Catfish Identification
Inside the Outdoors, May 26,

I’m somewhat amazed, if that’s the word, that when I decided to write a small series on catfish, I am finding them mentioned in magazine and outdoor news publication stories. That only means one thing. Others have sensed the need to do as I plan to do, educated others as the family of catfish and the sport associated to it.

Today, I thought I’d describe each of three kinds, so when one sees one, he instantly knows what is in his presence whether he is a fisher or not.

The three are the blue catfish, the channel and the flathead catfish. They are found in most rivers, lakes and reservoirs in our country. These are the most sought after fish of this fish by these anglers.

It may sound strange to make such a statement, but the blue catfish actually looks quite blue over their counterparts. Also given the names of Hump-back blue, high fin blue, Mississippi white catfish, blues, they are usually described as slate blue to white in color, but can be dark blue or almost black at times. According to, “The term high fin blue catfish is nothing but a legend or a slang term for the blue catfish.” Just for the record, there are no dark spots. They can exceed one hundred pounds in weight.

Channel catfish, most popular in our vicinity, are olive brown to gray in color. They often have dark spots especially in the smaller fish. As they grow older, they disappear. Their bellies are a light cream to yellow. Their anal fin is curved out with thirty or more rays (another name for spines). They have a deeply forked tail similar to the blue brothers, but the coloring is much different. Their upper jaw protrudes upward. That is one of their distinguishing features. They rarely exceed thirty pounds.

Flatheads, characterized by a flathead, are the third fish sought after by anglers. Many fishers will seek them because they will grow large to the point of being considered trophy-sized They are also called yellow cat, Opelousas Catfish, Opp, Appaloosa Catfish, App, Pied Cat, and shovelhead catfish. In our neck of the woods, we call them ‘mud cats.’

This fish has a smooth skin, dark olive and yellow in coloring. Their backs are pale yellow to light brown with long sharp spines on the back and sides.

They can reach lengths to three to four feet.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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