|Scientific Name: Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque)|
Other Common Names: spotted catfish, silver catfish, speckled catfish, forked-tail catfish, fiddler
The channel catfish has a deeply forked tail with black spots on its back and sides. Its top and sides vary from gray to slate-blue and are often olive with a yellow sheen. Its body is scaleless, and it has eight barbels (whiskers) around its mouth that serve as taste sensors for locating food.
To distinguish between a channel catfish and a blue catfish, look at the anal fin. The anal fin of a channel catfish is round with 24 to 29 rays. The anal fin of a blue catfish has a straight outer edge and 30 to 36 rays.
Habitats and Habits
Native to the Mississippi Basin, channel catfish have been introduced throughout the United States. Highly adaptable, they are found in ponds, streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs throughout North Carolina.
Channel catfish are an important part of the Commission’s Community Fishing Program. Tens of thousands of channel catfish are grown in the agency’s state hatcheries annually and stocked at various Community Fishing Program sites to provide angling opportunities in urban settings.
Young channel catfish feed mainly on plankton and aquatic insect larvae. As they grow older, they feed on aquatic invertebrates and small fish. Adults are omnivorous, eating plant material, insect larvae, crayfish, mollusks, small fish and even dead fish. They are bottom feeders and rely on taste buds on their skin and barbels to locate food.
Channel catfish feed mostly at night and are especially active from sunset to midnight. “Stink” baits (cut fish, chicken livers, cheese, shrimp, crayfish blood baits, etc.) are some of the best natural baits to use. Deep-diving crank baits fished slowly along the bottom, spoons and, occasionally, spinners are popular artificial lures. The best months to fish for channel catfish are April, May, September and October