Mud Catfish Facts

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Mud catfish, also commonly referred to as flathead catfish, is one of the most coveted catfish species. They are good to eat and are considered invasive at times because they can cause decline in other fish species. Anglers can catch mud cats using a variety of live baits, including bluegill, common carp, bullhead and green sunfish.


Mud catfish also is known as flathead, yellow, pied, Mississippi and shovelhead catfish. The scientific name for mud catfish is Pylodictis olivaris. Pylodictis means "mud fish" in Greek while olivaris translates to "olive-colored." Just like one of its nicknames suggests, this catfish has a flat-shaped head and smooth, scaleless skin. Like all catfish species, whisker-like barbels surround the mouth of the mud catfish. Mud cats can grow in length to 3 to 4 feet and can weigh more than 100 lbs.

Habitat and Distribution

The preferred habitat of mud cats are deep pools of lakes, rivers, streams, canals and reservoirs, especially where the water current is slow with a cloudy or turbid quality. They range from the lower Great Lakes to the Mississippi River watershed. Mud catfish feed on crayfish, worms, insects, shad, sunfish, carp and largemouth bass. Their predators include turtles, water snakes, alligators, larger fish and humans. Anglers are most successful in catching mud catfish during their spawning season when the water temperature is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Native and Introduced Range

Mud catfish are native to the Mississippi River basin. The Ohio River drainages in western Pennsylvania are also native habitats of mud cats. According to Sea Grant Pennsylvania, the first report of the fish in the Delaware River basin from Blue Marsh Reservoir occurred in 1997. Since that time, the fish have been found and introduced in numerous impoundments.


Mud catfish can excrete venom through their long and sharp spines that are connected to glands holding the venom. The sharp spines, which can tear skin, are located on the front edges of the mud cat's dorsal fins. The venom can be irritating and may cause serious infection. Always wear heavy-duty gloves when handling fish and immediately consult your medical care provider if stung by a mud catfish.

According to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, consumption of mud catfish should be limited to once a month because of contaminants that may be present in the fish meat.

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