Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus


Physical characteristics: Channel catfish are about 3 feet, 11 inches (1.3 meters) long and weigh about 58 pounds (26 kilograms). The mouth has four pairs of barbels. The adipose fin is small and far from the caudal fin, which is deeply forked. The spine on each pectoral fin has sawlike teeth at the end. Young channel catfish are mottled and brownish on the back and whitish on the belly. Adults are mainly deep brown.

Geographic range: Channel catfish live in North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

Habitat: Channel catfish live on the sand, gravel, and rock bottoms of clear streams and medium to large rivers with swift currents. They

Channel catfish travel upstream in the spring and downstream in the fall. (Illustration by Bruce Worden. Reproduced by permission.)

also live in quiet waters of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. They may enter waters that have a low salt content.

Diet: Channel catfish eat small fishes; crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns), water-dwelling animals that have jointed legs and a hard shell but no backbone; insects; and mollusks (MAH-lusks), animals with a soft, unsegmented body usually covered by a hard shell.

Behavior and reproduction: Channel catfish are bottom dwellers. They travel upstream in the spring and downstream in the fall. Spawning occurs during the day in nests guarded by the male. The eggs hatch in six to ten days. Channel catfish mature in two to five years when they are about 1 foot (30 centimeters) long. They live about sixteen years.

Channel catfish and people: Channel catfish are actively farmed and are a top sport fish.

Conservation status: Channel catfish are not threatened or endangered.

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