Channel Catfish, Ictalurus punctatus: The Channel Catfish is a native of southern Canada and throughout the Midwest of the United States and has recently been introduced to several other countries globally as a farmed fish for food consumption generating a multimillion dollar business.
This fish species lives in both fresh and salt water. However, it is generally found in freshwater environments including lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, and also within moving water in areas such as streams, creeks, and rivers.
During the day the Channel Catfish takes refuge in deep holes, overhangs, other various locations that provide shelter or are at the bottom of a body of water. It prefers muddy bottoms and clear water.
Known predators of juvenile Channel Catfish are predatory fish and birds. The adults are well protected by strong, large spines, and they are only preyed upon by humans. The long term survival of the Channel Catfish is not of concern at present and there is no threat of this species going extinct.
The Channel Catfish is a member of the Ictaluridae Family of freshwater catfishes whose 14 resident members are collectively known in Mexico fishing areas as bagre de aqua dulce. There are 9 known members of the Ictalurus Genus all of which are found in Mexican waters. They are a bilaterally symmetrical ray-finned fish without scales that have deeply forked tails. The bodies are speckled, with a darker back and a light whitish belly. The upper protruding jaw has two barbells. Four barbells are present on the lower jaw. Males have larger heads and darker coloration than females. Juveniles are identical in appearance to adults.
The average size of a Channel Catfish is between 14 and 21 inches long and 3 pounds in weight. Fish breed once per year from May to July and generate between 3,000 and 50,000 eggs which take between 4 to 10 days to hatch. The juveniles reach independence in 4 to 28 days and sexual maturity in two to three years. They have life expectancies of 14 years. Channel Catfish are solitary active nighttime feeders that have unique taste buds that respond instantly to food. They also have the ability to hear sounds. They are omnivores consuming all sorts of fishes, snails, frogs, insects, plants and even birds.