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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)
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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:

  • Bluish- or greenish-gray body
  • Silvery white belly
  • Olive fins
  • Small, dark spots scattered across the sides. These spots may disappear as the catfish gets older.
  • Smooth-skinned
  • Four pairs of light, whisker-like barbels around the mouth
  • Deeply forked tail fin
  • Usually grows to about 2 feet long, but can be as long as 4 feet and weigh more than 50 pounds

Habitat:

  • Lives in fresh and brackish waters
  • Prefers deep, slow-moving pools and channel waters with a clean bottom
  • Bottom-dweller

Range:

  • Found in the upper Chesapeake Bay and large streams, creeks and rivers throughout the Bay watershed
  • Also found in lakes, ponds and reservoirs

Feeding:

  • Bottom-feeder
  • Eats algae, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, crayfish and other fish
  • Uses its 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:

  • Spawns from late May-July, once water temperatures reach 75 degrees
  • Moves 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.
  • 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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