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Blue Catfish – Ictalurus Furcatus

Blue Catfish


Blue Catfish Basics

Other Names

Hump-back blue, high fin blue, hi-fin blue, Mississippi white catfish, blues


Ictalurus is Greek meaning “fish cat”, and furcatus is Latin, meaning “forked”, a reference to the species’ forked tail fin. Blue catfish have a forked tail, and are sometimes very similar to channel catfish. However, only the Rio Grande population has dark spots on the back and sides. The number of rays in the anal fin is typically 30-35, and coloration is usually slate blue on the back, shading to white on the belly.

Life History

The spawning behavior of blue catfish appears to be similar to that of channel catfish. However, most blue catfish are not sexually mature until they reach about 24 inches in length. Like channel catfish, the blue catfish pursues a varied diet, but it tends to eat fish earlier in life. Although invertebrates still comprise the major portion of the diet, blue catfish as small as four inches in length have been known to consume fish. Individuals larger than eight inches eat fish and large invertebrates. Blue catfish commonly attain weights of 20 to 40 pounds, and may reach weights well in excess of 100 pounds. It is reported that fish exceeding 350 pounds were landed from the Mississippi River during the late 1800′s.


Blue catfish are primarily large-river fish, occurring in main channels, tributaries, and impoundments of major river systems. They tend to move upstream in the summer in search of cooler temperatures, and downstream in the winter in order to find warmer water.


Blues are native to major rivers of the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi river basins. The range also extends south through Texas, Mexico, and into northern Guatemala. In Texas it is absent from the northwestern portions of the state including the Panhandle, but present elsewhere in larger rivers.


Where mature populations exist, 50-pounders are not unusual. Typically, the largest fish are caught by trotliners, some of whom have landed specimens in excess of 115 pounds. Like the channel cat, the blue cat is considered an excellent food fish.

Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)  are one of the largest species of the North American Catfish. Unlike channel catfish the blue cat is unspotted. They are slate gray on the upper sides and back. Their belly’s are white.  They are often also called blues, high fin blues, high finned blues, and hump backed blues depending on which part of the country you are in. They typically have between 30 and 35 rays on the anal fin.

They are generally very easy to spot, and it is usually very easy for the trained eye to tell the difference between a blue catfish and a channel catfish.

Blues live in rivers, lakes, reservoirs and major tributaries to them as long as there is clear, swift water. They can be found over sand, gravel or rocky bottoms.

The young are hatched in about one week and the male will guard the young for a week or so at the nest sight. Then the fry will swim away and be on their own.

When they are young they will feed on aquatic insects and small fish, as they grow they will eat crayfish, mussels and other fish. Blue catfish are considered a predator and scavenger fish. The diet of the fish usually consists primarily of live or freshly dead shad or other fish.

Blues are fast growers and have an estimated life span of between 20 to 30 years.

They are often sought after by catfish anglers not only for their size but for fighting nature as well. They are known for putting up a good fight and really making it exciting for the angler. Once an angler has hooked a blue will have a long tough battle,  not only because of the size but also because of their strength and determination.

They will bite artificial baits but most anglers prefer to fish for them with live bait or freshly dead bait. The fish prefers bait with a strong scent trail so anglers that use fresh dead cut bait have tendency to use fish that is very oily for bait. Blue catf fish are opportunistic feeders and are often known to be found feeding under schools of striped bass or white bass picking up shad or other bait fish that they have injured. They are also known to feed heavily in tailraces of dams picking up injured, killed or shocked bait fish as it comes through the tailraces of the dams.

Many anglers fish for them on the bottom as they do feed on the bottom but blue catfish are also known to suspend in the water column and even feed on the top of the water on occasion. Blue catfish can be caught in very deep water or in very shallow water depending on the time of the year.

The world record weighed in at 124 pounds. Some fishing biologists believe they can reach 150 pounds or more and there have long been rumors of some as large as 300 to 350 pounds though none this large have ever been caught and officially weighed.

To learn more about blues and catfishing for them you can click here to search articles with the term blue catfish in them or click here to view articles tagged with blue catfish.

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Top 7 Tools Trophy Blue Catfish


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About Chad

Chad Ferguson is a professional catfish guide and founder of Learn To Catch Catfish. Click here to subscribe for more exclusive catfish fishing tips by email and then follow on Twitter or Google


  1. I like to learn all I can about the species I fish for. This article is loaded with info. Thanks Ronnie

  2. Joe Henson says:

    I know what they look like. I have them in my stock pond (2 acres fresh running water) I can only seem to catch one at a time…I need bait suggestions.

  3. mike harris says:

    I have been getting some nice blue cats on dip bait in lakes, going to try for some bigger ones tomorrow using live bait.


  1. [...] inconsistent. The unseasonably warm weather we have been having has the bait fish scattered and the blue catfish always follow them. We have had to spend a lot of time hunting and chasing fish as they are not [...]

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