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Missouri's Colossal Catfishes

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

fulton, Mississippi cat, humpback blue, forktail cat, silver cat, blue channel cat, and white cat. These local names may be another reason anglers confuse one species for another.

Blue Catfish

Blue catfish are common in the Missouri, Mississippi, and Osage rivers and in several of Missouri's large reservoirs. They are also stocked into three small Conservation Department lakes in the north half of the state.

The blue catfish is one of Missouri's largest fish. The current pole-and-line record for blue catfish is 103 pounds. That fish was caught from the Missouri River in 1991. The alternate method record, which includes fish taken by jug fishing, trot lines, and set lines, was established in 1974 by a 117-pound behemoth caught from the Osage River.

Anecdotal evidence and historical records indicate that larger blue catfish were once present in Missouri waters. A steamboat captain named William Heckman mentions in his book, "Steamboating Sixty-five Years on Missouri's Rivers," a blue catfish weighing 315 pounds taken from the Missouri River near Morrison in Gasconade County just after the Civil War. He also wrote that it wasn't uncommon to catch catfish weighing 125 to 200 pounds during the mid-1800s. More convincing evidence that larger blue catfish historically inhabited Missouri comes from an 1879 shipping invoice to the U.S. National Museum of a 150-pound blue catfish purchased at a St. Louis fish market by Dr. J.G.W. Steedman, then chairman of the Missouri Fish Commission.

Blue Catfish

  • forked tail
  • No spots on sides
  • Constricted air bladder
  • Long anal fin with a straight margin (30-35 fin rays)

Channel Catfish

  • *Deeply forked tail
  • Discrete spots on sides, except on large fish
  • Unconstricted air bladder
  • Long anal fin with a rounded margin (24-29 fin rays)

Flathead Catfish

  • Rounded tail
  • Lower jaw projects beyond upper jaw
  • Head appears flattened
  • Upper tip of tail often lighter in color than rest of tail fen, especially in smaller fish

White Catfish

  • Moderately forked tail
  • Blunt head; chubby appearance
  • Body without discrete spots
  • Short anal fin (22-24 fin rays)

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are one of the most abundant and widely distributed fishes in Missouri. They can be found throughout the state, but they are more common in prairie streams of northern and western Missouri. They are also common in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, reservoirs, small lakes and are one of the three species

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