Channel Catfish

From 8th Trip: Irvine Lake 12/30/08

Channel Catfish

(Ictalurus punctatus)

Common Names – spotted cat, blue channel cat, river catfish

Description – Channel catfish closely resemble blue catfish. Both have deeply forked tails. However, channels have a rounded anal fin with 24-29 rays and scattered black spots along their back and sides. They have a small, narrow head. The back is blue-gray with light blue to silvery-gray sides and a white belly. Larger channels lose the black spots and also take on a blue-black coloration on the back which shades to white on the belly. Males also become very dark during spawning season and develop a thickened pad on their head.

Subspecies – There are no recognized subspecies. However, on rare occasions, they hybridize with blue and flathead catfish. Aquaculturists recognize numerous hatchery stocks and create a variety of hybrids to improve their culture characteristics.

Habitat – Most common in big rivers and streams. Prefers some current, and deep water with sand, gravel or rubble bottoms. Channel catfish also inhabit lakes, reservoirs and ponds. They adapt well in standing water where stocked.

Spawning Habits – Spawning occurs mostly in rivers and streams in the spring and early summer when waters warm to 70 to 85 degrees. They also will spawn in larger lakes where suitable habitat is available. Eggs are deposited in nests secluded under banks or logs or over open bottom. The male selects the site, often a natural cavern or hole, clears the nest and guards the eggs and young. A female may lay 2,000 to 21,000 eggs that hatch in six to 10 days depending on water temperature. Males protect the fry until they leave the nest in about a week.

Feeding Habits – Feeds primarily at night using taste buds in the sensitive barbels and throughout the skin to locate prey. Although they normally feed on the bottom, channels also will feed at the surface and at mid-depth. Major foods are aquatic insects, crayfish, mollusks, crustaceans and fishes. Small channels consume invertebrates, but larger ones may eat fish. Contrary to popular belief, carrion is not their normal food.

Age and Growth – The fish’s weight generally averages two to four pounds. Studies indicate 14 years as the maximum age, but some fish probably live 15 to 20 years.

Sporting Qualities – Most channels are caught by bottom fishing with baits such as dried chicken blood, chicken livers or gizzards, and nightcrawlers. They prefer dead or prepared stinkbaits to live bait, but at times will take live minnows and lures such as spinners and jigs. Strong fighters with good endurance, they are frequently caught on trotlines.

About the Author

Sean loves to fish in Southern California and this site is his journal of his adventures in fishing. He started fishing when he was a little guy with his dad David, and has continued to this day with his family. In his day job, Sean has been a graphic designer for over 15 years, designing everything from in-store displays and signage for supermarkets to e-commerce auction sites for an online consumer electronics company. He was a web and graphic designer then later an art director for McMullen Argus Publishing (Primedia), building and working on sites for Lowrider Magazine and Super Chevy, plus 30 other automotive magazine sites. Sean seized the opportunity to teach other aspiring designers – a passion that took him first to Learning Tree University and then to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA, where he has been an integral part of the renowned digital arts department for more than ten years. Throughout his teaching career, Sean maintained a freelance business, designing for clients including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards), Image Comics and many more. See his work at http://www.glumace.com.