Ictalurus punctatus
Ictalurus punctatus
(Channel Catfish)
Native Transplant
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Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque, 1818)

Common name: Channel Catfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Size: Maximum size: 127 cm.

Native Range: St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River drainage), and Missouri-Mississippi River basins from southern Quebec to southern Manitoba and Montana south to the Gulf. Possibly also native on Atlantic and Gulf slopes from the Susquehanna River to the Neuse River, and from the Savannah River to Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and west to northern Mexico and eastern New Mexico (Page and Burr 1991).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The Channel Catfish has been extensively introduced into states including Arkansas (Pritchard et al. 1978; Robison and Buchanan 1988); the Colorado, Gila, Bill Williams, Little Colorado, and Rio Magdalena drainages in Arizona (Minckley 1973; Tyus et al. 1982); Lake Cuyamaca in San Diego County, California, in 1891 (Smith 1896), and widely stocked since then throughout the state (Shebley 1917; Lampman 1946; Moyle 1976a; Moyle and Daniels 1982; Dill and Cordone 1997); the Colorado, Green, San Juan, Yampa, White, Republican and Rio Grande drainages in Colorado (Vanicek et al. 1970; Everhart and Seaman 1971; Holden and Stalnaker 1975; Tyus et al. 1982; Walker 1993; Tyus 1998); the Connecticut and Housatonic rivers, Connecticut (Behnke and Wetzel 1960; Whitworth et al. 1968; Schmidt 1986; Whitworth 1996); the Delaware and Nanticoke rivers in Delaware (Lee et al. 1976, 1981; Schmidt 1986; Raasch and Altemus 1991); the Altamaha, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Satilla, Ogeechee, Savannah, and St. Mary's rivers in Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971a, 1971b); the islands of Hawaii, Kaui, Maui, and Oahu, Hawaii (Brock 1960; Maciolek 1984); the Boise River, Idaho, in 1893 and later the Snake and Little Wood rivers (Linder 1963; Simpson and Wallace 1978); non-specific areas of Iowa (Harlan et al. 1987); non-specific areas in Kansas (Cross 1967; Cross and Collins 1995); throughout Maryland (Lee et al. 1976, 1981; Starnes et al. 2011); the Connecticut, Merrimack, Chicopee, Manhan, Quaboag, Agawam and Charles rivers, five ponds in Hampden County, and Silver Lake in Essex County, Massachusetts (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Schmidt 1986; Hartel 1992; Cardoza et al. 1993; Hartel et al. 1996); southwestern Minnesota (Phillips et al. 1982); Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, Pyramid Lake, the lower Humboldt River, Moapa River, and Lahontan Reservoir in Nevada (La Rivers 1962; Bradley and Deacon 1967; Deacon and Williams 1984); many areas of New Jersey, including Greenwood Lake and Lake Hopatcong (Morse 1905; Fowler 1906, 1952; Stiles 1978; R. Soldwedel, personal communication); the Mimbres, Rio Grande, Pecos, San Juan, Little Colorado, San Francisco,San Juan, and Gila drainages in New Mexico (Koster 1957; Tyus et al. 1982; Sublette et al. 1990; Platania 1991; Springer 2005); the Susquehanna drainage in New York (T. Sinnott, personal communication); the Broad, Catawba, Yadkin, Neuse, Tar, Roanoke, Chowan, Cape Fear, and Northeast Cape Fear drainages in North Carolina (Hocutt et al. 1986; Menhinick 1991); Indian Lake, Ohio (Trautman 1981); the Columbia, Willamette, Umpqua, and Walla Walla rivers, Oregon (Smith 1896; Lampman 1946; Bond 1973; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Bond 1994); the Susquehanna drainage, Pennsylvania (Bean 1892b; Cooper 1983 (for locations); Hocutt et al. 1986); the Pee Dee, Saluda, Wateree, Catawba, Lynches, Santee-Cooper, Edisto, Combahee, Broad, and Savannah river drainages in South Carolina (Dahlberg and Scott 1971b; Loyacano 1975; Hocutt et al. 1986; Rohde et al. 2009); Sanctuary Pond in Pflugerville, ponds and reservoirs in Texas (Knapp 1953; Howells and Prentice 1991); Utah Lake and the Green, Colorado, Bear, Jordan, San Juan, Price, San Rafael, Duchesne, White, and Sevier rivers, Utah (Sigler and Miller 1963; Vanicek et al. 1970; Lanigan et al. 1981; Tyus et al. 1982; Sigler and Sigler 1987); the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, James, Chowan, Kanawha, and Roanoke drainages in Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Starnes et al. 2011); the Columbia River and Lake Washington, Washington (Smith 1896; Lampman 1946; Gray and Dauble 1977; Wydoski and Whitney 1979); the Potomac River, West Virginia (Stauffer et al. 1995); the Rock River, Waukesha County lakes, Lake Helen in Portage County, and several rivers in the Manitowoc Sheboygan watershed, Wisconsin (Becker 1983); and the North Platte and Bighorn drainages, the Little Snake Connor River, and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming (Baxter and Simon 1970; Hubert 1994).

Means of Introduction: Intentionally stocked for sport fishing and food. The first introductions in the Colorado River took place in 1892-1893 or in 1906 (Miller and Alcorn 1946). They had become established throughout the Colorado basin by the early 1900s (Holden and Stalnaker 1975). The earliest stocking record for the Yampa River is from 1944 and involved 34,200 fingerling catfish (Tyus 1998). The introductions into Silver Lake and the Charles River in Massachusetts involved albino fish from the aquarium trade (Cardoza et al. 1993).

Status: Established in most waters where introduced.

Impact of Introduction: The Channel Catfish hybridizes with the threatened Yaqui catfish I. pricei in Mexico (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1994). Colorado pikeminnow Ptychocheilus lucius, an endangered species, have been documented to choke on introduced Channel Catfish when attempting to eat them (McAda 1983; Pimental et al. 1985; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1990). Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) speculated that introduced Channel Catfish may have contributed to the demise of an isolated population of trout-perch Percopsis omiscomaycus in the Potomac River in Virginia and Maryland. Introduced Channel Catfish may exert a major negative effect on populations of various endangered species. For instance, this species is known to prey on small and large endangered humpback chub Gila cypha in the Little Colorado River thereby limiting recruitment and also increasing adult mortality (Marsh and Douglas 1997). There is also evidence that this introduced catfish preys heavily on juveniles of razorback sucker Xyrauchen texanus that had been reintroduced into the Gila River of Arizona (Marsh and Brooks 1989). Introduced predatory fishes, including the Channel Catfish, may be partially responsible for the decline of the Chiricahua leopard frog Rana chiricahuensis in southeastern Arizona (Rosen et al. 1995) and have been shown to reduce the abundance and diversity of native prey species in several Pacific Northwest rivers (Hughes and Herlihy 2012).

Channel Catfish predation on crayfish resulted in a great loss of crayfish density in mesocosm experiments, and is likely the cause of native crayfish population decline in natural habitats where the Channel Catfish has been introduced (Adams 2007).

Remarks: Tyus et al. (1982) gave a distribution map for this species in the upper Colorado basin. Channel Catfish have also been stocked in many native areas including Arkansas (Robison and Buchanan 1988); Illinois (Burr, personal communication); Nebraska (Jones 1963). Harlan et al. (1987) stated that stocking in Iowa has widened this species' distribution. Cross and Collins (1995) mapped the species in every county in Kansas. Cross (1967) indicated a much more restricted distribution in the state and did not include every county. Presumably the more recent map indicates the species had been introduced to new locations since the 1967 publication. Cross (1967) also stated that it had been stocked in many lakes and ponds in the state.  Griffiths (1939) reported that the Channel Catfish was found in the ladders of the Bonneville Dam but no specimens were obtained. If introduction did occur it is though that they were unsuccessful.

According to Springsteen (2010), the Channel Catfish was the first species to be raised in commercial aquaculture for food purposes in the US.  Before that point, other species including tilapia and carp were raised in Egypt and China for sport.  The species was farmed in the Mississippi Delta region during the 1950s.

References: (click for full references)

Adams, S.B. 2007. Direct and indirect effects of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) on native crayfishes (Cambaridae) in experimental tanks. American Midland Naturalist 158: 85-96.

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Bradley, W. G. and J. E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4. 201-273.

Burr, B. - Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, IL. 1995.

Cross, F. B. 1967. Handbook of Fishes of Kansas. State Biological Survey and University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication 45, Topeka, KS.

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

Deacon, J. E., and J. E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103--118.

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. 75 pp.

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Griffiths, F. P. 1939. Considerations of the Introduction and Distribution of Exotic Fishes in Oregon. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 69: 240-273.

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Hartel, K. E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1--9.

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. 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

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Maciolek, J. A. 1984. Exotic fishes in Hawaii and other islands of Oceania. Pages 131--161 in W. R. Courtenay, Jr., and J. R. Stauffer, Jr., editors. Distribution, biology, and management of exotic fishes. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

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Other Resources:
FishBase Fact Sheet

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 5/29/2012

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2017, Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque, 1818): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=2341, Revision Date: 5/29/2012, Access Date: 10/23/2017

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. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [10/23/2017].

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