Channel Catfish FAQs (13 Questions Answered)

Channel catfish are a freshwater catfish species found all over the North America from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In this article, we will address frequently asked questions about the channel catfish that will tell you all you need to know about this commonly found fish species.

Where Do Channel Catfish Live?

Channel catfish can be found streams, rivers, reservoirs, and ponds all through the central United States up into southern Canada and down into northern Mexico. Their optimal habitat includes clean waters that are well oxygenated and provide a plethora of food to consume as they have large appetites and are very competitive when it comes to hunting prey.

Is Channel Catfish Good to Eat?

According to the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, channel catfish are very good to eat and provide a healthy meal for anyone who enjoys eating fish. Fish provide necessary fats and vitamins that promote brain health and channel catfish are especially tasty when served fried or blackened.

How Big Do Channel Catfish Get?

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, adult channel catfish average about 22 inches (57 cm) in length and weigh about 40 to 50 lbs (18 to 22 kg). The longest reported channel catfish in the United States measured 52 inches (132 cm) and the heaviest channel catfish on record weighed almost 58 lbs (26 kg).

Are Channel Catfish Cannibals?

Channel catfish, like other catfish species, will eat their own if given the opportunity. Normally if they do cannibalize, it is on smaller specimens than themselves. They are bottom dwellers and their diet is extremely varied so feeding on other channel catfish is not out of the question if it’s dinner time and a meal presents itself.

What Is the Best Bait for Channel Catfish?

Since channel catfish have a widely varied diet, there are a lot of good options for bait when aiming to catch this species. Worms, minnows, and shad are the most effective at hooking a channel catfish.

Since they are attracted to their prey by smell, it is more effective to use live bait in still waters and dead bait that has been slit open in several small places in moving water. Both of these scenarios will help enhance the attraction of channel catfish to your bait.

Do Channel Catfish Muddy a Pond?

Although they do live on the bottom of freshwater bodies, preferably in muddy areas, channel catfish are not typically known to muddy the waters of ponds. If there are too many fish in the pond or the waters are shallower than three to five feet, it is possible for channel catfish to stir up the muck due to overstocking.

On the other hand, there are situations in which channel catfish can help alleviate muddy waters. According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, introducing channel catfish into ponds that have a high density of crayfish which make waters muddy by burrowing into the bottom can be helpful because the catfish will actively prey on the crayfish.

What Do Channel Catfish Eat?

As juveniles, channel catfish stick a diet of plankton and aquatic insect larvae. According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, adult channel catfish are opportunistic feeders with a wide variety of prey items. They have been known to eat aquatic insects, crustaceans such as crayfish, snails, clams, small fish, small mammals, and even small birds.

How Long Do Channel Catfish Live?

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, channel catfish usually live to about 15 years of age. However, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the longest living channel catfish on record aged to 24 years old.

How Much Does a Channel Catfish Grow in A Year?

Channel catfish typically gain about 2 lbs (1 kg) per year and approximately 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) in length annually. Growth rates depend on a variety of factors, of course, including temperature, water quality, competition for food, genetics, and even geographic area.

What Family Is the Channel Catfish In?

Channel catfish belong to a family of fish called the Ictalurids. These fish are defined by their lack of scales and presence of eight whiskery barbels on their mouths that are sensory organs which help them feel for prey and understand their surroundings. Other members of this family include other catfish species, madtoms, bullheads, and stonecats.

Are Channel Catfish Aggressive?

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, channel catfish are aggressive especially when it comes to competition for food. They have voracious appetites particularly in the warmer months and will fight other fish for prey or turn competitors into prey themselves including other channel catfish.

When Do Channel Catfish Reproduce?

According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, channel catfish typically spawn from April to July when air temperatures range from 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 28 degrees Celsius).

A female will deposit her eggs in a depression on the bottom of a stream or river dug by her and her mating partner and the male will guard the eggs until they hatch three to eight days later.

When Is the Best Time to Catch Channel Catfish?

Although channel catfish can be caught year round, the best seasons for catching this species are from late spring through summer into early fall. Fishing for channel catfish within an hour or two around either dawn or dusk yields the most abundant catch because that is when they are most actively hunting for prey.

Are Channel Catfish Endangered?

According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, channel catfish are not federally listed as endangered or threatened and remain very abundant throughout the United States. If introduced into nonnative waters, they can become a harmful invasive species for other native species because of their highly competitive nature for food.

As with any fish species, the recreational fishing of channel catfish is regulated by state to ensure that overfishing does not occur and they remain a species that is not imperiled.