Family: Ictaluridae
Common Family: The Catfish Family
Common Name: Channel Catfish
Scientific Name: Ictalurus punctatus

Ecological Description

The channel catfish has a slender body that is pale blue to olive on the back and side with a white belly. Dark spots are usually present on the back and sides but tend to fade in larger adults. The caudal fin is deeply forked. 

Spawning occurs from late May to early July, when the water temperature is approximately 70-80 F. A gelatinous mass of eggs is deposited in a nest constructed by the male below undercut stream banks, logs or other secluded areas. The nest is guarded by the male for some time after the eggs hatch. Any channel catfish 16 inches or more is excellent to harvest for a fish fry with family and friends.


Channel catfish in West Virginia can be found in abundance in rivers, streams, reservoirs and small, stocked impoundments that are maintained by WVDNR.

Conservation Issues

There are no conservation issues related to channel catfish. WVDNR management guidelines help maintain and enhance current and future populations.


The IGFA all-tackle world record caught in 1964 is from Santee Cooper S.C., and weighed 58 lbs. Anglers frequently use stink baits or anise soaked hot dogs to increase strikes from Channel Catfish. Many describe them as a swimming taste bud so offering something to appeal to their olfactory system is usually a good choice when angling for Channel Catfish. Many anglers often started by catching Channel Catfish in a farm pond or other location with a mentor. The Channel Catfish is the primary aquaculture species in the southeast. The West Virginia record for Channel Catfish is 40.3 inches (Michael Sears, 2005) and the weight record is 33.42 pounds (Michael Sears, 2005).

Similar Species

The channel catfish’s anal fin is rounded, a distinct difference from the blue catfish, which is similar but has a straight anal fin.