Facts about cats (catfish, that is)

Catfish boats
Workers harvest catfish from the Delta Pride Catfish farms in MS.
USDA Photo by:Ken Hammond


The channel catfish has a smooth, slender body, silvery blue to light olive with black spots. It has a forked tail, flat head, and fleshy whiskers called barbels around its mouth. An average adult measures 12 to 24 inches (31 to 61 cm) and weighs two to seven pounds (1 to 3 kg). In the wild, these fish can live up to 25 years. The largest ever caught by hook and line in Minnesota weighed 38 pounds (17 kg). The world’s record, from South Carolina, weighed in at a whopping 58 pounds (26 kg).


Channel catfish prefer cool, deep, clean water, with slow to moderate currents and a sandy or rocky bottom. They live in a wide variety of waters—rivers and streams, swamps and backwaters, lakes and reservoirs. They are found throughout much of the eastern 2/3rds of the United States.


Like all catfish, channel cats will eat pretty much anything. Their diet includes insect larvae, crayfish, mollusks, small fish and clams, snails, worms and seeds. Channel catfish mainly feed at night, and use their barbels to find food in the deep, dark water.
Fishermen catch them using cheese, chicken, dough balls, redworms and cut bait. Channel cats are a popular food fish, and are grown on many fish farms.



In late spring or early summer, males build a nest in a crevice or hole at the bottom of the river. They may use submerged logs, hollow containers or other dark, secluded spots. The female lays eggs in a large, sticky, jelly-like mass.

After the male fertilizes the eggs, he chases the female away and guards the nest. The eggs hatch in 5 to 10 days. The young fry grow quickly, eating insects, crayfish and seeds. The school of fry hang around the nest, and their protective dad, for several days before swimming off on their own.