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Archive - June 2018

channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus

What is a Channel Catfish?
A channel catfish is a species of fish. Fishes are aquatic animals that have a backbone. Their body temperature varies with that of the environment. Some fishes are covered entirely or partially with scales. They reproduce by laying eggs. Fishes breathe through gills. Many fishes have a streamlined shape for quick movement in water. They do not have limbs with fingers or toes.

What Does It Look Like? 
This slender animal has a forked tip on its tail. It has an adipose fin on its back near the tail. Its anal fin is rounded. The upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw. The back and sides are olive-brown or slate-blue and usually have dark spots scattered on them. The belly is white. Breeding males may show a swollen head, thick lips and darker coloration than non-breeding males. Channel catfish do not have scales. They do have four pairs of barbels around the mouth.

How Big Is It?
Adults of this species are about 12-32 inches long and average 0.8 to 15 pounds in weight. As of June 2017, the record for the largest channel catfish caught on a hook and line in Illinois was 45 pounds four ounces.

Where Does It Live?
The channel catfish lives naturally in large rivers and streams in the state, but it has also been stocked in many lakes and ponds.

How Does It Reproduce?
The channel catfish reproduces in spring and summer. The male cleans out a space for a nest on the bottom of the water body by using his fins and the movement of his body. As the female releases the eggs in a mass into the nest, the male releases sperm over them. Fertilized eggs hatch in about a week, and the young stay in the nest for about another week. The male stays with the nest to guard it until the young swim away from it.

What Does It Eat?
Fishes, insects, crayfish, mollusks and plants are foods for the channel catfish.

Does Anything Eat It?
Adult channel catfish can be eaten by other large fishes, like flathead catfishes (Pylodictis olivaris). Raccoons (Procyon lotor), American mink (Mustela vison) and North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) will also eat channel catfish, if they can catch them. People like to eat them, too. Juvenile catfish are eaten by birds, fishes, reptiles, mammals and insects. Eggs in the nest may be eaten by many animals.

What Else Should I Know About It?
During the day, the channel catfish moves to deep water or around submerged logs or other cover. It moves to shallower areas to feed at night. It feeds by taste and smell. Taste buds are found over the entire surface of the body.

Can I Fish for It?
​Yes. The channel catfish is a sport fish in Illinois. It may be fished legally by following all relevant laws and regulations. See the latest edition of the Illinois Fishing Guide published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for details.

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