Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Siluriformes
(Catfish) > Ictaluridae
(North American freshwater catfishes)
Etymology: Ictalurus: Greek, ichtys = fish + Greek, ailouros = cat (Ref. 45335); punctatus: Ictalurus (Greek)=fish cat; punctatus (Latin)=spotted (referring to the dark spots on the body) (Ref. 79012).
Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range
Freshwater; benthopelagic; pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dH range: 4 - 30; depth range 15 - ? m (Ref. 9988). Subtropical; 10°C - 32°C (Ref. 12741); 55°N - 25°N, 110°W - 70°W (Ref. 86798)
North America: St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River drainage), and Missouri-Mississippi river basins from southern Quebec to southern Manitoba and Montana south to Gulf. Possibly native on Atlantic and Gulf slopes from Susquehanna River to Neuse River, and from Savannah River to Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and west to northern Mexico and eastern New Mexico. Introduced throughout most of US.
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm 36.0  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 132 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 26550); common length : 57.0 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. 59043); max. published weight: 26.3 kg (Ref. 4699); max. reported age: 24 years (Ref. 59043)
Usually bluish olive, gray or black on the upper part of the body, becoming white below; dark spots usually scattered along the sides; older males dark in color, the head looking very wide when seen from the top; long barbels surrounding the mouth and the tail deeply forked (Ref. 44091).
Inhabits lakes and deep pools and runs over sand or rocks in small to large rivers (Ref. 86798). Adults occur in rivers and streams and prefer clean, well oxygenated water (Ref. 9988), but also in ponds and reservoirs (Ref. 10294, 44091). They feed primarily on small fish, crustaceans (e.g. crayfish), clams and snails; also feed on aquatic insects and small mammals (Ref. 9669, 10294, 44091). Marketed fresh, smoked and frozen; eaten steamed, fried, broiled, boiled, microwaved and baked (Ref. 9988). Albino form common in the aquarium trade (Ref. 13371).
Life cycle and mating behavior
Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae
Spawning happens, depending on latitude, during the months of April-July, with temperatures between 27-28°C. Females lay their egges on a hole dug on sandy grounds. Incubation lasts 3-8 days, and larval development between 12-16 days, depending on temperature. The pair builds a depression in the ground, which is guarded by the male (Ref. 1672). Channel catfish requires cool water and short day lengths during the winter months for proper egg development; an egg mass can contain up to 20,000 eggs (Ref. 44091). Sexual maturity is reached at 2-3 years.
Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 2011. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 663p. (Ref. 86798)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 115185)
CITES (Ref. 115941)
Threat to humans
Potential pest (Ref. 13371)
Fisheries: highly commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: commercial
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5010 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00525 (0.00418 - 0.00658), b=3.13 (3.06 - 3.20), in cm Total Length, based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 4.2 ±0.3 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (K=0.06; tmax=16).
Prior r = 0.27, 2 SD range = 0.1 - 0.77, log(r) = -1.31, SD log(r) = 0.52, Based on: 1 K, 4 tgen, 1 tmax, records
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): High to very high vulnerability (66 of 100) .