The lifespan of the blue catfish is unknown, but it may exceed 20 years in age!
  • Size

    20-40 lbs (9-18 kg)
  • Diet

    Mayflies, crayfish, clams, and other fish
  • Range

    North America
  • Habitat

    Deep water of rivers and reservoirs

Physical Characteristics

  • Blue catfish can reach maximum length of 5.4 feet (165 cm) and weigh 150 lbs. (68 kg). However, it usually weighs 20 to 40 lbs. (9-18 kg).
  • Back and upper sides are pale blue to olive or slate gray and it is white ventrally.
  • It has white chin barbels, clear or white fins with black borders on the dorsal and caudal fins.
  • Its skin is smooth with no scales.

Animal Fact

Blue catfish use barbels and sense of smell to locate prey.

Diet / Feeding

  • Adult blue catfish preys on mayflies, crayfish, clams and other fish.
  • Juvenile feeds primarily on zooplankton.
  • This catfish tends to spend time in deep holes to escape constant strong currents, but it will swim up into the current to feed, primarily at night.
  • Barbels and sense of smell are used to locate prey.

Range / Habitat

  • Blue catfish is fairly common in North America in the major rivers of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio basins, south to Mexico and northern Guatemala.
  • Found in deep water of rivers and reservoirs, and in main channels and backwaters of medium to large rivers.
  • Prefer swift chutes and current pools and is found to depths of 164 feet (50 m).

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Blue catfish is often mistaken for the channel catfish due to their similar appearance, especially the smaller juveniles. A distinguishing difference between the two species is the anal fin. In blue catfish, this fin has a straight edge while the channel catfish’s anal fin has a convex edge.
  • Spawning occurs in spring in dark-water locations. Together the male and female build a nest for the fertilized eggs.  Once spawning occurs, the eggs are guarded, predominantly by the male, and within a week the eggs hatch into young catfish.  Both parents remain to care for their offspring until the young swim away when they reach between 2 to 4 inches (6-10 cm) in length.
  • Considered a game fish.
  • Lifespan is unknown, but may exceed 20 years.


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