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Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque)
The channel catfish is the most trimly built of all the
catfishes, possessing a long, slender body and a small, narrow
head. The large eyes are near the upper surface of the head. It
may be distinguished from other local species of catfish by the
forked tail; others have square or rounded tail fins.
Coloration varies according to the
environment. lt may be light silvery grey or bluish green,
shading to paler silvery below, or olivaceous or slate-coloured
above, shading to pale silvery to white below. The specific name
of the fish, puncratus, means spotted, as with punctures,
referring to the scattered small dark spots on the body of the
The channel catfish ranges from the Prairie Provinces of Canada
to the Great Lakes and the Ottawa-St. Lawrence basins, southward
west of the Appalachians to northern Mexico and Florida.
With the exception of the channel catfish. the yellow stonecat
and certain madtoms, our catfishes are inhabitants of quiet,
slowly moving water; the channel catfish inhabits cooler and
swifter water than most of our catfishes. Its trim body
structure and its large deeply forked tail fits it for life in
swift water. It often occurs downstream from power dams where
the water is fairly rapid. It is typical of lakes and large
rivers, i.e., Lakes Huron, Ontario, Erie, St. Clair, Simcoe, its
drainage system to Georgian Bay, and the French, Ottawa and
upper St. Lawrence Rivers.
Adult channel catfish make
extensive excursions uprivers each spring. Newly hatched catfish
were found early in July in a tributary of the Portage River,
Ohio, about fifteen miles from Lake Erie. Larger ones were
collected later in July on the lake shore at Maumee Bay and, in
August, many young were caught off the bottom in the open lake.
These observations would seem to substantiate the occurrence of
migration of the young from the streams to the lake bottom.
Spawning Adult channel catfish often ascend
rivers to spawn in the spring. Spawning takes place in
horizontal burrows, crevices, over hanging rock ledges, undercut
hollow logs, and other more or less obscure places. In
general, spawning occurs when ever the water reaches a
temperature of approximately 75°F. The eggs are deposited in a
gelatinous mass, and the incubation period is usually completed
in six to ten days if suitable temperatures prevail.
Females, which average one to four pounds, may
produce 3,000 to 8,000 eggs, and large ones may produce 20,000
eggs. The male catfish guards the eggs until they hatch and
watches over the newly hatched fry for a short time.
Food and Growth
Because of their highly developed sensory system, touch, taste
and sight aid the channel catfish in acquiring their food. They
are not selective in their feeding habits and, because of this,
they may have different feeding habits in different localities.
In other words, they are not too particular about what they eat.
They feed to a large extent upon the common
fish-food invertebrates,- aquatic insects and their larvae,
crayfish, other crustaceans, and molluscs.
Being active swimmers, the adults are largely
piscivorous. The pads of sharp, awl-shaped teeth in their jaws
are useful in catching and holding such fish as minnows, perch
and gizzard shad. They devour fishes much more than fishes
devour them. In this respect, they have at least partial
immunity from attack, because of their defensive apparatus, the
strong, sharp spines in the dorsal and pectoral fins..