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Channel Catfish

Ictalurus punctatus

Channel catfish live in fresh and brackish waters in the upper Chesapeake Bay and streams, creeks and rivers throughout the Bay watershed. (cliff1066/Flickr)
Channel catfish live in fresh and brackish waters in the upper Chesapeake Bay and streams, creeks and rivers throughout the Bay watershed. (cliff1066/Flickr)

The channel catfish is a large, smooth-skinned fish with a bluish- or greenish-gray body and whisker-like barbels around the mouth. It lives in fresh and brackish rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

The channel catfish usually grow to about 2 feet in length, but can be as long as 4 feet and weigh more than 50 pounds. They are smooth-skinned, with a bluish- or greenish-gray body, a silvery white belly and olive fins. Small, dark spots are scattered across its sides; these spots may disappear as the catfish gets older. Four pairs of light, whisker-like barbels appear around its mouth. Its tail fin is deeply forked.

Habitat:

Channel catfish are bottom-dwellers that live in fresh and brackish waters. They prefer deep, slow-moving pools and channel waters with a clean bottom.

Range:

Found in the upper Chesapeake Bay and large streams, creeks and rivers throughout the Bay watershed. They are also found in lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

Feeding:

Bottom-feeder, channel catfish eat algae, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, crayfish and other fish. They uses their long barbels to taste for prey.

Predators:

Larger fish may prey upon adults and young. Young are also eaten by fish-eating birds.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawning occurs from late May through July, once water temperatures reach 75 degrees. Channel catfish move upstream to spawn. The parents build a nest in a dark, protected area such as under a rock or inside a hollow, submerged log. The female lays pea-sized eggs, which the male guards. The eggs hatch in 7-10 days. Young catfish form schools after hatching. The male often leads and guards the schools. Channel catfish can live as long as 14 years.

Other Facts:

  • Not native to the Bay watershed
  • A popular recreational catch
  • The Maryland state record channel catfish was caught near Mattawoman Creek and weighed 29 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Catfish have poor eyesight, so they rely on their sensory barbels to find prey

Sources and Additional Information:




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