SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ictalurus punctatus
Channel Catfish is one of the most popular fish in North America. Due to their popularity, size, and good flavor when cooked, this catfish is an excellent choice for Aquaponic systems and or pond stocking. They are cold water tolerant, are compatible with Large mouth Bass, Crappie, Tilapia and Koi. The channel catfish is sometimes known as “Fork-Tailed Cat,” Fiddler,” “Spotted Cat,” or “Lady Cat.”
A catfish is easily distinguished from other species of fish because of their smooth, scaleless bodies. The channel catfish is olive to light blue in color with black speckles on the sides, has a forked tail, whisker-like organs around the mouth, a broad flat head, and a slender body. Males generally are darker in color and have larger heads than the females. Catfish have a very keen sense of smell and taste. The whiskers, known as “barbels,” are around their mouth with the purpose of helping them locate food in the dark waters. In addition, they have taste buds all over the surface of their body.
Catfish grow continually; the larger the fish, the older it usually is. On average, channel catfish weigh between 2-7 pounds and measure 12 to 24 inches long. However, many grow much larger than this, with the record weighing 58 pounds and measuring 52 inches.
Mating season occurs once a year from May to July when the water reaches around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Before this season, the male finds a nesting site near shore and uses his fins to make a nest on the ground. He also finds a female catfish. When spawning season arrives, the female will lay up to 50,000 eggs in which the male will then fertilize. This process takes a total of 4-6 hours. After the eggs are fertilized, the male guards them from the female because she will eat them if she is let near. The baby catfish will hatch within a week and then they remain in the nest for another week. These “fries” stay in a school and eat small insects until they are ready to venture out on their own (about 2-3 weeks). Most catfish are mature by the time they are 12 inches long. A catfish’s average lifespan is about 15-20 years.