Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Also known as … Channel Cat, River Catfish, Spotted Cat and Blue Channel catfish

Description …

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Channel cat fish

Channel catfish are a very common and popular food fish.   Channel Catfish are very similar to Blue channel Catfish (invasive species in Delaware) but they can be easily distinguished from each other by looking at their anal fins. If the anal fin is rounded than your fish is a Channel catfish.  Channel catfish can grow to be 4 ft long and weigh up to 58 lbs. The average specimen of Channel catfish is however much smaller than that at 2-3 lb being the average size caught by fisherman . They can live to be at least 40 years old.  They are easy to distinguish from other fish.  They have a tapered body with a large head.   They have a dorsal spine that can easily puncture skin that is for defense.  They have distinctive forked tails and dark spots scattered around the body. These fish are usually more slender and have smaller heads than other catfish. Channel catfish have the characteristic long barbels, commonly called feelers or whiskers, around the mouth that help them to locate food.  Hence the name catfish. 

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Channel cat fish

Their colors range from gray or grayish-brown on top with dark brown and/or dark green dorsal fins. Others include pale blue and pale olive with a slightly silver tint. Side colors range from yellows to greens to white and there are even albino channel catfish that are white or cream colored with pink eyes. During spawning season, the dorsal area of the male may become completely black, dark blue, light blue, or silver.  

Channel catfish are easy to catch on bloodworms, chicken livers, squid (stinky baits), worms, frogs, tadpoles,  crayfish, just about anything as they are not picky eaters and omnivores.  They will readily feed on dead or decaying organic matter, such as dead fish or other animals.  I know a guy that used to use ivory soap for bait, though we do not recommend that bait.  They are primarily bottom feeders and most active at night in shallower waters, however can be caught during the day.  The Delaware River, tidal creeks, C&D canal, Cupola Park, as well as all streams and ponds are loaded with these channel cats.  

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Blue Channel cat (top) compared to a channel catfish (bottom), photo from DNREC

ALERT …  Blue Channel Catfish are an invasive species in Delaware and it is requested by DNREC that you do not put these back into the waters and luckily they also make a fine meal.  Look for the difference in the anal fins, the channel cats has a rounded fin and the blue channel cat does not.

Delaware Creel Limit …   None  



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