Kayak Fishing for Flathead Catfish

Taming Monsters From a Plastic Boat

Catching a fish that weighs nearly as much as your kayak is something that requires careful consideration.  I am regularly met with the response, "You're crazy."  I think crazy is a harsh term that does not adequately describe the mindset of someone who fishes for big fish in a little boat.  I think adventurous is more appropriate.  Call it what you want, fishing for flathead catfish from a kayak is some of the most exciting, heart-pounding types of fishing you are likely to find in North America.  Flatheads bring the fishing up another level.

You still may be thinking, "What does this moron know?  People catch sharks, sailfish, and marlin out of kayaks in saltwater.  Nothing can compare to those fish."

Well sir, you do have a point, but the flathead scene is a little bit different.  In the salt, if you hook one of those great sport fish, it is nothing for them to pull off a couple hundred yards of line and pull your little plastic dingy all over the place.  Flatheads on the other hand require a different approach. 

Flathead catfish rule their log piled castles, and if you allow them to pull even a few feet of line off the reel, your chances of landing them drop dramatically.  Couple that with the fact you are sitting in a marginally stable plastic boat, and you have some major hurdles to overcome.  If you decide to give this fishing a try, make sure you do it in an intelligent manner. 


how to do it safely

There are a few main points to address when fishing for flathead catfish in small to mid-size rivers.  First things first, WEAR A PFD.  That's a personal flotation device, also called a life jacket.  Accidents happen to people everyday in much safer environments that what what we are discussing here.  Anything that can go wrong at night often does and it is essential to make sure you are prepared for the worst.  You are in a small boat with the potential to capsize, there is typically current, and you are likely near brushy, underwater tangles.  Add on that you will hopefully be fighting a large flathead.  If you are not smart, these are the ingredients for an accident to happen. The trick is to find a comfortable one you will always wear.  I'm a big fan of the Onyx Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket because of its lightweight.  I can barely tell I'm wearing it most of the time. 

When fishing out of a large boat, anglers usually stay put by throwing out a hefty anchor.  If this is done in a kayak, current has the potential to pull the back end of your kayak underwater.  Don't ask me how I know this.  This leaves you with two safe alternatives.  Tie off to a solidly placed log in the water, or anchor off the bank.  Either will get the job done, just let conditions and location determine the most effective method.  An added advantage is both of these methods provide stability to your vessel while puttin' a whoopin' on a big catfish.  

I have found there is rarely a need for an anchor trolley while using these methods.  Instead, I mounted small zigzag cleats, like the Attwood ZigZag Cleat, on each side of my kayak.  This allows me to solidly attach the kayak to the piece of timber I want to fish from, or cinch myself up to the bank when I have the anchor pushed into the shore.

Bring a head lamp and make sure you have a light of some sort on your kayak.  The Petzl ACTIK Headlamp is durable and will take a beating.  Being hit by larger boats at night is a real possibility and is something I hope none of you experience.  Plus, it is a requirement on most public waterways at night and for good reason.  Don't leave anything to chance.  Try to eliminate any potential problems before they happen and you will be much better off. 

How to catch 'em

Fishing techniques out of a kayak are much the same as fishing out of a boat or off the shore.  For helpful tips click on the link below for an article on flathead catfishing basics. 

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