What they look like
Ictalurus is Greek meaning "fish cat," and furcatus is Latin, meaning "forked," a reference to the species' forked tail fin. Blue catfish have a forked tail, and are sometimes very similar to channel catfish. The number of rays in the anal fin is typically 30-36.
Blue catfish are scaleless with a solid color, bluish gray, olive, or cream with a white belly. The fins and barbels are moderately to darkly pigmented (chin barbels often white). Blue catfish mouth has patches of numerous fine teeth on its jaws. It has 8 obvious barbels (4 pairs; 2 pairs on the chin, 1 pair on the side of its upper jaw (near corner of the mouth), and 1 pair on top of the snout).
Breeding adults are similar in color and appearance to non-breeders. Juveniles are similar to adults, but generally lighter color.Back to Top
Where they live
Blue catfish are rarely found in Washington, and are only known to inhabit the waters of the mid-Columbia and Snake rivers. While the origin of Washington’s first introduction is unknown, they most likely were a part of an early 1970’s releases of warmwater fish species, shipped to the region following salvage operations from overflow channels of large midwestern rivers, often included a variety of unidentified species.
They inhabits deep water of impoundments and main channels and backwaters of medium to large rivers, over mud, sand and gravel. Blue catfish prefers clear, strongly flowing water. They seek cool water in the summer and warmer waters in the winter.Back to Top
What they eat
Blue catfish are opportunistic predators and will eat any species of fish they can catch, along with crayfish, freshwater mussels, frogs, and other readily available aquatic food sources (some blue catfish have reportedly attacked scuba divers.) Catching their prey becomes all the more easy if it is already wounded or dead, and blue cats are noted for feeding beneath marauding schools of striped bass in open water in reservoirs or feeding on wounded baitfish that have been washed through dam spillways or power generation turbines. Catfish have numerous external taste buds, many of which are located on the barbels. Consequently, they can taste something by simply touching it with their barbels.Back to Top
Blue catfish are the largest of the catfish family in North America and commonly attain weights of 20 to 40 pounds, and may reach weights well in excess of 100 pounds. It is reported that fish exceeding 350 pounds were landed from the Mississippi River during the late 1800's. They may live as long as 21 years and typically grow to a length of 20-32 inches with a maximum reported as 62 inches.Back to Top
Their spawning behavior appears to be similar to that of channel catfish, however, most blue catfish are not sexually mature until they reach about 24 inches in length. Catfish species spawn during spring or summer when the water warms to an optimal temperature. Blue catfish spawn at 70 to 84 degrees, but 80 to 81 degrees is considered best.
Spawning success is dependent on available cover. Blue catfish deposit their eggs between and under rocks, in root wads, dark depressions, inside crevices, hollow logs, or man-made containers, undercut banks or other areas protected from strong current. Upon hatching, catfish fry sometimes aggregate in tight schools after leaving the nest until suitable cover is found.
A sexually mature male selects and cleans a nest site and spawns with a female he lures there. After the female lays her mound of sticky yellow eggs, the male fertilizes the mass, drives the female from the nest and begins guard duty. He protects the nest from predators and fans the eggs with his fins to keep them aerated and free from sediments. The eggs hatch in six to 10 days (depending on water temperature), and the compact school of fry remains near the nest a few days before dispersing. The male guards the fry until they leave.Back to Top
17 lbs. 12 oz. caught in the Columbia River by angler Rangle Hawthorne on July 9, 1975