Ictalurus is Greek and punctatus is Latin, meaning “fish cat” and “spotted”. Channel Catfish can easily be identified in comparison to blue catfish and flathead catfish by paying a little attention to the distinguishing features of the species. Channel catfish have a deeply forked tail similar to blue catfish but the coloring is much different than that of a blue. Because of the coloring of the channel catfish they are often confused by inexperienced anglers with the flathead catfish. Channels however have a deeply forked tail (instead of slightly notched) and have a protruding upper jaw (instead of lower jaw).
The coloring of channnel catfish is most often olive brown to slate in color and even with shades of blue and grey at times on the sides. The underside or bellies of the fish are white or silvery white. Typically there are numerous small black spots present but these may be absent in larger fish. The anal fin has 24-29 rays (in comparison to a blue catfish which has 30 or more).
- Life History
Channel catfish typically spawn in late spring and early summer when water temperatures reach 75 degrees. The male fish select nest sites (like other species) which are typically selected in very dark secluded areas like cavities in rock piles or rip rap, logs, trees, undercut banks etc. Eggs are laid in the bottom of the bests and the male fish guard the nest. Biologists have also noted that male channel catfish may actually eat some of the eggs if disturbed.
Young channel catfish (less than four inches in length) feed primarily on smaller insects. Adult channels are omnivorous feeding on mussels, crustaceans, fish, plants and insects. Most channel catfish will reach sexual maturity in three to six years or when they reach about twelve inches in length.
Channel catfish are most abundant in large streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs with low or moderate current.
Channel catfish are one of the most popular species of fish in the United States ranking second only to bass in many starts. Part of the reason for the popularity is that they obviously make excellent table fare but also because they are abundant and readily available in most lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Channel catfish can be caught with a variety of baits including natural baits like worms, bait fish, crawfish or other natural baits but most popular is prepared catfish baits like punch baits, dip baits and soap baits. One popular technique used with these prepared baits is chumming with soured grains like wheat or milo or using range cubes as chum.