Welcome to the CatTracker Catfish Science Section. We are continually adding to our knowledgebase on the habitat and characteristics of catfish. First, let's introduce you to the favorite sport catfishing breeds of North America:
The flathead catfish is often called the yellow cat, shovelhead cat and mud cat in various regions of North America. The fish can be found throughout the central and south centeral U.S., and thrives in viable habitat ranging from large rivers and reservoirs to small streams. The flathead is a very predatory fish, prefering live or cutbait, and anglers have been known to catch flatheads on lures intended for other gamefish. Freshly caught shad, injured minnows, and nighcrawlers are among favored baits, but flatheads can grab a rubber worm and dip bait rig.
Note how the lower jaw juts out. The flathead's large head and physiology are ideal for observing prey swimming above and lunging upwards, snatching it in one bone-crushing bite.
The flathead lives a long time (20+ years) and can grow to enormous size... up to 4 feet in length and weigh 50 to 100 pounds.
The adult flathead is a loaner and inhabits deep pools, and often moves into shallows to feed at night. They also inhabit the shallows during their breeding cycle, preferring undercut cavities along riverbanks, inside submerged logs or among tree roots.
Flathead catfish were introduced west of the Rockies, and they have prospered at the expense of other indiginous fish.
The channel catfish is sometimes known as the fiddler, spotted cat, speckled cat, willow cat and chucklehead. Note that the juvenile and young adult channel catfish possess spots or speckles, but these often disappear among the larger breeding stock (see below). The breeding adult is often mistaken for a blue catfish. The channel cat can be found in abundance in the Mississippi River as well as other major rivers and reservoirs throughout North America. Channel cat are also found in southeastern and central Canada, the Great Lakes, and has been successfully introduced in England and Europe. It is a remarkably durable and prolific breed.
The channel catfish has a large following among sportfishing enthusiasts. Note how the mouth is on the underside of its sleek head. The channel cat will eat virtually anything, from insects and larvae to other fish. Channel cat are keen scavengers. But like the flathead, a channel cat will attack a bass lure or spinner bait when the opportunity arrises. However, the best way to catch channel catfish is with dip baits imbedded in soft grooved plastic worms or cut and perforated sections of rubber tubing filled with pasty bait. A sponge rig works, too.
After inspecting the bait with its highly sensitive whiskers, it attackes it to stun it. After the initial attack, the fish may attack a second time, but this is to position the bait for swallowing it properly.
Ideal catfish habitat is along fast water, like that which is found beneath dams. They particularly like to position themselves along eddies where food or food odors wash toward them. They are most active at night, hence they are the favorite game among those who set trotlines or fish traps. Research has shown that channel cat covers large geographic areas and travels long distances in search of food.
The blue cat is referred to both other names, white, great blue, Mississippi cat, humpback, and its often mistaken for a channel cat. The blue cat can grow to large sizes, 30 to 50 pounds. However, the blue cat is the most capable of growing to enormous size... 185 to 250 pound blues have been documented by Mark Twain in his writings about American riverlife. Blue cat used to be abundant throughout North America, but they were commercially fished out of existance in several areas. They are making a comeback in some southern waters. Believe it or not, the blue cat may be among the species of fish who actually flourish in rivers that have been tamed by locks, dams and riprap which direct current into the center of rivers, carving out deep holes. It is in these deep chutes and holes where the blue cat thrives.
Blue cats have the same feeding habits as channel catfish. But blues will take cutbait, live bait, crayfish, mussels as well as dip and pasty baits. Shad is a particularly favorite target of blue cat and anglers seeking blue cat. Experienced anglers have learned how to use a throw net to catch gizzard shad beneath dams, and then use the shad on hook and line to catch blues.
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