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flathead catfish

flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)
Photo © Uland Thomas

Features and Behaviors


The flathead catfish may attain a length of 15 to 45 inches. Except in large adults, there is a white tip on the upper half of the tail fin. The rear edge of this fin is rounded or slightly notched. The head is flattened, and the lower jaw sticks out beyond the upper jaw. The small eyes are located on the top of the head. The back and sides are yellow to purple‐brown with dark mottling while the belly is white to yellow. The chin barbels are white or yellow. The tooth patch in the mouth has backward‐pointing projections.


The flathead catfish may be found statewide in Illinois. This fish lives in rivers and lakes in areas with submerged logs and other debris. The flathead catfish is a solitary species. Usually only one fish per drift pile is present. It spawns in summer. The nest is formed by one or both parents under or in an object on the bottom. About 100,000 eggs are deposited in a yellow mass. The adults fan the eggs with their fins during development to provide oxygen and remove silt. The male guards the young fish for about seven days after they hatch. This fish feeds at night, moving from deeper water into the shallows or riffles. It eats fishes and crayfish.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia​
Phylum: Chordata​
Class: Actinopterygii​
Order: Siluriformes​
Family: Ictaluridae

Illinois Status: common, native