Ictalurus furcatus
Ictalurus furcatus
(Blue Catfish)
Native Transplant
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Ictalurus furcatus (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1840)

Common name: Blue Catfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Smith (1979); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994). Blue Catfish are often confused with channel catfish (I. punctatus). These two species can be distinguised by the shape of the anal fin (straight edge in I. furcatus; curved edge in I. punctatus).

Size: 165 cm.

Native Range: Mississippi River basin from western Pennsylvania to southern South Dakota and the Platte River, southwestern Nebraska, south to the Gulf; Gulf Slope from Mobile Bay basin, Alabama, to the Rio Grande drainage, Texas and New Mexico. Also, native to the Atlantic Slope of Mexico (Page and Burr 1991) if not distingished separately from I. medionalis (Gilbert 1998). Rarely found in the Mississippi above the confluence with the Missouri River (Becker 1983). Two historic records from Wisconsin (one from Lake Pepin, and one from Lansing Iowa) are believed to be misidentifications of channel catfish (Becker 1983). As such, Becker does not consider the species native to Wisconsin.

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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The Blue Catfish has been stocked in the Chattahoochee River (Dahlberg and Scott 1971), the Choctawhatchee River and perhaps the Conecuh River (Mettee et al. 1996) in Alabama; in the Colorado River in Arizona (Minckley 1973); reservoirs in the Ouachita, White, St. Francis, and Red drainages in Arkansas (Robison and Buchanan 1988); several reservoirs in southern California drainages (Richardson et al. 1970; Moyle 1976); the Arkansas, upper Rio Grande, and Platte drainages in Colorado (Everhart and Seaman 1971; Barkuloo 1967; Zuckerman and Behnke 1986; Rasmussen 1998); ponds in the Florida panhandle (Anonymous 1968); and the Escambia, Yellow, Choctawhatchee, and Apalachicola rivers (R. Cailteux, personal communication) in Florida; the Savannah, Chattahoochee, Altamaha, and Satilla rivers in Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971; T. Bonvechio, personal communication; Ober, personal communication); the Snake River, Idaho (Idaho Fish and Game 1990); western division of the Piedmont, Chesapeake and Delaware Bay drainage, including the mainstem Potomac River and C&O Canal, in Maryland (Lee et al. 1981; Starnes et al. 2011); Lake St. Croix and Lake Pepin, Minnesota (Phillips et al. 1982); Morris and Passaic counties, New Jersey (Fowler 1952; Stiles 1978); the San Juan and Canadian rivers, New Mexico (Minckley 1973; Sublette et al. 1990); the Cape Fear, Catawba, Neuse, and Yadkin drainages, North Carolina (Guire et al. 1984; Hocutt et al. 1986; Menhinick 1991; Rohde et al. 1994); Indian and Buckeye lakes, and the Great Miami and Muskingum drainages, Ohio (Trautman 1981; Hocutt et al. 1986; Burr and Page 1986); impoundments in Oklahoma (Miller and Robison 1973); the Columbia River, Snake River, and Willamette River, Oregon (Lampman 1946; Bond 1994; Graham 1999); the Savannah River, Hartwell Lake, Lake Keowee, Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion, Congaree River, Wateree River, Great Pee Dee River, and the Santee-Cooper Reservoir, South Carolina (Dahlberg and Scott 1971; Rohde et al. 1994; Graham 1999; Rohde et al. 2009); the Potomac, lower Rappahannock, and lower James drainages, Lake Anna in the upper York drainage, and John H. Kerr Reservoir in the middle Roanoke drainage, Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Burkhead and Jenkins 1994; IGFA 2012); and in the Snake River, Washington in the early 1900s (Graham 1999).

Means of Introduction: Intentionally stocked for food and sport. Stocked in the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, in 1966 (Guire et al. 1984). Introductions in the Choctawhatchee River, Alabama, were due to flooding of a private lake in 1993 (Mettee et al. 1996). Recent introductions into the Chattahoochee River in Alabama and Georgia were due to flooding of catfish farms in Alabama during a storm in March 1990 (Ober, personal communication).  Presumably these fish moved downstream into the Apalachicola in Florida.  Sources of introductions in Escambia and Yellow rivers of Florida are unknown (R. Cailteux, personal communication).

Status: Established in most locations. Probably extirpated from the San Juan and Canadian drainages in New Mexico (Sublette et al. 1990). Established in the Chattahoochee River in Alabama and Georgia (Ober, personal communication), the Apalachicola and Escambia rivers in Florida (R. Cailteux, personal communication).

Impact of Introduction: Hybridizes with threatened Yaqui catfish I. pricei in Mexico (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1994).

Remarks: Blue Catfish has been stocked to feed on the introduced Asian clam Corbiucula fluminea. Although the species may not actually control clam populations, it is hoped that clam biomass could be converted to fish biomass and create trophy-sized catfish to catch (Dill and Cordone 1997). Blue Catfish are known to consume the invasive Asian clam, Corbicula fluminea, in Lake Norman (NC Wildlife Resources Commission, pers. comm.), and feed almost exclusively on Corbicula in the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, (M. Moser, personal communication). Not listed as occurring in South Carolina by Loyacano (1975). Not listed as occurring in Idaho by Simpson and Wallace (1978). Reports of I. furcatus in the New drainage in West Virginia and Virginia are more likely misidentified I. punctatus (Burkhead et al. 1980). See Burkhead et al. (1980) for discussion of these reports. Stauffer et al. (1995) do not list this species for the Kanawha (including the New) drainage of West Virginia.

There is considerable doubt about the introduction of this species in the Potomac River near the turn of the century.  Although numerous authors (Bean and Weed 1911; McAtee and Weed 1915; Wiley 1970; Jenkins et al. 1972; Stauffer et al. 1978; Graham 1999) report that the species was introduced between 1898 and 1905, it appears that statement is based on misidentified I. punctatus (Burkhead et al. 1980), or if any of those fish actually were I. furcatus, the introduction failed. Starnes et al. (2011) reported that young I. furcatus were increasing in number in the lower reaches of the Potomac, and that this species is established in river and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal up through the Plummers Island region.

References: (click for full references)

Anonymous. 1968. Fishing guide for waters in and around Eglin Air Force Base. Conservation and Beautification Committee, Eglin Air Force Base.

Barkuloo, J.M. 1967. Florida striped bass. Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Fishery Bulletin 4.

Bean, B.A., and A.C. Weed. 1911. Recent additions to the fish fauna of the District of Columbia. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 24:171-174.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Madison Press Madison, WI.

Bond, C.E. 1994. Keys to Oregon freshwater fishes. Oregon State University Bookstores, Corvallis, OR.

Bonvechio, T. Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Burkhead, N.M, R.E. Jenkins, and E.G. Maurakis. 1980. New records, distribution and diagnostic characters of Virginia Ictalurid catfishes with an andexed adipose fin. Brimleyana. 4: 75-93.

Burr, B.M., and L.M. Page. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the lower Ohio-upper Mississippi basin. Pages 287-324 in Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons. New York, NY.

Cooper, E.L. 1983. Fishes of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA.

Dahlberg, M.D., and D.C. Scott. 1971. Introductions of freshwater fishes in Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:245--252.

Dill, W.A., and A.J. Cordone. 1997. History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871-1996. Fish Bulletin 178. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA. http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt8p30069f&brand=calisphere.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Everhart, W.H., and W.R. Seaman. 1971. Fishes of Colorado. Colorado Game, Fish and Parks Division, Denver, CO.

Fowler, H.W. 1952. A list of the fishes of New Jersey, with off-shore species. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia CIV:89--151.

Fuller, C. - Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, MO. 1994.

Gilbert, C.R. 1998. Type catalogue of recent and fossil North American freshwater fishes: families Cyprinidae, Catostomidae, Ictaluridae, Centrarchidae, and Elassomatidae. Florida Museum of Natural History Special Publication 1:1-284.

Graham, K. 1999. A review of the biology and management of blue catfish. American Fisheries Society Symposium 24: 37-49.

Guire, C.R., L.E. Nichols, and R.T. Rachels. 1984. Biological investigations of flathead catfish in the Cape Fear River. Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 35(1981):607-621.

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic coastal plain. Pages 161-212 in Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons. New York, NY.

Howells, R. G. 1990a. Tilapia predation by blue and channel catfish in two Texas power plant reservoirs. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Management Data Series 29, Austin, TX.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995. Appendix I - A list of Idaho fishes and their distribution by drainage. Idaho Fish and Game.

IGFA. 2012. International Game Fish Association records. http://www.igfa.org/records/Fish-Records.aspx?LC=ATR&Fish=Catfish,%20blue. Accessed 7 March 2012.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Jenkins, R.E., E.A. Lachner, and F.J. Schwartz. 1972. Fishes of the central Appalachian drainages: their distribution and dispersal. Pages 43-117 in The distributional history of the biota of the Southern Appalachians–Part III. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Blacksburg, VA.

Lampman, B.H. 1946. The coming of the pond fishes. Binfords and Mort, Portland, OR.

Lee, D.S., A. Norden, C.R. Gilbert, and R. Franz. 1976. A list of the freshwater fishes of Maryland and Delaware. Chesapeake Science 17(3):205-211.

Lee, D.A., S.P. Platania, C.R. Gilbert, R. Franz, and A. Norden. 1981. A revised list of the freshwater fishes of Maryland and Delaware. Southeastern Fishes Council Proceedings 3(3):1-10.

Loyacano, H.A., Jr. 1975. A list of freshwater fishes of South Carolina. Bulletin of the South Carolina Experimental Station 580:1-9.

McAtee, W.L., and A.C. Weed. 1915. First list of the fishes of the vicinity of Plummers Island, Maryland. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 28:1-14. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/part/18765.

Menhinick, E.F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 227 pp.

Mettee, M.F., P.E. O'Neil, and J.M. Pierson. 1996. Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin. Oxmoor House, Inc. Birmingham, AL. 820 pp.

Miller, R.J., and H.W. Robison. 1973. The fishes of Oklahoma. Oklahoma State University Press, Stillwater, OK.

Minckley, W.L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Moyle, P.B. 1976. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Phillips, G.L., W.D. Schmid, J.C. Underhill. 1982. Fishes of the Minnesota region. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Pritchard, D.L., O.D. May, Jr., and L. Rider. 1976. Stocking of predators in the predator-stocking-evaluation reservoirs. Proceedings of the 30th annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners 30(1976):108--113.

Rasmussen, J.L. 1998. Aquatic nuisance species of the Mississippi River basin. 60th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Aquatic Nuisance Species Symposium, Dec. 7, 1998, Cincinnati, OH.

Richardson, W.M., J.A. St. Amant, L.J. Bottroff, and W.L. Parker. 1970. Introduction of blue catfish into California. California Fish and Game 56(4):311--312.

Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, AR.

Rohde, F.C., R.G. Arndt, J.W. Foltz, and J.M. Quattro. 2009. Freshwater fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.

Rohde, F.C., R.G. Arndt, D.G. Lindquist, and J.F. Parnell. 1994. Freshwater fishes of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

Simpson, J., and R. Wallace. 1978. Fishes of Idaho. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, ID.

Smith, P.W. 1979. The fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.

Southwick, R. - District Fisheries Supervisor, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Richmond, VA. Response to NBS-G non-indigenous questionaire. 1992.

Starnes, W.C., J. Odenkirk, and M.J. Ashton. 2011. Update and analysis of fish occurrences in the lower Potomac River drainage in the vicinity of Plummers Island, Maryland—Contribution XXXI to the natural history of Plummers Island, Maryland. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 124(4):280-309.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., J.M. Boltz, and L.R. White. 1995. The fishes of West Virginia. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., C.H. Hocutt, and D.S. Lee. 1978. The zoogeography of the freshwater fishes of the Potomac River basin. Pages 44-54 in Flynn, K.C., and W.T. Mason, eds. The freshwater Potomac: aquatic communites and environmental stresses. Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

Stiles, E.W. 1978. Vertebrates of New Jersey. Edmund W. Stiles, Somerset, NJ.

Sublette, J.E., M.D. Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.

Trautman, M.B. 1981. The fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1994. Yaqui fishes recovery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, NM.

Wiley, M.L. 1970. Fishes of the lower Potomac River. Atlantic Naturalist 25(4):151-159.

Zuckerman, L.D., and R.J. Behnke. 1986. Introduced fishes in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Pages 435-452 in R.H. Stroud, ed. Fish culture in fisheries management. Proceedings of a symposium on the role of fish culture in fisheries management at Lake Ozark, MO, March 31-April 3, 1985. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., and M. Neilson

Revision Date: 1/15/2014

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., and M. Neilson, 2018, Ictalurus furcatus (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1840): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=740, Revision Date: 1/15/2014, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 3/24/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/24/2018].

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