Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)
Common Names: Blue Cat, hump-back blue, Silver cat, Fork tail cat
As the largest freshwater fish species in North America, the Blue Catfish is an angler’s dream, providing an easy catch and an excellent source of meat. Most are caught on trot lines with a variety of baits, but they can also be caught with a hook and line. They are not often cultured even though they display a larger percentage of available meat than channel catfish due to their susceptibility to disease. Often a hybrid cross between a blue and a channel catfish is farmed.
Range: Blue catfish are large river fish, found in main channels, tributaries, and impoundments of major river systems. They are native to major rivers in Ohio, Missouri, Mississippi. They can also be found in south Texas all the way to northern Guatemala.
Description: Blue catfish have a forked tail and are very similar to channel catfish in looks. They have large heads with down-turned mouths for feeding on the bottom. A humped back is displayed in front of the dorsal fin. A channel catfish will have dark spots, whereas a blue catfish will not. A blue catfish will also have 30 -36 anal fin rays. Coloration is usually slate blue faded to a white belly.
Biology and Life History: The blue catfish is the largest freshwater sport fish found in Texas. They commonly weigh 20-40 pounds and can live up to 40 years. They can reach as large as 115 pounds, and are considered an excellent food fish. Their spawning behavior is similar to a channel catfish, however, they are not sexually mature until they reach 24 inches in length. Blue catfish have a varied diet, turning piscivorous after maturation to adulthood. Spawning occurs in late spring or early summer months and egg masses are deposited by the female into cavities in logs, or any other bottom structure. Both male and female catfish guard the nest after eggs are deposited until hatch.
Stocking: Comparable to channel catfish in stocking rates blue catfish a fertilized pond can support 50-100 fish per acre, while an unfertilized pond is recommended to be stocked at the rate of 25-50 per acre. Catfish are stocked in early spring and can be fed a pelleted diet to increase growth.