Channel Catfish

Ictalurus punctatus

About This Animal

SIZE: Up to 4 feet long and weigh more than 50 lbs.

RANGE: They are found in all types of freshwater throughout the United States, southern Canada, and northeastern Mexico

HABITAT: Channel catfish will inhabit all bodies of fresh water -- streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs – and will thrive in nearly any type of water that provides adequate food, spawning and temperature

DIET: Their diet consists of aquatic insects, worms, clams, crayfish, snails, and fish

ON EXHIBIT: Nickajack Lake in River Journey

The channel catfish is distinguished by their scaleless bodies, broad flat heads, sharp heavy pectoral and dorsal spines, and 4 pairs of long whisker-like barbels about the mouth. They can be distinguished from blue catfish by the dark spots along their body and their rounded anal fin. They possess excellent senses of smell and taste because their entire body is covered in taste buds. These taste buds are especially concentrated on their barbels. They help the channel catfish find food in dark or muddy water with relative ease.

Contrary to popular belief, it is the spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins that sting. The whiskers are harmless. Channel catfish are a great, American aquaculture story. These tasty fish thrive on a vegetarian diet and grow quickly on fish farms. Catfish never stop growing; the larger the fish the older it usually is. A catfish’s average lifespan is about 15-20 years.