Monster Flathead Catfish Prowl Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River

In Pennsylvania, Susquehanna River anglers are catching behemoth 15- to 40-pound flathead catfish, both from the bank and from boats. Big-game action with massive flatheads is easy, inexpensive and exhilarating!

Captain Dave Shindler at Jst Fishing Guide Service ( targets big flatheads in the Susquehanna at the York Haven/Falmouth area, downriver to Marietta, Pequea, Holtwood, and Conowingo. These formidable adversaries bite best from two hours before sunset to two hours after dark.

Captain Dave Shindler nailed this lunker 30-pound flathead in the Susquehanna River near Marietta, Pa.

During the daytime, Shindler recommends fishing for them in holes, on edges, and on other bottom contours in 30- to 80-foot depths where there is current. These areas can be especially productive if they contain submerged trees.

At night, flatheads will move into shallow water, and some anglers have reported hooking large flatheads in as little as two feet of water up tight against the bank.

Use Heavy Tackle
Shindler’s tackle consists of heavy 6-1/2-foot to 7-foot rods, and baitcasting reels spooled with 65-pound or 80-pound braided line.

To rig up, the end of the line is slipped through a 1/2-ounce to 3-ounce egg sinker, or a fish-finder rig with a sinker snapped on. Then the line is threaded through a plastic bead and tied to a 200-pound barrel swivel. A 12- to 24-inch piece of 40- to 60-pound mono leader is tied to the other end of the barrel swivel. A Gamakatsu octopus hook or an Eagle Claw Kahle hook in sizes 4/0 to 8/0 is attached to the end of the leader. Use Palomar knots for all connections.

It only takes one quick look at a flathead’s wide, gaping mouth to realize they’re capable of devouring big baits. Their favorites include sunfish, suckers and chubs, and flatheads want them alive and kicking!

We usually assign one angler from our group with the responsibility of catching bait before meeting us at the boat ramp. He can either take night crawlers, a small hook and a bobber and visit a pond or other stream where catching sunfish is a certainty. Or he can wade with a seine in a small stream to collect chubs.

After several dozen baits are deposited in a bucket, the bait catcher drives straight to the boat ramp and transfers them to the boat’s livewell.

Use Live Bait
Once at your fishing spot, drop anchor so the boat comes to rest slightly upcurrent of the bottom contour to be fished. Hook a sunfish or chub through the back just behind the dorsal fin. In stronger current, hook baits through the lips so they won’t spin. Cast the rig behind the boat, and after it sinks to the bottom reel in any slack, disengage the spool, turn on the reel’s clicker, and put the rod in a rod holder.

Huge flatheads will devour a live bluegill hooked through the back and fished on the bottom.

Fish at least two rods (where legal), one in each rod holder in the corners of the transom. Fish additional rods if possible without tangling.

A thumping rod tip and/or a screeching clicker indicate a flathead has just made a meal of a hooked sunfish or chub. Remove the rod from the rod holder, engage the spool, set the hook, and prepare for battle! Super-sized flatheads do not come to the boat quickly or quietly. They are strong, ferocious fighters, which combined with their great size, are making them a heavyweight favorite among Susquehanna River anglers.

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