Channel Catfish

The whiskers we seek

Scientific name: Ictalurus Punctatus

Channel catfish were originally found in the gulf states, now in the Mississippi valley and north to the Red River and into Lake Winnipeg basin.

Catfish are cylindrical and lack scales; they have a smooth skin like feel. Their fins are soft rayed except for the dorsal and pectoral fins which have a sharp, hard spine that can stick you if the fish is handled carelessly.

Channel catfish main distinguishing feature is the barbels (whiskers) around their mouth. They have four under the mouth on the bottom jaw and one on each tip of the upper jaw.

Channel catfish colour is dependent on where they live, in clear water they are dark and almost appear black, but in the muddy water of the Red River they become light grey with either a blue or a yellow tint.

Channel catfish prefer to live in moderate to fast moving creeks and rivers, making the Red River a perfect habitat for them to live and grow.

Most feeding occurs at night just after sunset or just before sunrise. Channel catfish usually feed near the bottom but I have seen them breaking the surface after food. Young catfish feed mostly on water insects but as they grow their diet expands to include snail, crawfish, frogs and small fish.

Catfish find food primarily with the sense of taste. Taste buds are found over their entire skin, as well as inside their mouth, and gill arches. They have the most taste buds on their barbels. In some water they also use sight and smell, their smell (olfactory) organs are found in their nostrils which are on the top of their head in front of their eyes.

Growth- catfish grow best in warmer water and eat accordingly, the colder the water the less they eat and grow.

Catfish like most fish have gills, they have four gills on each side below the gill flap. Each gill has a double row of slender gill filaments. The gills provide two basic functions. One they bring oxygen in the fish, and they rid the body of toxic gasses like carbon dioxide. All this occurs as water passes over the gill filaments.

Catfish spawn when the water is between twenty-three degrees and thirty degrees. The male catfish selects the site and prepares the nest. He also protects the nest after the female lays the eggs, which can be up to 20,000 eggs. In addition to protecting the nest he also fans the eggs with his fins to keep the eggs aerated and to remove any waste given off as the eggs hatch, which is usually in 5- 10 days.

A one pound catfish is approximately three years old.