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Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

channel catfish

Note the slightly more streamlined body shape of the channel catfish compared to that of the brown bullhead.

NH Conservation Status: Not listed


State Rank: Secure


Distribution: Channel catfish are found through most of North America east of the Rockies as far north as Canada, south into northeastern Mexico, and east of the Appalachians. They are not native to New Hampshire and the only known fishable population is in the Connecticut River. The New Hampshire portion of the Connecticut River has been slowly populated with channel cats over the past decade as fish from Massachusetts have moved upstream. These fish are currently found in the New Hampshire section of the Connecticut River from the Bellows Falls Dam (Walpole, NH) to the Massachusetts border.


Description: These fish are a typical, if not slender version of most catfish. They possess a deeply forked tail and a slightly protruding upper jaw. Most are dark gray along the back, with a light yellow or greenish yellow hue along the sides, and a white belly.


Species commonly confused with: Brown bullhead


Habitat: Typical river habitat includes deep pools and structure that results in reduced flows. Nutrient rich water in setbacks or eddies can provide optimal habitat especially when littered with fallen trees or root masses. These spots allow hungry fish to wait in ambush for food passing by. Channel cats are cavity nesters and lay their eggs in hollows or crevices in these slow moving waters.


Life History: Spawning begins in late spring and continues for several months. Males guard the nest and fry.


Origin: Introduced


Conservation/Management: There are no specific conservation or management objectives for channel catfish. An increasing interest in angling for catfish in New Hampshire will warrant greater study.




  • Continue to collect baseline data on the distribution and status of channel catfish and other freshwater fish species throughout New Hampshire