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Welcome to Flathead country...

             Florida Flatheads

Since the invasion of Flatheads in 1982 in Florida they have spread to almost every river in the panhandle of Florida. Now after 30 years they have established a large enough population for people to go out and hunt trophy's on a regular basis.

We promote Flathead fishing in the State of Florida to show people they don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to go way off shore to catch trophy fish.

We also promote the CPR"catch photo release" Of Flatheads over 15 pounds for future Generations. They are here to stay, lets make them at home.

Below is a list and discription of some of the prime locations in Florida to target Flathead Catfish.

                          1999 Study by Dan Dobbins
                                                  Cailteux and Dobbins - The Flathead Catfish of Northwest Florida Rivers

 

In an attempt to simulate this phenomenon and increase redbreast sunfish numbers, Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) personnel removed flathead catfish of all sizes collected by electrofishing in a 70 km stretch of the Ocmulgee River over four consecutive years (R. Weller, GADNR pers. comm.).  After four years, the size structure of the flathead catfish had drastically declined, but the catch rate of the species did not change.  This in turn led to no change in redbreast sunfish abundance.

 

In the Apalachicola River, flathead catfish have become popular with anglers for the sport and quality of the flesh.  Cailteux et al. (1999) reported that 31% of anglers interviewed on the Apalachicola River (N=279) fished to some extent for flathead catfish.  The Blountstown Rotary Club started the first flathead catfish tournament in 1996 in which 154 anglers competed and has become an annual event.  Since then, two other local civic groups, one in Bristol and one in Wewahitchka, also started annual tournaments.  These events have become the major fundraiser for all three of these groups.  From 154 up to 353 anglers have competed in each of these events.  A rudimentary economic study was done on these three events in 2001 to assess the impact these tournaments had on the local economies of these rural counties (Cailteux et al. 2002).  Estimated direct business sales ranged from $32,000 to $59,000 per each one-day tournament.  These groups have turned a bad situation into a worthwhile cause.

 

While the Apalachicola River has the most abundant flathead catfish population, four other north Florida rivers have varying levels of population densities.  The Escambia River (Pensacola area) currently holds the state record for flathead catfish (22 kg) that was caught in 2000.  However, relative abundance in the Escambia River (11-27 fish/hr.) is much lower than in the Apalachicola River (69-84 fish/hr.; Cailteux et al. 1999).  Flathead catfish relative abundance in the Ochlockonee (0 to 2 fish/hr.) and Yellow (1 to 8 fish/hr.) rivers are much lower than either the Apalachicola or Escambia rivers.  This suggests that fish were introduced into the latter two rivers earlier than any of the others studied.  In summer 2002, flathead catfish were collected in the Choctawhatchee River (1 fish/hr.) for the first time.  Although, flathead catfish have been collected from the Blackwater River (D. Yeager, FWC, pers. comm.) no estimates of relative abundance have been reported.

 

Prior to flathead catfish introduction, spotted bullhead A. serracanthus (Figure 2) was probably the dominant ictalurid in most of the rivers east of and including the Choctawhatchee River in north Florida.  Anecdotal evidence exists that suggests this was the case in the Apalachicola River (C. Mesing FWC pers. comm.) although as of summer 2002, only 2 fish/hr. were      collected.  In contrast, the Suwannee (no flatheads collected  to present) and Choctawhatchee rivers have yielded estimates   of 46 to 95 spotted bullhead/hr in every sample collected  (Cailteux et al. 2002).  As flathead catfish begin or continue to prosper in these systems, relative abundance of spotted bullhead will probably decrease as it has in the Apalachicola River.

 

The continued spread of flathead catfish into other Florida rivers will likely occur in the future, perhaps in part due to their appeal to anglers.  Efforts to educate the public to the many negatives of introducing species outside their native range are ongoing.  While the flathead catfish is not a welcomed addition to the ichthyofauna of north Florida rivers,

                             Apalachicola River

This is Florida's largest River: The Apalachicola River is a river, approximately 112 miles long in the State of Florida. This river's large watershed, known as the ACF River Basin for short, drains an area of approximately 19,500 square miles into the Gulf of Mexico.
The distance to its farthest headstream in northeast Georgia is approximately 500 miles. Its name comes from the Apalachicola tribe, which used to live along the river.
It is formed on the state line between Florida and Georgia, near the town of Chattahoochee, Florida, approximately 60 miles northeast of Panama City, by the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers. The actual confluence is submerged in the Lake Seminole reservoir formed by the Jim Woodruff Dam. It flows generally south through the forests of the Florida Panhandle, past Bristol. In northern Gulf County, it receives the Chipola River from the west. It flows into Apalachicola Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, at Apalachicola.

The lower 30 miles of the river is surrounded by extensive swamps and wetlands except at the coast. The channel of the river is being dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide navigation due to a lawsuit with Florida.[citation needed] Except for the area around its mouth, the river serves as the boundary between the Eastern and Central time zones in the United States.
View of the Apalachicola River near Fort Gadsden, Florida. During Florida's British colonial period the river formed the boundary between East Florida and West Florida.

This river is hands down the best Flathead location in Florida to date, with some trips bringing in as many as 30 flatheads in a night on sporting tackle with many running hefty in the 20lb class.
The bite can be fast and furious at times with even triple hook ups on some trips; People also do very well in the day time on this river for Flatheads.

The northern end of the river tends to run shallow and rocky in the summer time so you might want to stick to the edges and bends. Some areas can be less than 2 feet deep at times but with few dangerous dead heads. There is plenty of structure to fish on this river as well, with lots of fallen logs and jams up and down the river, Head South and deep holes are plentiful around the edges and bends, Its also home to the old State record of 49lbs, each year Flatheads in the 50-60 range are caught from bush-hooks and trotlines as well as rod and reels.

Each year Flathead tournaments are held on this river producing thousands of pounds of fish in a single night and awarding thousands of dollars in prizes, most often it takes a fish over 30lbs to win the event. The first Flathead showed up in the river in the early 80s since then they have populated every coroner of this river from the Dam to the bay in every tributary and slew, any spot could potentially hold a large fish. Also look for some nice Blue and channel cats on this river.

Escambia & the Conecuh River

The Conecuh River and Escambia River constitute a single 258-mile-long river in Alabama and Florida in the United States.
The Conecuh River rises near Union Springs in the state and flows 198 miles in a general southwesterly direction into Florida near Century. The river's name changes from the Conecuh to the Escambia at the junction of Escambia Creek, 1.2 miles downstream from the Florida-Alabama line. After this point, the Escambia River flows 60 miles south to Escambia Bay, an arm of Pensacola Bay.

This is Florida’s best Flathead River only second to the Apalachicola, it may not have the numbers to keep up with the Apalachicola River but it makes up with its size of fish.
Each year fish are taken over 70lbs with dozens up to 60lbs taken, some have even been recorded over 80lbs on this diverse river. This river is home to Florida's first official state record Flathead. Also look for large blue cats that make this river their home. This river also held the old state record Blue Cat.
This river has everything from sand bars to deep holes, and is home to the largest log jam in Florida. At any given point on this river a giant could be taken.

Flatheads entered this river system sometime in the late 80s many locals say, so old fish are swimming these waters. The potential to produce a fish up to 100lbs in the next few years is very possible.

The river can be dangerous at times during droughts with less than 2 feet sections littered with dead heads; a good GPS is needed for safe night fishing. The southern parts of the river are very deep and safe for night fishing with plenty of large Flatheads to be caught.

The Yellow River

The Yellow River Water Management Area covers 17,721 acres and includes 19 miles of river frontage.
The yellow river has a very healthy Flathead population and currently holds the state record Flathead of 55lb, each year fish are weighed in at over 40lbs with even a few 50s, and 60s from the yellow river system. Catfish from the yellow river tend to run hefty 15lbs and up with many 20-30lbers being caught each year.

Flatheads entered this river system sometime in the late 90s spreading all the way down to the delta. The river can become very shallow in the summer time with less than 2 feet of water.
There are also some very dangerous dead heads capable of punching holes in hulls, night time trips with dense fog can become very traitorous in the northern sections. Below hwy 87 the river tends to get much deeper with 15 feet of average water and many 25-30 foot holes to explore.
After a good rain this river system will become very swift with heavy sinkers needed to hold the bottom.
You will not have any shortage of areas to fish on this river; it’s full of fallen logs, deep holes, nice looking edges and plenty of current.


Ochlockonee River

The Ochlockonee River is a fast running river originating in Georgia and flowing for 206 miles. The Ochlockonee originates south of the town of Sylvester in Worth County in southwest Georgia emptying into Ochlockonee Bay, then into Apalachee Bay, in Florida. In Florida, the river forms the western boundaries of Leon County and Wakulla County and eastern boundaries of Gadsden County, Liberty County, and Franklin County. The Ochlockonee flows through the Red Hills, Talquin State Forest, Lake Talquin State Park and the Apalachicola National Forest, and past Ochlockonee River State Park, where it is tidally influenced and a mixture of fresh, brackish, and salt water, on the way to its terminus in Ochlockonee Bay, which then empties into Apalachee Bay, with tidal influences extending upstream over 15 miles from the river's mouth.

Flatheads entered this river from Georiga from there flowing into Lake Talquin sometime in the late 90s, Flatheads are now growing fast and very large in this small river. With reports of Flatheads over 50lbs starting to show up this small river could possibly hold a state record in the future. With its large supply of redbreast sunfish the Flatheads will spread very rapidly all the way to the delta. This is a shallow river so use extreme caution when navigating at night. It’s littered with fallen logs and other structure all the way down the river.

Choctawhatchee River

The Choctawhatchee River is a 141-mile-long river in the southern United States, flowing through southeast Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida before emptying into Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The river, the bay and their adjacent watersheads collectively drain 5,350 square miles

Flatheads entered the Choctawhatchee River in the late 90s, FWC says they came in from
Alabama and Georiga and since then have exploded all threw out the river and are now reaching trophy sizes over 40lbs.

The closer you get to the Alabama line the flatheads become increasingly more common as well as larger.

This River has plenty of deep holes and bends with lots of structure to find these fish in, Beware of the summer months, with low water conditions the river can become fairly dangerous at night with dead heads and submerged timber to run into.
Few anglers are aware of these Flatheads in this river so Catfish reports are far and between. This river now holds the state record Blue catfish and could possibly hold a future state record Flathead. The Flathead numbers are increasing each year on this river as well as the size of the cats.

Perdido River

The Perdido River is a 65.4-mile-long river in Alabama and Florida. The river forms part of the boundary between the two states along nearly its entire length and drains into the Gulf of Mexico.
During the early 19th century it played a central role in a series of rotating boundary changes and disputes among France, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States. It rises in southwestern Alabama in Escambia County approximately 8 miles northwest of Atmore.
It flows south approximately 5 miles of which it forms the remainder of the Alabama/Florida border.
It flows generally east-southeast in a winding course and enters the north end of Perdido Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 10 miles west of Pensacola.
The word "Perdido" is Spanish for "lost”.

This River is on the rise to become a top Flathead choice in Florida

Flatheads entered Perdido river in the late-90s but there is now a small population of them with most averaging small from 5-10lbs but cats over 20 have been caught, the biggest on record from this river is 76lbs and another at 75lbs. Most of the northern section of the river is only accessible by small boat, but once bellow the weigh station the river gets fairly deep with a 15 foot average depth, its littered with fallen trees and branches and many 20+ foot holes. This Small river is a rising star in Florida for Flatheads.

This river is heavly effected by the tides, make sure to check them before you leave. Check out our tide chart to find out how to work the tides for flatheads.

Note

In Florida it is illegal to use sunfish for any other method besides Rod N Reel, no bush hooks, limb lines, trot lines or on any other set line.

It’s also illegal to use jugs without anchoring them properly

It’s also illegal to use non-native fish for bait, which includes tilapia, gold fish and some carps and possibly juvenile flatheads and blue cats. The commercial sale of flathead catfish and blue catfish in Florida is prohibited.