Catfish Identification Information FLATHEAD CATFISH Common Names: Mud cat, shovelhead cat, yellow cat Identification: Broadly flattened head with a lower jaw that projects beyond the upper jaw. Tail only slightly notched and adipose fin is relatively large. Body is yellowish or cream-colored, with black, dark brown or olive-brown mottling on back and sides, fading to dirty white or yellow. Younger fish have darker, bolder markings and the upper tip of the tails have white, triangular patches. Feeding Habits: More solitary than other catfish. Omnivorous, they feed on almost anything. More than other catfish they feed on other live fish. They feed at night on other fish, crustaceans, mollusks, insect larvae and terrestrial creatures washed into the river. Sometimes they feed near the surface and occupy water shallower than most catfish. Habitat: Found in large, medium, and small rivers and creeks, inhabiting deep, slow stretches near strong currents or deeper holes in small water. Prefers structure like submerged logs, brush, rip rap, and underwater piles of debris. Often can be found along holes in banks and bluffs through drift fishing. Spawning Habits: Summer, when water temperatures reach 72 to 84 degrees F. Eggs are laid in depressions scooped out of the bottom, in hollow logs or in holes along the bank. After hatching, fry gather in compact schools guarded by the male. As they grow older, they become solitary. BLUE CATFISH Common Names: Fork-tailed catfish, humpback, chucklehead. Identification: Heavy-bodied with a wide head and high spot forward of center near the head called the dorsal hump. Upper jaw projects well beyond the lower. Bluish-gray body above, fading to white on sides and belly. No spots and a deeply forked tail.**Smaller blue cats are often confused with channel catfish. The best way to distinguish between the two is by the 30-35 rays on the blue cat’s anal fin with its straight outer margin verses the channel cat’s 25 to 29 rays.** Feeding Habits: Omnivorous, but feeds naturally on fish, crayfish, and mollusks, and scavenges on dead or dying aquatic and terrestrial animal matter. Sense of taste and smell are more important than sight in obtaining food, and whiskers are used for this purpose. Habitat: They frequent places with sandy bottoms and moderate currents and try to avoid silty areas. Blue Cats tend to migrate to follow bait fish patterns in resivoirs. Spawning Habits: They spawn in late spring and early summer, when water temperatures reach 70 to 75 degrees F. Eggs are laid in masses into nests formed under logs, in brush or debris, or along undercut river banks. Young school up after hatching. CHANNEL CATFISH Common Names: Spotted catfish, speckled catfish, silver catfish, fork-tailed catfish. Identification: Deeply forked tail. Upper jaw is longer than, and overlaps the lower, and its smooth-skinned body is usually spotted. Has a small dorsal fin with stiff spine standing high on its back. It has eight barbels, or feelers, four located under the lower jaw, two on top and one at each end of the upper jaw. Barbels contain taste buds, which help it find food. Varies in color, although generally dark brownish to slate-gray on top, fading to light brownish-gray on the sides. Has 25 to 29 Rays on its anal fin. Feeding Habits: A variety of insects, vegetation, crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs, fish and carrion of many types, constitutes its menu. Wandering nocturnal feeders, they spend daylight hours in deep holes around brush piles or in and along river channels. Habitat: Lakes and larger rivers with cleaner bottoms of sand, gravel or stones, over mud flats but seldom in dense weedy areas. Also lives in the deeper, slower pools of swift, clear-running streams. In large reservoirs, they are often found below dams where they feed on food swept down to them. Spawning Habits: From late May through July when water temperatures reach the mid-70s. Rocky ledges, undercut banks, hollow logs and other underwater structures are spots generally chosen to lay their pea-sized eggs. Male guards the nest and the eggs hatch in seven to 10 days. The fry travel in tight-packed schools, often herded and guarded by the male. WHITE CATFISH Common Names: White Bullhead Identification: One of the bullhead catfishes. Average 8 to 18 inches, rarely 20. Has a moderately forked tail, a stocky body with its upper jaw extending slightly beyond lower. Color is basically blue-gray above, fading to gray on its sides with a white underside. Occasionally mottled light gray on its sides. Feeding Habits: Adults are omnivorous and eat a variety of aquatic invertebrates, small fishes and vegetation. Habitat: Warm ponds and lakes, medium to large rivers, sometimes small streams and some brackish and acidic waters. Usually fairly deep in lakes and rivers. Spawning Habits: Spawning probably takes place beginning in late May into July. Both sexes participate in the preparation of the nest which, is a fairly large depression scoured out over sand or gravel. Eggs are guarded and kept clean by one or both of the parent fish. BOC Members who wish a printable PDF Version of the Catfish Identification Tips can get it by: Click Here for Printable Catfish ID Tips!