Channel Catfish

Ictalurus punctatus

Copyright, Garold W. Sneegas

Channel Catfish are one of the largest fish found in Northern Virginia. They can grow to almost four feet long and up to 50 pounds, however they are usually much smaller. It is not uncommon to see a fish three feet long and twenty pounds.

Channel Catfish are usually slender and mostly bluish-gray. The sides may be light blue or silvery with scattered black spots, and the belly is white.

Channel Catfish have a large flat head with large eyes. They have an overbite and eight barbels (whiskers) around their mouths.

They can also be identified by their caudal (tail) fin, which is forked.

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Channel Catfish live in rivers, lakes, ponds, and large creeks. They usually hide under logs, rock ledges, muskrat houses, beaver dams, or undercut banks. They also hide along weedy shores.

Channel Catfish spawn (mate) in late Spring and early Summer. First, the male finds a good hidden, dark spot. He then waits for the female to show up. After mating, the male chases the female away. He will guard the yellowish egg mass by himself.

Planet Catfish

Copyright: Nature's Images, Inc.

The male guards the eggs from predators, including other catfish. He himself will sometimes eat some of the eggs.

After the fry (young catfish larvae) hatch, he will guard them until they are big enough to go out on their own.

Small Channel Catfish eat mostly aquatic insects, small crayfish, and other invertebrates (animals without backbones). When they get older, Channel Catfish will eat aquatic insects, clams, snails, mussels, crayfish, leeches, fish, terrestrial insects (land insects that fall in the water), earthworms, amphibians, and occasionally a small bird or mammal. They will also eat some aquatic plants, algae, and seeds that fall in the water.

Copyright, Garold W. Sneegas

Channel Catfish feed mostly at night, and they are most active from sundown until midnight. Some fishermen swear that catfish feed more when there is a full moon. Channel cats use their barbels to locate food on the bottom, such as clams and leeches, but they are not strictly bottom feeders. These catfish will take swimming animals and food from the surface as well.

As a defense, Channel Catfish have a mild venom in their pectoral fins (on the chest) and dorsal fin (on the back). Their main predators are larger fish, especially from the Sunfish family, and birds, such as eagles or herons.

Konrad P. Schmidt

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Crayfish

Bluegill

Common Cattail

Freshwater Leech Pa

Green Darner

Largemouth Bass

Common Duckweed

Beaver SP

Eastern Dobsonfly

Black Crappie

Black Willow

The Big Red Worm Pa

Bluegill

Great Blue Heron

American Sycamore

Northern Hog Sucker EC

Largemouth Bass

American Bald Eagle

Yellow Pond Lily

Creek Chub

Red-tailed Hawk

Pickerelweed

Earthworm

Yellow Perch

Common Reed

Meadow Vole

Eastern Newt

Green Algae

Mallard

Large Diving Beetle

Marsh Bulrush

American Elm

Green Darner

Wild Rice

Common Duckweed

Golden Shiner

Golden Shiner

American Eel

Euglena

Double-crested Cormorant

Bullfrog

Scud

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Aquatic Worm

Eastern Lamp Mussel

Freshwater Leech

Eastern Mosquitofish

Relationship to Humans:

Channel Catfish are the most eaten freshwater fish in America, after trout. Not only are they caught and consumed by fisherman, but they are also farmed in parts of the country. These are the catfish filets that you see in the grocery store.

Catfish are also helpful in controlling populations of insects, fish and other animals. People need to be careful handling them, because of the sharp spines and venom. Being cut by a Channel Catfish spine is often compared to a paper cut.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Osteichthyes
ORDER
Siluriformes
FAMILY
Ictaluridae
GENUS
Ictalurus
SPECIES
Ictalurus punctatus

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