Flathead catfish, known for their size and fight, have become a prized catch among anglers in Maryland. Whether you’re a seasoned fisherman or a novice looking to hook your first big one, here’s a comprehensive guide to catching flathead catfish in the state.


Best Locations in Maryland

Flathead catfish are primarily found in large rivers and reservoirs. Some of the top locations in Maryland include the Susquehanna River, which is one of the premier spots for flathead catfish, especially around the Conowingo Dam. The river's diverse habitats provide ample opportunities. Another excellent location is the Potomac River, particularly in areas with slower-moving waters and deeper holes. The Upper Chesapeake Bay has also seen a rise in flathead populations, particularly near river mouths and tributaries.


Time of Day

Flathead catfish are predominantly nocturnal, making late evening and throughout the night the best times to fish for them. Dusk and dawn can also be productive, but flatheads are most active at night, increasing the chances of a successful catch. Fishing during the day can still yield results, especially in shaded, deep, or murky waters where these fish might be hiding.


Baits and Lures

Flathead catfish are carnivorous and prefer live bait. Here are some effective options:


  • Live Bait: The top choice for flatheads, including live bluegill, shad, sunfish, or bullheads. Hook them through the back or lips to keep them lively.
  • Cut Bait: If live bait isn't available, freshly cut pieces of shad or bluegill can work well.
  • Artificial Lures: Although less effective than live or cut bait, large jigs and crankbaits can occasionally entice a flathead, particularly in waters where baitfish are plentiful.


Fishing Techniques

When it comes to fishing techniques for flathead catfish, several methods can enhance your success. Bottom fishing is highly effective since flatheads are bottom dwellers; using a slip sinker rig allows the bait to move naturally with the current. Drift fishing, which involves letting your bait drift along the bottom with the current, is particularly useful in rivers like the Susquehanna and Potomac. 


Gear and Tackle

Flathead catfish are powerful and can grow to impressive sizes, so sturdy gear is essential:


  • Rods and Reels: Use a heavy-duty rod and a reel with a strong drag system. A medium-heavy to heavy action rod, around 7 to 9 feet long, is ideal.
  • Line: A braided line with a high-test strength (50-80 lb) is recommended due to its durability and sensitivity.
  • Hooks: Use large, sharp hooks, such as 5/0 to 8/0 circle or octopus hooks, which are effective for holding big baits and setting firmly in a Flathead's mouth.


Safety Tips

Night fishing, especially on rivers, can be hazardous. Ensure you have adequate lighting, including headlamps and lanterns, to navigate and fish safely. Always wear a life jacket when fishing from a boat, and fish with a partner when possible, especially in remote or unfamiliar areas.


Catching flathead catfish in Maryland can be a thrilling experience, offering a mix of challenge and reward. By choosing the right locations, using effective baits and techniques, and adhering to safety and environmental guidelines, anglers can enjoy productive and responsible fishing. So, gear up, head out, and may the next big flathead catfish be yours!


Get Ready For Your Next Fishing Outing

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Be sure to acquire your license from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources if you plan on heading out on your own (charter passengers are covered by the captain’s license).  

Visit our Planning Resources page for information on fishing charters and guides, lodging options, marinas, retailers, and more. And if you’re up for a quick getaway, be sure to check out Visit Maryland for places to stay, dining, and things to do while you’re here.