Channel catfish
Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque, 1818)

member of the Catfish Family (Ictaluridae)

St. Croix River, Pine County, Minnesota 15 September 1997

Young of the year

photos by Konrad P. Schmidt












What's In a Name?
Channel catfish: refers to where this catfish lives

Ictalurus (ick-ta-ler´-us) means "fish cat" in Greek
punctatus (punk-tah´-tus) means "spotted" in Latin, referring to the spots on its sides (sometimes not visible in large, old fish)


Where Do They Live?
Channel catfish live in many of Minnesota'
s medium to large rivers and their interconnecting lakes. They are especially common in the lower Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota rivers and their larger tributaries (streams that flow into them). They also occur in the Red and St. Louis river systems and have been stocked into some streams and ponds of southwestern Minnesota. The Department of Natural Resources also stocked planted them on several occasions in the upper Mississippi River drainage. Channel catfish occupy a variety of habitats from clear, rocky riffles to deep, muddy pools in turbid (cloudy) rivers. You will most likely find the lunkers in deep holes, in the safety of rocks or logs.



How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
In Minnesota channel catfish commonly reach 500-600 mm (19-23 in) in length and weigh in at 1.4 to 2.3 kg (3 to 5 lbs), but they can get as big as 18 kg (40 lbs). The Minnesota's state record for this fish is 17.3 kg (38 lbs, 0 oz). This fish normally lives to be about 5-8 years old, but occasionally it reaches 15.

    What Do They Eat?
Channel catfish feed most actively from sundown to midnight. They consume a huge variety of foods, including aquatic insect larvae, crayfish, clams, green algae, water plants, worms, and many kinds of small fishes ("fishes" is the plural of "fish" when you refer to several species at once).

What Eats Them?
Young channel catfish are eaten by large predatory aquatic insects and fish such as bluegills, largemouth bass, and other catfish. Because of the long, sharp spines larger channel catfish have few predators other than humans.


How Do They Reproduce?
Channel catfish spawn mostly in May and June in Minnesota when the water temperature reaches 24° C (75° F). The male finds the site, which is typically a dark cranny under a ledge or log, some tree roots, or on a mud bottom if the water is very turbid (cloudy). The male cleans the site and hangs around for the female. Once a female arrives, they pair up and lay in the nest next to each other, facing opposite directions. After some prompting, the female starts laying her eggs, while the male fertilizes them. The same pair may spawn up to 4-6 hours. A single female may lay 8,000-35,000 eggs depending on her size. The embryos develop for 5-10 days depending on water temperature. The newly hatched catfish remain in or near the nest for several days and are guarded by the male parent. Eventually they swim away in a school and begin feeding. The male may then attempt to spawn a second brood.


Conservation and Management
Channel catfish are not the most popular sport fish in Minnesota, but they have their devoted anglers. This is a great sport fish because it will bite on just about anything.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002