The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Ictalurus furcatus
Ictalurus furcatus
(Blue Catfish)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Ictalurus furcatus (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1840)

Common name: Blue Catfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

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

Size: 165 cm (maximum length); 40-50 kg (Graham et al. 1999)

Native Range: Mississippi River basin from western Pennsylvania to southern South Dakota and the Platte River, southwestern Nebraska, south to the Gulf of Mexico; tributaries of the gulf from Mobile Bay basin, Alabama, to the Rio Grande drainage, Texas and New Mexico. Ictalurus furcatus is endemic to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins of the central and southern United States and inhabits Gulf Coast streams from Alabama south into Mexico. Also, native to the Atlantic Slope of Mexico (Page and Burr 1991) if not distinguished separately from I. meridionalis (Gilbert 1998). Rarely found in the Mississippi above the confluence with the Missouri River (Becker 1983). Two historic records from Wisconsin (Lake Pepin and Lansing, Iowa) are believed to be misidentifications of Channel Catfish (Becker 1983). As such, Becker does not consider the species native to Wisconsin.

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Ictalurus furcatus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL197120215Apalachicola Basin; Lower Chattahoochee; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Upper Choctawhatchee; Upper Conecuh
AZ197320112Imperial Reservoir; Upper San Pedro
CA196620149Los Angeles; Lower Sacramento; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; San Diego; San Joaquin Delta; Santa Ana; Santa Clara; Santa Margarita; Santa Maria
CO195220095San Luis; South Platte; Upper Arkansas; Upper Arkansas-John Martin Reservoir; Upper Arkansas-Lake Meredith
DE201020224Brandywine-Christina; Cohansey-Maurice; Delaware Bay; Nanticoke
DC201020101Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
FL196820207Apalachicola; Chipola; Escambia; Lower Choctawhatchee; Lower Conecuh; Lower Suwannee; Yellow
GA1971202216Altamaha; Cumberland-St. Simons; Etowah; Hiwassee; Lower Chattahoochee; Lower Flint; Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Savannah; Ogeechee Coastal; Satilla; Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Ocmulgee; Upper Oconee; Upper Savannah; Upper Tallapoosa
ID198520225Bear Lake; Brownlee Reservoir; C.J. Strike Reservoir; Lake Walcott; Upper Snake-Rock
KS1995200311Lower Marais Des Cygnes; Lower Republican; Medicine Lodge; Middle Republican; Neosho Headwaters; Smoky Hill; South Fork Ninnescah; Upper Cimarron; Upper Marais Des Cygnes; Upper Neosho; Upper South Fork Solomon
KY199520022Lower Ohio; Salt
MD201020238Choptank; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Lower Potomac; Lower Susquehanna; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Monocacy; Patuxent; Severn
MN190020013Lower St. Croix; Rush-Vermillion; St. Croix
NE198020113Lower Platte-Shell; Salt; Upper Republican
NJ192020234Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Delaware; Lower Hudson; Mid-Atlantic Region
NM195520072Conchas; Upper San Juan
NC1975201921Albemarle; Black; Cape Fear; Chowan; Contentnea; Lower Cape Fear; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Roanoke; Lower Tar; Lumber; Meherrin; Middle Neuse; Northeast Cape Fear; Roanoke Rapids; Upper Cape Fear; Upper Catawba; Upper Neuse; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Yadkin; Waccamaw
ND198019801Upper Lake Oahe
OH197520135Licking; Lower Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Muskingum; Upper Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Upper Scioto
OK1947201925Arkansas-White-Red Region; Blue-China; Cache; Caney; Chikaskia; Clear Boggy; Deep Fork; Kaw Lake; Lake O' The Cherokees; Little; Lower Canadian; Lower Canadian-Walnut; Lower Cimarron; Lower Cimarron-Skeleton; Lower Neosho; Lower North Canadian; Lower North Fork Red; Lower Verdigris; Middle North Canadian; Middle Verdigris; Middle Washita; Muddy Boggy; Poteau; Upper Little; West Cache
OR191019462Brownlee Reservoir; Middle Willamette
SC1964202012Carolina Coastal-Sampit; Congaree; Cooper; Edisto River; Lake Marion; Lower Pee Dee; Middle Savannah; Salkehatchie; Santee; Seneca; Waccamaw; Wateree
SD198019802Fort Randall Reservoir; Lower Lake Oahe
TN199320192Conasauga; Upper Duck
TX1959202180Atascosa; Austin-Travis Lakes; Bosque; Brady; Buchanan-Lyndon B. Johnson Lakes; Cedar; Chambers; Cibolo; Colorado Headwaters; Concho; Cowhouse; Denton; Double Mountain Fork Brazos; East Fork Trinity; East Galveston Bay; Elm Fork Trinity; Hondo; Hubbard; Jim Ned; Lake Meredith; Lake O'the Pines; Lampasas; Leon; Little; Little Wichita; Llano; Lower Angelina; Lower Brazos-Little Brazos; Lower Colorado-Cummins; Lower Frio; Lower Pecos-Red Bluff Reservoir; Lower Prairie Dog Town Fork Red; Lower Trinity-Kickapoo; Lower Trinity-Tehuacana; Lower West Fork Trinity; Medina; Middle Brazos-Lake Whitney; Middle Brazos-Millers; Middle Brazos-Palo Pinto; Middle Colorado; Middle Colorado-Elm; Middle Guadalupe; Middle Neches; Middle Nueces; Middle Sabine; Navasota; North Bosque; North Concho; North Fork Double Mountain Fork Brazos; North Llano; Nueces Headwaters; Paint; Pecan Bayou; Pedernales; Richland; San Gabriel; San Marcos; San Miguel; San Saba; South Concho; South Llano; Sulphur Headwaters; Tule; Turkey; Upper Angelina; Upper Clear Fork Brazos; Upper Colorado; Upper Frio; Upper Guadalupe; Upper Neches; Upper North Fork Red; Upper Nueces; Upper Salt Fork Red; Upper San Antonio; Upper Trinity; Upper West Fork Trinity; West Nueces; White; Wichita; Yegua
VA1974202311Albemarle; Appomattox; James; Lower Chesapeake Bay; Lower James; Middle James-Willis; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Roanoke; Pamunkey; Rapidan-Upper Rappahannock; Shenandoah
WA191019101Lower Snake
WI199820062South Fork Flambeau; Upper Fox

Table last updated 4/22/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Ictalurus furcatus can tolerate salinities up to 15 ppt (Christmas and Waller 1973, Dennison et al. 1993, Perry 1968, Ross 2001, Bonvechio et al. 2012). Their survival is 87% in experimental conditions of dissolved oxygen at 1.41 ppm (Torrans et al. 2012).

The harsh winters in their native and introduced range region make it likely Blue Catfish can survive low temperatures. They can be found in the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota (Fuller and Neilson 2013). A CLIMATCH analysis included in the USFWS risk assessment for Blue Catfish found that the climate of the Great Lakes Basin closely matches the climate of their current range (Australian Bureau of Rural Sciences 2008).This species migrates toward warmer waters during winter and to cooler waters during summer (Graham 1999). Their preferred temperature is between 28 and 30°C.  In fish farms in Mississippi Delta, 95% survive after winter with temperatures as low of 5.1°C (Bosworth 2012).    

Blue Catfish can live in a variety of habitats. They inhabit river channels which have higher flows and harder substrates (i.e., gravel, boulders, rock rip rap), and floodplain lakes which have lower or no flows and softer substrates (i.e., silt, sand) (Eggleton and Schramm Jr 2004). Blue Catfish prefer open waters of large reservoirs and main channels, backwaters, and embayments of large, flowing rivers where water is normally turbid and substrate varies from gravel-sand to silt-mud (Burr and Warren 1986). Many rivers and reservoirs with I. furcatus populations have only mud or silt substrate. Blue Catfish prefer deep, swift channels and flowing pools (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994), and large individuals often are found in tailwaters below dams where currents are swift and substrates consist of sand, gravel, and rock (Mettee et al. 1996, Graham et al. 1999).

Blue Catfish are highly omnivorous. In the lower Mississippi River, across all habitats their diets were composed of 47% fishes (more than 15 identifiable species), 15% molluscs, 12% chironomids and oligochaetes, 7% detritus/plant matter, 6% decapods, 6% scavenging, and 1% terrestrial arthropods (Eggleton and Schramm Jr. 2004). Scavenged items were typically fishes and fish scales, but also included small mammals, birds, and turtles.

Blue Catfish spawns in late spring to early summer at water temperatures of 21 to 25°C (Sublette et al. 1990) In advance of spawning, Blue Catfish seek protected areas to deposit eggs behind rocks, root-wads, depressions, undercut stream banks, or other areas where the currents are minimal (Graham et al. 1999).
Males guard eggs and fry (Graham et al. 1999) which is a strategy associated with animals that have high colonization success.

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.

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: 5/3/2021

Peer Review Date: 1/15/2014

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., and M. Neilson, 2024, 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: 5/3/2021, Peer Review Date: 1/15/2014, Access Date: 4/23/2024

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. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [4/23/2024].

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