Underwater Life – Catfish

So word to the wise, when you are doing research on the lovely Internet, keep in mind anyone can post anything! Yikes! I also learned that there is an urban dictionary definition for Catfish, “A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances” (Urban Dictionary). So if you get nothing else out of this post, at least you’ve learned a new meaning for that word hopefully? Anyway, Catfish the fish…

Catfish (Let’s get scientific!Order Siluriformes, Superorder Ostariophysi, Infraclass Teleostei, Subclass Neopterygii Class Actinopterygii Superclass Oseichthyes, Phylum Chordata, Kingdom Animalia)

  • They are a ray-finned fish
  • Named for barbels which resemble the cat’s whiskers (that’s where the term catfish comes from)
  • Range in size with the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia.
  • Desipite their name, not all catfish have the prominent barbel’s.
  • Catfish species live inland or in costal waters of every continent except Antartica.
  • One family is native to North America
  • More than half of all catfish species live in the Americas.
  • They are negatively buoyant.

Habitats/Life cycle

  • They are found in freshwater environments, though most inhabit shallow, running water.
  • Most catfish are bottom feeders.
  • They generally feed through suction or gulping rather than biting and cutting their prey.
  • Catfish have no scales; their bodies are often naked.

Other names

  • Slang names: Mud cat, polliwogs, chuckleheads – these are not standardized so one area may call a bullhead catfish by the nickname chucklehead while another might refer to it as a blue catfish.

While the vast majority of catfish are harmless to humans, a few species are known to present some risk. Many catfish species have “stings” (actually non-venomous in most cases) embedded behind their fins; thus precautions must be taken when handling them.

Channel Catfish

  • Adults stay in deep water of larger pools during the day and move to shallows or near cover at night to feed.
  • Total length: 12-32 inches; weight: 1-15 pounds. Specimens as large as 45 pounds are uncommon in Missouri.
  • Spawn in late spring or early summer when water temperatures reach 75° F.
  • Males select nest sites in dark secluded areas such as cavities in drift piles, logs, undercut banks and rocks.
  • Males guard the nest.
  • Fry remain in the nest, guarded by the male, for about a week after they hatch.

Flathead Catfish

  • Broad, flattened head with small eyes on top, and the lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw.
  • The tail fin is mostly squared off, with a slight notch, and the anal fin is rounded, with 24-29 rays.
  • This species has a The body is often strongly mottled with brown or black.
  • Back and sides are pale yellow to light brown or olive; the belly is pale yellow or cream-white.
  • Tail fin is dark brown or black except for the upper lobe.
  • Young are darker and more boldly marked than adults.
  • Total length: 15-45 inches; width: 1-45 pounds
  • Prefer reservoirs or large streams with slow current.
  • Spawns in late spring or early summer.
  • Male selects and guards nest site in dark secluded areas such as cavities in drift piles, logs, undercut banks and rocks.

Blue Catfish

  • Deeply forked tail, like the channel catfish, but can be distinguished by the straight-edged anal fin.
  • Total length: 20-44 inches; weight: 3-40 pounds.
  • Fish weighing 80-100 pounds are occasionally caught.
  • Use sensitive barbels and smell/taste to locate food.
  • Spawn in late spring or early summer.
  • The male, sometimes with the help of the female, selects and guards the nest site in dark secluded areas such as cavities in drift piles, logs, undercut banks and rocks.

Information Collected:

Missouri Department of Conservation


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