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Channel Catfish

Channel CatfishScientific Name

Ictalurus punctatus

Other Common Names

spotted catfish, speckled catfish, silver catfish, fork-tailed catfish


Deeply forked tail. Upper jaw is longer than, and overlaps the lower. When small, its smooth-skinned body is usually spotted; however, these spots disappear in older fish (can be confused with blue catfish, see identification of blue catfish). Has a small dorsal fin with stiff spine standing high on its back. Varies in color, although generally dark brownish to slate-gray on top, fading to light brownish-gray on the sides. Has 25 to 29 rays in its anal fin.

Best Fishing

Lakes: Buggs Island, Gaston, South Holston, Claytor, Anna, Chesdin, Flannagan, and most small public lakes. Rivers: Rappahannock, Appomattox, Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Pamunkey, New, Shenandoah and North Landing.

Fishing Techniques

Rod and reel anglers catch them on clams, crabs, minnows, nightcrawlers, herring, chicken entrails, shrimp, and a dough baits. They take a variety of artificials including crankbaits, jigs and spinners. Best at night or low-light conditions.

Feeding Habits

A variety of insects, vegetation, crustaceans, mollusks,


Lakes and larger rivers with cleaner bottoms of sand, gravel or stones, over mud flats but seldom in dense weedy areas. Also lives in the deeper, slower pools of swift, clear-running streams. In large reservoirs, they are often found below dams where they feed on food swept down to them.

Spawning Habits

From late May through July when water temperatures reach the mid-70s. Rocky ledges, undercut banks, hollow logs and other underwater structures are spots generally chosen to lay their pea-sized eggs. Male guards the nest, and the eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days. The fry travel in tight-packed schools, often herded and guarded by the male.

Channel Catfish Management Plan