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Flathead Fishing

It’s not unusual for the subject of fishing to come up when a bunch of us are sitting around sipping our morning coffee. A couple of weeks ago, Tim Herr informed the gang that he and recent Muncy Bank retiree Steve Naylor were planning a guided trip to the lower Susquehanna for some catfishing. Now, I’ll admit that I have never pursued catfish much over the years, but Pennsylvania offers some pretty good catfishing opportunities, especially now that the big flatheads have increased across the state.

While the flathead catfish, our largest catfish, was being taken in other rivers across the state, it wasn’t until around 2010 that the Susquehanna River began to garner its share of attention. Each year, the numbers and sizes have increased, and the Susquehanna has pretty much led the way. What helps to distinguish the flathead is exactly what the name implies — a large, wide flathead that helps set it apart from our other catfish. Flatheads like deep, slow pools, preferably with some type of wood structure, and the lower Susquehanna River apparently offers that ideal setting. Flatheads feed almost exclusively on live prey; crayfish, suckers, fallfish, bass, trout, catfish, and a variety of panfish are all a part of their diet.

Tim told us that he and Steve hired Tom’s Fishing Guide Service for their catfishing excursion down to the York area on the Susquehanna River. They started fishing around seven in the evening and fished until around midnight-good times to be catfishing. As expected, the water was a bit on the high side and muddy or off-color. Everything was provided: the Mad Katz Orange Crush rods equipped with Penn Reels and heavy monofilament line, large circle hooks, and a variety of live baitfish. The boat faced upstream, and the rods lined the back with enough weight to get the bait near the bottom.

The fishing, or I should say “the catching,” was apparently pretty good since they ended up with 13 flatheads and channel cats. Steve led the way until, just before dark, Tim began reeling in what turned out to be a 53 lbs plus flathead. Steve ended up with a pretty good catch as well, with one weighing in at over 23 lbs. Tom said that Tim’s flathead was the second-largest flathead in five years of guiding. To put this further into perspective, I found that in 2019, the flathead state record was set with a 50 lb. 7 oz. fish from the Susquehanna. Then, a new state record of 56 lbs. 3 oz. was set with a flathead from the Schuylkill River, and most recently, a 66-pounder has now been established as the new state record, and that flathead came from the Susquehanna River near Lancaster.

Flathead catfishing can be a lot of fun, but the truth is most of us probably don’t have the necessary equipment for such a trip on the river. Hiring a guide is no doubt a good way to go. The guys had nothing but praise for Tom’s Fishing Guide Service, and he definitely produced for them. The price was also reasonable: $250-$350 for two people for four or five hours of fishing. Tom guides around Harrisburg, York, Danville, and Sunbury. You can reach Tom at Hey, who knows, you might set the new state record for a giant flathead.

Tim Herr shows off his 53 lb. plus flathead.
Steve Naylor with his Susquehanna River flathead catfish.