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Channel Catfish 

Channel Catfish

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 fish.

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.

Adult channel catfish often ascend rivers to spawn in the spring. Spawning takes place in horizontal burrows, crevices, over hanging rock ledges, undercut banks,
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..


Ontario Fishing Magazine