Original range was the central drainages of the U.S. to Southern Canada and Northern Mexico. Introduced to Arizona in 1903. Scattered black spots on a silver or gray colored back and sides with a white belly. Few spots on large adults. Smooth, scaleless skin. Four pair of barbels or 'whiskers'. Short base on small adipose fin. Deeply forked tail. Anal fin has 24 to 30 rays and is slightly rounded. Length 10 to 39 inches. Weight: 12 ounces to over 15 pounds. Maximum age of 24 years.
Found in most warm water lakes and rivers. Inhabit deeper stretches of rivers and streams with moderate current.
Spawns from April through early June. Gelatinous egg mass is laid in a hole or a cavity, generally in rocky areas. These eggs are guarded by the male alone. The male also guards their young for a time. During the reproductive season, the male assumes a darker body color, often bluish or blue-black and develops thickened lips and bulging forehead. Such fish are often mistaken by fishermen as another species such as a blue catfish.
As scavengers, channel catfish will eat almost anything, dead or alive. They prefer minnows, crayfish, and aquatic insects or invertebrates. Feeds much more actively than the flathead catfish.
Effective baits are waterdogs, liver, blood bait, shad, shrimp, anchovies, stink baits, hot dogs, minnows and worms. Contrary to myth, the "whiskers" are harmless to touch and used only to smell, taste and feel as it forages for food. However, the dorsal fin and pectoral fins have a sharp spine which can inflict a painful wound. In rivers, fishing swift riffles at night with light tackle for these fish can provide some superior sport fishing. Most actively feed in evenings.
The meat is white, firm, tender and sweet and is considered very good eating.
Updated October 2009