Channel Catfish

If you are looking to take a fishing trip, you may be interested in trying to catch a channel catfish. This is a type of fish that you can catch in many different waters, so the challenge is open to most anglers. Read on to discover everything you need to know about channel catfishing fishing, including some useful tips and advice on technique.

What is a Channel Catfish?

The Ictalurus Punctatus, known commonly as the channel catfish, is the official fish of Kansas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. Ictalurus means fish cat in Greek while Punctatus is spotted in Latin, in a nod to the dark spots found on the body of this species. It is also referred to as the spotted cat, chucklehead cat, willow cat, or the blue cat. 

The reason why the channel catfish is referred to as a catfish is that the barbels on the fish look just like a cat’s whiskers. It is one of 39 different species of catfish that are found in North America. Anglers in the US will typically try to target blue catfish, flatheads, and channel catfish.

We would certainly say that this species is one of the most underrated fish in the United States. After all, they reach large sizes, they will give you a good ol’ fight, and they taste amazing as well. What more could you want?

Just like all varieties of catfishes across North America, there are not any scales on the channel catfish. Aside from the dorsal and pectoral fins, all of the other fins are soft-rayed. The pectoral and dorsal fins have hardened and they have spines that are very sharp. If not handled cautiously, these fins can wound anglers, so do be careful. 

Channel catfish can be anywhere from a slate blue color to an olive-brown shade on their back and side. Their belly is a white-silvery shade, and the fish has a tail that is deeply forked. Nevertheless, the color can differ depending on the water that they inhabit. If the water is muddy, they may look yellow. However, if the water is clear and fresh, it will almost be black.  

Where to Fish for Channel Catfish 

If you want to fish for channel catfish, you will want to know whereabouts you can expect to find this species. Channel catfish prefer water that is clean and at a warmer temperature. 

You will be able to catch a channel catfish in pretty much every body of water to the east of the Rocky Mountains into Canada and Mexico. 

Native to the Nearctic, channel catfish initially lived in Mississippi Valley, to the north of the prairie provinces of Canada and Mexico, as well as in the Gulf states. Since then, the channel catfish have been introduced widely throughout the globe. You can find this species of fish in a lot of different areas throughout the country; located in the far west like California, as well as in Indiana and Texas. The range of channel catfish at present extends from the south of Canada to the north of Mexico, living in a lot of the chief drainages of the United States. 

Channel catfish prefer natural waters that are clean and have plenty of oxygen, such as streams that flow swiftly, yet you can also find them in big reservoirs, sluggish streams, lakes, and ponds. Typically, channel catfish will live in waters that have a rubble, sand, or gravel bottom. You will rarely find them in waters that have a muddy bottom. 

They are freshwater fish by their nature, but they can survive in muddy and brackish waters if needed. They are rarely found in dense aquatic weeds. Throughout the day, these fishes are often located in deep holes, particularly places that have the protection of logs and rocks. Their movement and feeding activity will usually occur just before sunrise and in the later hours of the day.

Channel Catfish Fun Facts 

  • Let’s tell you a little bit more about the channel catfish. For example, did you know that this fish never stops growing? Therefore, the bigger the fish is, the older it is as simple as that! 
  • In terms of natural predators, the list is very small. It tends to consist of muskies and large flathead catfish
  • A lot of people get confused between the channel catfish and the blue catfish, especially as channel catfish have the nickname blue cat! However, they are not the same. Blue cat is actually a common name for some channel catfish in specific locations, particularly during the spring when the male channel cat turns a shade of dark blue throughout the spawning season. 
  • While it can be difficult to tell blue catfish and channel catfish apart, it is possible. Blue catfish are blue (surprise, surprise), and channel catfish tend to be brown with darker spots. Just to make matters more confusing, though, channel catfish will often lose their spots when they get bigger. Plus, the color of a catfish can change depending on the water they live in. 
  • The best way to be able to tell the difference between the two species is to count the number of rays the fish has on its anal fin. A channel cat will have fewer than 30 rays whereas a blue catfish will have more than 30 rays. Furthermore, a channel catfish has a rounded anal fin whereas a blue catfish has a squared-off anal fin.

Top Channel Catfish Fishing Lures & Tips 

If you like the sound of this fish and the sort of battle it is going to provide, we have some tips to help you! After all, there are going to be lots of anglers vying for catfish, as they are especially popular amongst those who like to eat their catch – but more about this in the next section!

Catfish are popular with rod-and-reel anglers and trot liners. You can use a wide range of different baits to catch this sort of fish, including stinkbait, cheese, shrimp, grasshoppers, worms, and chicken livers. Despite this, we recommend choosing a bait that has a strong order, such as a stink bait or chicken liver. These fish species will also eat anything that is natural to the fishery, such as sunfish, shad, break, and minnows. 

Approximately between 200,000 and 300,000 catfish are stocked per year in the public waters by the FWC. Despite the fact that most people will fish for this animal during the night, you can still catch large catfish throughout the day. It is typically easier to do this from a boat because you will be able to reach the deep parts of the water that the catfish will be hiding in. 

Channel catfish usually want to be in areas whereby there is some sort of structure, be it rocks, a dock, downed tree, or a bridge. When you are fishing for channel catfish, it makes sense to look for structure and areas within the deep part of the fishery. Catfish will typically be in shallow waters at night but deeper waters during the day. However, this really does depend on the type of fishery you are in. This is why it can make a lot of difference to have good knowledge of the local waters in the area.

The right tackle to use will depend on the size of the fish you are aiming to catch. You will typically find that it is sufficient to use a medium-action combo with a fishing line between 15 and 20 pounds. 

Can you eat Channel Catfish? 

Finally, you can most certainly eat channel catfish. In fact, this is one of the reasons why they are so popular with anglers. 

Catfish has long been considered a staple of American cuisine. In fact, Native Americans enjoyed eating them, as did explorers from Europe. This has made catfish one of the most popular fish-based dishes in the country. 

One of the great things about channel catfish is that it is incredibly versatile. You can enjoy it in many different ways, i.e. barbecued, sauteed, braised, broiled, baked, poached, smoked, and fried. You can also combine it with other foods for chowders or casseroles. The only limit is your imagination! 

One thing that you do need to avoid, though, is overcooking. Catfish cooks quickly and is naturally tender. When you can flake the fish easily with a fork, you know it is cooked. 

So there you have it: everything that you need to know about the channel catfish! The only thing that is left for you to do now is to get out there and enjoy yourself. This is certainly a fish that will provide you with a tough challenge but it will be worth it in the end, especially if you plan on cooking your catch.