Flathead Catfish vs Blue Catfish – What’s The Difference?


Flathead and blue catfish share many similarities. For this reason many people ask about their differences, if any. Let’s answer, what is the difference between flathead catfish and blue catfish?

Flathead catfish and blue catfish are different species and genus. Flathead catfish is the P. olivaris species and blue catfish is the I. furcatus species. Blue catfish are found more south than flatheads near Belize and Guatemala in South America. Flathead is brown-yellowish color while blue catfish is more slate blue.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, mercury levels, costs and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll compare their nutrients, habitats, species and appearance.

Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.

Disclaimer: The above link and others in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Flathead Catfish vs Blue Catfish: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

There are times the same type of catfish are difficult to tell some species apart from the other. This may cause a slight problem when fishing, shopping or just because you’re curious. Therefore, let’s answer the question.

How can you tell the difference between a flathead and a blue catfish?

To tell the difference between a flathead catfish and a blue catfish check their tail fin and anal fin. Blue catfish have a forked tail fin while flathead has a slightly notched, unforked tail fin. Flathead’s anal fin is short and round with about 12 soft rays. Blue catfish’s anal fin is longer with a straight edge and 30 to 36 soft rays.

Other ways to tell the difference between a flathead and a blue catfish:

  • Blue catfish has a slate blue colored body. Flathead catfish have a brown to yellowish colored body mottled with dark colors.
  • The blue catfish upper jaw protrudes more than the lower jaw. The flathead catfish lower jaw protrudes more than the upper jaw.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Scientific Classifications, Families and Species

Blue catfish are from:

  • Family: Ictaluridae
  • Genus: Ictalurus
  • Species: I. furcatus
  • Common nicknames: Channel cats, cats, hump-back blue.

Flathead catfish are from:

  • Family: Ictaluridae
  • Genus: Pylodictis
  • Species: P. olivaris
  • Common nicknames: Mudcat, Shovelhead cat, yellow cat, Mississippi cat, pied cat.

blue catfish and flathead catfish comparison

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Habitats

Blue Catfish
  • Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi, Missouri and Rio Grande river basins. They range from The United States down south to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
  • They’re found in rivers, lakes, ponds and in some brackish water inlets.
Flathead Catfish
  • Flathead catfish are native to The United States, lower Canada and northeastern Mexico. They range from The Great Lakes, west of the Appalachian Mountains, south to the Gulf of Mexico and west to Texas.
  • They’re found in lakes, ponds, rivers and in some brackish water inlets.

Flathead and blue catfish are from the same areas and swim in similar waters. Although blue catfish are found more south in South America than flathead catfish.  

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Appearance

Colors

  • Blue catfish have a slate blue body fading to a silvery white belly.
  • Flathead catfish have a brown-yellowish body mottled with brown or black. The belly is pale white to creamy.

Dorsal Fins

  • Blue catfish have one dorsal fin.
  • Flathead catfish have one dorsal fin.

Anal Fins

  • Blue catfish have one anal fin with 30 to 36 soft rays. The edge of the anal fin is straight.
  • Flathead catfish have one anal fin with about 12 soft rays. The edge of the anal fin is rounded.

Tail Fin

  • Blue catfish have a forked tail fin.
  • Flathead catfish have a slightly notched, unforked tail fin.

Mouth

  • Blue catfish have a wide mouth with their jaws meeting before the eye line. The upper jaw protrudes more than the lower jaw. Their mouth has four pairs of barbels or whiskers around the mouth.
  • Flathead catfish have a wide mouth with their jaws meeting before the eye line. The lower jaw protrudes more than the upper jaw. Their mouth has four pairs of barbels or whiskers around the mouth.

Scales

  • Blue catfish have soft skin with no scales.
  • Flathead catfish have soft skin with no scales.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Size and Weight

  • Blue catfish average less than 24 inches but can grow up to 60 inches and weigh more than 100 pounds.
  • Flathead catfish average 24 to 46 inches long but can grow up to 60 inches and weigh more than 100 pounds.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Lifespan

  • Blue catfish average lifespan is 9 to 10 years.
  • Flathead catfish average lifespan is 5 to 22 years.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Diet

Blue catfish consumes the following:

  • Small fish
  • Frogs
  • Insects
  • Crabs
  • Mussels
  • Plants
  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans

Flathead catfish consumes the following:

  • Plants
  • Insects
  • Eels
  • Worms
  • Grayfish
  • Blue crabs
  • Small crustaceans
  • Small fish
flathead catfish photo
Flathead catfish

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Catfish and other seafood are renowned for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.

If you’re eating low-carb or want to give keto a try, many of my clients have followed this 28-Day Keto Challenge with great success. Visit their website and check it out.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Taste and Texture

Taste and texture are two reasons people choose to eat a certain fish. After all, who wants to add a fried fish fillet to their plate, unless they enjoy the taste? When comparing the two fish, what tastes better blue catfish or flathead catfish?

Blue catfish and flathead catfish have a similar mild to medium taste. Blue and flathead catfish may taste slightly muddy depending on the type of water or temperature it came from. The firm textures of blue and flathead catfish are less flakey than most other white fish. A catfish farm raised will taste milder.

Therefore, a flathead catfish from cleaner water will taste better than a blue catfish from muddier water. In addition, a blue catfish from cleaner water will taste better than a flathead catfish from muddy water.

What does blue catfish taste like? Blue catfish have a mild to sweet flavor. If wild caught, the flavor may be fishy or muddy. The texture is meaty and moist if cooked properly.

Is flathead catfish good to eat? Flathead catfish has a mild to sweet taste and is good to eat. A farm raised flathead will be milder than the wild caught catfish which will be more medium and slightly muddy. The texture is firm and moist if cooked properly.

I polled my readers and people from food groups. The following are the results from the poll of 49 people. I asked which fish tastes better, blue catfish or flathead?

  • 52% preferred the taste of flathead catfish.
  • 41% preferred the taste of blue catfish.
  • 7% said they had no preference, or it depended where the fish was caught.

Find out how bullhead catfish and channel catfish mercury levels compared in my article, Bullhead Catfish vs Channel Catfish: What’s The Difference?

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Substitutions

It’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for in a recipe. In addition, maybe you caught one type or have only one in the refrigerator. If you have some blue catfish, you may ask, can I substitute blue catfish for flathead?

Blue catfish and flathead catfish can substitute for each other in recipes due to their similar mild flavors. Both textures are firm and moist allowing them to be used as alternatives. Blue catfish and flathead can be prepared using similar cooking methods like frying, deep frying, baking, grilling or broiling. 

Flathead catfish substitutes include the following:

  • Blue catfish
  • Bullhead catfish
  • Channel catfish
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Bass
  • Grouper
  • Northern pike

Blue catfish substitutes include the following:

  • Flathead
  • Bullhead
  • Channel catfish
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Northern pike
  • Bass
  • Grouper

How To Cook Blue Catfish

If the catfish is muddy or strong, try soaking in icy water or milk over night. Rinse and soak again. Many people like coating the catfish with yellow cornmeal before frying or baking.

Popular cooking methods for blue catfish:

  • Deep frying
  • Frying
  • Baking
  • Grilling
  • Broiling

Flavor pairings for blue catfish:

    • Yellow cornmeal
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Lemon pepper
    • Lemon
    • Cajun
    • Creole seasoning
    • Mustard
    • Chili powder

Find out how blue catfish compared to channel catfish in my article, Channel Catfish vs Blue Catfish: What’s The Difference?

How To Cook Flathead Catfish

If the flathead is muddy or fishy, try these two popular methods to lessen the strong flavor:

      1. Soak the fillets in milk or icy water over night. Rinse and soak again. This helps extract the muddy flavor from the flesh.
      2. Trim away all the darker flesh from the middle of the fillet or directly under the skin. The darker meat has the muddier flavor.

Popular cooking methods for flathead catfish:

      • Deep frying
      • Frying
      • Baking
      • Grilling
      • Broiling

Flavor pairings for flathead catfish:

      • Yellow cornmeal
      • Mustard
      • Cajun
      • Lemon pepper
      • Creole seasoning
      • Chili powder
      • Black pepper
      • Lemon

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Mercury Levels

The FDA and EPA have issued suggestions and warnings regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed. This is especially important for:

      • Developing children
      • Young infants
      • Pregnant women

They established a list of the following:

      • Best fish
      • Good choices
      • Fish to avoid

Since mercury can be harmful in greater amounts, everybody should be aware how much mercury each fish contains. Therefore, does blue catfish or flathead catfish have more mercury?

Blue catfish and flathead catfish have similar levels of mercury and are listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish regarding mercury levels. 

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

Mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 14 15.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Cost

The prices for fish will vary depending on where they’re sold and how the fish are caught. Its a good idea to check the label to see if it’s farm-raised or wild-caught. This affects the price.

Therefore, which catfish costs more, blue catfish or flathead catfish?

Blue catfish and flathead catfish have a similar price per pound. Both live blue and flathead catfish costs $3.50 per pound. Catfish fillets price ranges from $16.00 to $34.56 per pound. Blue catfish fillets cost $18.99 per pound.

I conducted a search for the most popular websites selling fish online. Many of the businesses sold catfish but didn’t specify what type. The following are the prices I was able to find in my search.

I checked online at Amazon and found the following:

      • Wild Blue catfish fillet
        • $18.99 per pound
      • Catfish fillets (doesn’t specify which type)
        • $34.56 per pound

Check out Amazon’s current prices and selection of catfish or any other seafood, Fresh Seafood.

I checked Fulton Fish Market online:

      • Wild Channel catfish fillet
        • $29.30 per pound

I checked Citarella online:

      • Catfish fillet (doesn’t specify type)
        • $16.00 per pound

I checked FreshDirect online:

      • Farm raised Catfish fillets (doesn’t specify the type)
        • $12.99 per pound

I checked Cast Away Lakes online and found live blue and flathead catfish for sale:

      • Live flathead catfish
        • $3.50 per pound
      • Live blue catfish
        • $3.50 per pound

Find out how channel catfish’s taste and mercury levels compared to flathead catfish in my article, Channel Catfish vs Flathead Catfish: What’s The Difference?

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Nutrients

The table below is the nutrients contained in 4 ounces of flathead catfish and blue catfish.

Nutrient Blue Catfish, raw (4 Ounces) Flathead Catfish, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 110 130
Fat 3.0 g 3.1 g
Saturated Fat 1.0 g 1.1 g
Cholesterol 66 mg 68 mg
Protein 19 g 20 g
Sodium 50 mg 55 mg
Omega-3 0.53 g  0.57 g
B-6 0.1 mg  0.3 mg
B-12 2.4 mcg  1.9 mcg
Thiamin 0.22 mg  0.19 mg
Riboflavin 0.11 mg  0.08 mg
B5 0.9 mg  0.4 mg
Iron 0.3 mg 0.3 mg
Niacin 2.1 mg  2.9 mg
Folate 11.2 mcg  9.2 mcg
Potassium 404 mg  508 mg
Magnesium 26 mg  37 mg
Phosphorus 236 mg  293 mg
Calcium 20.3 mg 25.3 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg  0.6 mg
Selenium 14.2 mcg  17.2 mcg

Nutrient Sources 16 17 18 19

Examining the nutrients above, both catfish contain a good amount of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and B vitamins. The numbers for each catfish are similar. Therefore, it’s difficult to say if blue catfish or flathead catfish is better than the other. 

Blue catfish and flathead catfish provide a similar amount of protein, heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium. Keep reading the section below to find out how each of these nutrients is beneficial for health.

Flathead Catfish and Blue Catfish Health Benefits

Most fresh seafood, low in mercury, provide a great deal of health benefits. The nutrients contained in fresh fish benefit the body in many ways, especially omega-3 fatty acids. The nutrients and how they benefit the body is discussed below.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by blue and flathead catfish include the following:

      1. B1 (thiamin)
      2. B2 (riboflavin)
      3. B3 (niacin)
      4. B5
      5. B6
      6. B9 (folate)
      7. B12

B vitamins help support the following:

      • Energy levels.
      • Cardiovascular disease.
      • Brain function.
      • Digestion.
      • Nerve function.
      • Red blood cells.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Of all the nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids may be the most important. Flathead catfish provides 0.57 grams of omega-3s and blue catfish 0.53 grams. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy in many ways, especially for the heart.

They have been determined in scientific studies to help with the following:

      • Regulating heart rhythms.
      • Lowering inflammation.
      • Reducing triglycerides.
      • Maintain healthy blood pressure.
      • Lowering bad cholesterol.
      • Increasing good cholesterol.
      • Keeping the arteries healthy and functioning properly.

Since they are so beneficial, omega-3s are sold as a supplement. They are extracted from the flesh of fatty fish like salmon, cod livers, herring, anchovies, sardines and tuna. The best way to obtain omega-3 is consuming fresh fish, low in mercury twice per week.

Two of the fatty acids, DHA and EPA, have been shown in studies to lower blood pressure and improve the function of blood vessels 20.

Other studies have shown them to reduce joint stiffness and pain in people with arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids have also increased the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Calcium

Blue catfish provides 20.3 grams and flathead 25.3 grams of calcium per four ounces. Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 21.

Calcium also helps the following:

      • Helps muscles function properly.
      • Improve nerve function.
      • Build and maintain strong bones.

Potassium

Blue catfish provide 404 mg of potassium and flathead 508 mg per four ounces. It helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 22.

The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 23.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between high blood pressure and low potassium levels 24.

Magnesium

Flathead catfish provides 37 mg of magnesium and blue catfish 26 mg per four ounces. Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. 

A recent study researched previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 25.

Magnesium helps control the following:

      • Blood sugar
      • Blood pressure
      • Muscle
      • Insomnia
      • Nerve function

One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.

In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 26.

Phosphorus

Blue catfish provides 236 mg of phosphorus and flathead 293 mg per four ounces. Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:

      • Help the kidneys remove waste.
      • Help the body manage and store energy.
      • Promote healthy nerve conduction.
      • Promote teeth and bone strength.
      • Muscle contraction.
      • Muscle recovery.

Selenium

Flathead catfish provides 17.2 mcg of selenium and blue catfish 14.2 mcg per four ounces. Selenium is a nutrient which is not written about much in articles about health. Many scientific studies 27 show selenium may help to protect the following:

      • Heart disease
      • The immune system
      • Cognitive issues
      • Thyroid

Read Next: More Catfish vs Fish Articles!

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Bullhead Catfish vs Flathead Catfish: The Differences

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Wikipedia: Catfish[]
  2. Wikipedia: Blue catfish[]
  3. NOAA Fisheries: Blue Catfish[]
  4. Chesapeake Bay Program: Blue Catfish[]
  5. Texas Parks & Wildlife: Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) []
  6. Texas Parks & Wildlife: Catfish Comparison and Identification[]
  7. Kansas Wildlife & Parks: Identification of Blue, Channel, and Flathead Catfish[]
  8. Wikipedia: Flathead catfish[]
  9. Chesapeake Bay Program: Flathead Catfish[]
  10. Delaware.gov: Flathead Catfish[]
  11. Texas Parks & Wildlife: Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) []
  12. UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: Flathead Catfish[]
  13. National Park Service: Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) []
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  15. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  16. Nutrition Value: Wild caught blue catfish fillets[]
  17. Nutritiondata: Fish, catfish, channel, wild, raw[]
  18. USDA: Catfish[]
  19. CalorieSlism: Flathead[]
  20. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  21. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  22. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  23. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  24. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  25. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  26. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  27. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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