HookedinFishing » Freshwater Fish » Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish Species Breakdown

By: Nick and FishingwithNat Updated: October 21, 2023

Scientific Name: Ictalurus punctatus

Also Known As: Fiddler, Forked-tail Cat, Lady Cat, Spotted Cat, Willow Cat, Channel Cat, Blue Cat, and Chucklehead Cat

Channel Catfish are bottom-dwelling omnivores with a great sense of taste and smell. They reside primarily in freshwater, but have also been found in saltwater. They feed on insects, algae, plants, seeds, sunfish, perch, frogs, snails, snakes and small birds.

Kid showing channel catfish they caught

How to Identify a Channel Catfish

Channel catfish have a slender scaleless body with a forked tail. They have an olive green to light grey color body with small black spots along their body. Some are albino and have a peach coloration. Their dorsal and pectoral fins have sharp spines that can be painful if not handled carefully.

Channel Catfish Size

Channel catfish can grow up to 52 inches long and weigh up to 58lbs. However, they are more commonly found in the 1-3 feet range weighing between 5-15 lbs.

A trophy size channel catfish is 20 pounds or larger.

Channel Catfish Size Chart – Length to Weight Conversion

6″0.5 lb0.64 lb0.78 lb0.92 lb1.06 lb1.2 lb1.34 lb1.48 lb
8.5″1.81 lb1.95 lb2.28 lb2.61 lb2.94 lb3.27 lb3.6 lb3.93 lb
11″4.26 lb4.4 lb4.73 lb5.06 lb5.39 lb5.72 lb6.05 lb6.38 lb
13.5″6.71 lb7.04 lb7.37 lb7.7 lb8.03 lb8.36 lb8.69 lb9.02 lb
16″9.35 lb9.68 lb10.01 lb10.34 lb10.67 lb11. lb11.33 lb11.66 lb
18.5″11.99 lb12.32 lb12.65 lb12.98 lb13.31 lb13.64 lb13.97 lb14.3 lb
21″14.63 lb14.96 lb15.29 lb15.62 lb15.95 lb16.28 lb16.61 lb16.94 lb
23.5″17.27 lb17.6 lb17.93 lb18.26 lb18.59 lb18.92 lb19.25 lb19.58 lb
26″19.91 lb20.24 lb20.57 lb20.9 lb21.23 lb21.56 lb21.89 lb22.22 lb
28.5″22.55 lb22.88 lb23.21 lb23.54 lb23.87 lb24.2 lb24.53 lb24.86 lb
31″25.19 lb25.52 lb25.85 lb26.18 lb26.49 lb26.82 lb27.15 lb27.48 lb
33.5″27.81 lb28.14 lb28.47 lb28.80 lb29.13 lb29.46 lb29.79 lb30.12 lb
36″30.45 lb30.78 lb31.11 lb31.44 lb31.77 lb32.10 lb32.43 lb32.76 lb
38.5″33.09 lb33.42 lb33.75 lb34.08 lb34.41 lb34.74 lb35.07 lb35.40 lb
41″35.73 lb36.06 lb36.39 lb36.72 lb37.05 lb37.38 lb37.71 lb38.04 lb
43.5″38.37 lb38.70 lb39.03 lb39.36 lb39.69 lb40.02 lb40.35 lb40.68 lb
46″41.01 lb41.34 lb41.67 lb42.03 lb42.36 lb42.69 lb43.02 lb43.35 lb
48.5″43.68 lb44.01 lb44.34 lb44.67 lb45.00 lb45.33 lb45.66 lb45.99 lb
51″46.32 lb46.65 lb46.98 lb47.31 lb47.64 lb47.97 lb48.30 lb48.63 lb
53.5″48.96 lb49.29 lb49.62 lb49.95 lb50.28 lb50.61 lb50.94 lb51.27 lb

View Channel Catfish State & World Records

Where Channel Catfish Are Found

Channel catfish are native to the Gulf States, the Mississippi Valley and provinces of Canada and Mexico. Today, you can find them all over North America and even Europe, Asia and South America.

These fish inhabit lakes, ponds, streams, creeks, reservoirs, and rivers. They prefer clear, deep waters with a slow to medium current and a sandy bottom.

They can be found in saltwater, but more typically are in freshwater.

Lifespan of a Channel Catfish

The lifespan of a channel catfish is typically 15 – 20 years, but the longest living catfish was 40 years.

The larger the channel catfish, the older because they never stop growing. They reach sexual maturity in 3-6 years.

You can tell the general age of a channel catfish by referring to the table below.

Channel Catfish Age Chart

1 Year Old6 inches
2 Years Old8.5 inches
3 Years Old11 inches
4 Years Old13.5 inches
5 Years Old16 inches
6 Years Old18.5 inches
7 Years Old21 inches
8 Years Old23.5 inches
9 Years Old26 inches
10 Years Old28.5 inches
11 Years Old31 inches
12 Years Old33.5 inches
13 Years Old36 inches
14 Years Old38.5 inches
15 Years Old41 inches
16 Years Old43.5 inches
17 Years Old46 inches
18 Years Old48.5 inches
19 Years Old51 inches
20 Years Old53.5 inches

Fishing For Channel Catfish

Are Channel Catfish hard to catch?

Channel catfish aren’t very hard to catch with the right bait. Refer to the baits below and with a little patients you will be able to catch a catfish.

Best Bait for Channel Catfish

Because their nostrils are very sensitive, odor-sensing organs, “stink bait” is known to lure these fish in. That includes, rotten cheese, dog food, old rotted shad, and chicken livers.

They can also be caught using crickets, night crawlers, minnows, worms, grasshoppers, shrimp, freshwater drum, crawfish, frogs, bullheads, sunfish, hot dogs, suckers, ivory soap and raw steak.

Channel catfish can be caught with rod-and-reel, juglines, trotlines, limb lines, bank lines, wire hoop traps and slat traps (long wooden traps with an angled entrance).

What Size Hooks for Channel Catfish

The best hook size to catch a channel catfish are the 3/0 & 5/0 circle hooks.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are channel catfish poisonous?

Channel catfish are not poisonous. Their spines located on the dorsal and pectoral fins contain a mucus that can cause infection if it punctures the skin. Learn how to safely handle catfish.

Are channel catfish good to eat?

Catfish are some of the most underrated fish in the country since they grow large, put up a good fight, and taste great.

Do channel catfish eat other fish?

Yes. They are not picky and will eat what fits in their mouth.

What time of day is best for channel catfish?

From sunrise to 10am and an hour before sunset.

Are the barbs dangerous?

The barbs on catfish’s dorsal and pectoral fins can be painful if they stab you. The mucus covering the spines may cause infection, it is best to avoid the spines. Learn how to safely handle catfish.

Do channel catfish jump?

Channel catfish can jump out of water when hunting for prey or escaping from predators.

Do channel fish have predators?

Channel catfish can be eaten by larger fish and large birds such as eagles and osprey.

Learn About Other Catfish