Missouri State Fish

Channel Catfish

Missouri State Fish - Channel Catfish

(Ictalurus punctatus)

Adopted on May 23, 1997.

On May 23, 1997, Governor Mel Carnahan signed a bill designating the channel catfish as the official fish of Missouri. The channel catfish, (Ictalurus punctatus,) is slender, with a deeply forked tail. Young have spots that disappear with age. The catfish does not rely on sight to find its food; instead it uses cat-like whiskers to assist in the hunt. The channel cat is the most abundant large catfish in Missouri streams. Its diet include animal and plant materials. Adults are normally 12 to 32 inches long and weigh from a half-pound to 15 pounds.

Missouri State Fish: Channel Catfish

Missouri State Fish: Channel Catfish

Channel catfish, (Ictalurus punctatus,) is North America's most numerous catfish species. It is the official fish of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, and is informally referred to as a "channel cat". In the United States, they are the most fished catfish species with approximately 8 million anglers targeting them per year. The popularity of channel catfish for food has contributed to the rapid growth of aquaculture of this species in the United States.

Common Names

spotted cat, blue channel cat, fiddler, river catfish, great lakes catfish, lady cat

Characteristics of Missouri Channel Catfish

Channel catfish closely resemble blue catfish. Both have deeply forked tails. However, channels have a rounded anal fin with 24-29 rays and scattered black spots along their back and sides. They have a small, narrow head. Channel catfish have eight barbels (whiskers). The back is blue-gray with light blue to silvery-gray sides and a white belly. Larger channels lose the black spots and also take on a blue-black coloration on the back which shades to white on the belly. Males also become very dark during spawning season and develop a thickened pad on their head.


There are no recognized subspecies. However, on rare occasions, they hybridize with blue and flathead catfish. Aquaculturists recognize numerous hatchery stocks and create a variety of hybrids to improve their culture characteristics.


Channel catfish inhabit deep streams, rivers, and lakes in eastern and central US, especially in deep stretches of sand, gravel, or rubble bottom. They also inhabit lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. The preferred water temperature is 75-80 °F.


Most common in big rivers and streams. Prefers some current, and deep water with sand, gravel or rubble bottoms. Channel catfish also inhabit lakes, reservoirs and ponds. They adapt well in standing water where stocked.

Spawning Habits

Spawning occurs mostly in rivers and streams in the spring and early summer when waters warm to 70 to 85 degrees. They also will spawn in larger lakes where suitable habitat is available. Eggs are deposited in nests secluded under banks or logs or over open bottom. The male selects the site, often a natural cavern or hole, clears the nest and guards the eggs and young. A female may lay 2,000 to 21,000 eggs that hatch in six to 10 days depending on water temperature. Males protect the fry until they leave the nest in about a week.

Feeding Habits

Feeds primarily at night using taste buds in the sensitive barbels and throughout the skin to locate prey. Although they normally feed on the bottom, channels also will feed at the surface and at mid-depth. Channel catfish feed on insect larvae, clams, snails, crayfish, crabs, and aquatic plants. They locate food by probing the bottom with their barbels. Small channels consume invertebrates, but larger ones may eat fish.

Age and Growth

Maximum size attained is about 20 pounds. The fish's weight generally averages two to four pounds. Studies indicate 11 years as the maximum age, but some fish probably live 15 to 20 years.

Length: Up to 24 inches
Weight: Up to 20 pounds
Life span: Up to 11 years

Missouri Law

The law designating the channel catfish as the official Missouri state fish is Section 10.135 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, Title 2 (SOVEREIGNTY, JURISDICTION AND EMBLEMS) Chapter 10 (State Emblems) Section 10.135.

Chapter 10 State Emblems
SECTION 10.135.

Channel catfish state fish.

10.135. The channel catfish, scientifically designated as Ictalurus punctatus, is hereby selected for, and shall be known as, the official fish of the state of Missouri.

(L. 1997 H.B. 700)

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Channel Catfish

Kingdom: Animalia - animals
Phylum: Chordata - chordates
    Subphylum: Vertebrata - vertebrates
Class: Osteichthyes
    Subclass: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
    Suborder: Siluroidei
Family: Ictaluridae
Genus: Ictalurus
Species: Ictalurus punctatus

State Fishes
State Fish