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Blue Catfish

Blue Cat, Humpback Blue


Slender, smooth, scaleless body with a deeply forked tail, and four sets of barbels (whiskers) around the mouth. Straight, flat line from the head up to the dorsal fin. Anal fin has a straight edge with 30 to 36 rays. Looks similar to channel catfish but lacks dark spots on back and sides. Color varies, depending on water quality—typically slate blue on the back shading to white on the belly. Immature blue catfish are usually more silver or silver-white than adults. The largest species of catfish in North America, can grow to more than 100 pounds and 6 feet. Typical catches are between 20 and 40 pounds with fish larger than 50 pounds not uncommon in waterbodies with older, established populations.

Range and Habitat

Native to the southern Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins of the central and southern United States. Found along the Gulf coast from Alabama south through Mexico to northern Guatemala. Introduced along the East Coast and into states west of the Mississippi River for food and sport; now invasive in many of these areas. Found in a variety of habitats; like deep, flowing water and are most common in open waters of large reservoirs and main channels, tributaries, and impoundments of major river systems. Although a freshwater fish, also thrive in brackish water. Live over various water bottoms from gravel and sand to silt and mud.


Sexually mature around age 4 or 5 and 2 feet long. Spawn once a year in April and May, when water temperatures are at least 70°F. Prior to spawning, males create nests in hollow spaces in logs, between rocks, or in other sheltered structures. Females lay about 10,000 to 60,000 eggs per year. Males fertilize the eggs and guard the nests until the eggs hatch and the young leave the nest (1 to 3 weeks). Have a relatively long life span—up to more than 20 years old, with an average lifespan of 10 years. Opportunistic omnivores, eating anything that is readily accessible. Fish account for almost half of adult diets; the other half is shellfish, mollusks, detritus/plant matter, insects, and scavenged material.

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