vs Flathead Catfish

FeaturesChannel CatfishFlathead Catfish
ClassificationFamily: Ictaluridae
Genus: Ictalurus
Species: I. punctatus
Common nicknames: Channel cats, cats
Family: Ictaluridae
Genus: Pylodictis
Species: P. olivaris
Common nicknames: Mudcat, Shovelhead cat, yellow cat, Mississippi cat, pied cat
HabitatsThey inhabit rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ponds.They inhabit lakes, ponds, rivers, and certain brackish water tributaries.
Body Size & ShapeThe body of a channel catfish is grayish, and its belly is white.Flathead catfish have spots of brown and yellow on their bodies, and their bellies are white.
ColorationWhen they are young, channel catfish have small dark spots that fade as they get older.Flathead catfish don’t have small dark spots; they only have big dark holes.
Head A channel catfish’s head is flatterA flathead catfish’s head is broader
DietSmall fish
Frogs
Small crustaceans
Insects
Clams
Worms
Snails
Blue crabs
Eels
Worms
Crayfish
Plants
Small crustaceans
Insects
Small fish
FinOne dorsal fin is seen in channel catfish.
One anal fin of channel catfish has 24 to 29 soft rays. The anal fin’s margin is gently rounded.
The tail fin of channel catfish is forked.
One dorsal fin is present in flathead catfish
One of the anal fins of flathead catfish has around 12 soft rays. The anal fin has a rounded edge.
The tail fin of flathead catfish is slightly notched.
MouthThe mouth is broad, with the jaws meeting before the eye line. Upper jaw projection is more significant than lower jaw projection. Four pairs of whiskers or barbels surround their mouth.Have a broad mouth with jaws that connect before the eye line. Lower jaw projection is more significant than upper jaw projection. Four pairs of whiskers or barbels surround their mouth.
Lifespan14 to 16 years5 to 22 years

FAQs:

Which catfish is better for eating, Channel or Flathead?

Both Channel and Flathead Catfish are good for eating, but some people prefer one over the other. Flathead Catfish has a slightly sweeter taste and firmer texture, while Channel Catfish has a milder taste and flakier texture.

What is the best bait for catching Channel and Flathead Catfish?

The best bait for catching Channel and Flathead Catfish depends on their feeding habits. Channel Catfish can be caught using stink baits, worms, or cut bait, while Flathead Catfish prefer live bait, such as bluegill, shad, or bullheads.

What is the average size of Channel and Flathead Catfish?

Channel Catfish can grow up to 40 inches in length and weigh up to 40 pounds.


In conclusion, Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish have distinct differences in their appearance, habitat, feeding habits, and behavior. If you are looking for a catfish that is adaptable and easier to catch, then Channel Catfish is a great option. However, if you prefer a catfish that is more selective, has a sweeter taste, and is more challenging to catch, then Flathead Catfish might be the one for you.

Regardless of which species you choose, remember to check the regulations in your area and practice responsible fishing techniques. Always handle the fish with care and release them unharmed if you are not planning to keep them. Happy fishing!