Freshwater Fish Species
The Catfish family species
Saltwater Fish Species
White catfish Fish Identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
White catfish are members of the bullhead catfish family, and are the smallest of the large North American catfish species. The white catfish has white chin barbells, which distinguish it from other species. There are four pairs of barbels around the mouth, two on the chin, one at the angle of the mouth, and one behind the nostril. As with the other large catfish species, white catfish have the adipose fin and the single, often serrated spine in the dorsal and pectoral fins. White catfish are bluish-gray on their back and sides and white underneath. Their tail is moderately forked and they have a noticeably broad head, large mouth and stout body and are smaller in size than channel catfish.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
White Catfish – Ameiurus catus, also known as forked-tail cat, catfish, is a member of the bullhead group of catfishes. White catfish inhabit fresh and brackish water bodies along the Atlantic and Gulf coast states from New York to Florida, and are native to the Chesapeake Bay system. White catfish have been introduced into the mid-west and along portions of the west coast of the US. White catfish can be found in lakes and rivers in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.
The white catfish are usually blue-gray to blue-black above, fading to gray on sides with a white belly, lack black spots on their body. They usually have several dark spots on the body, except in older individuals and spawning males. They have a moderately forked tail with rounded ends, noticeably broad more-rounded head, large mouth and stout body. Their upper jaw extends slightly beyond the lower. Head disproportionately large in fish over 40 cm.
The white catfish is sometimes mistaken for the channel catfish, but the white catfish has a much wider head and lacks black spots on its sides. The anal fin is shorter and rounder than that of channel or blue catfish. The surest way to identify the white catfish is to count the rays in the anal fin. The simplest way to identify the white catfish is to count the rays in the anal fin. The white catfish has 19-23 rays and the fin is rounded along the bottom edge while the channel catfish has 24-30 rays and a rounded anal fin. The blue catfish has 30-36 rays and a longer and much straighter edged anal fin. The white catfish has 5-6 soft rays in the dorsal fin, 8-9 soft rays and a spine with 11-15 sharp teeth in pectoral fins.
White catfish are the smallest of the large North American and Mexico catfish species that have forked tails. In all other species the tail is rounded, squarish, or slightly emarginate. The White catfish has white or yellow chin barbells, which distinguish it from other species. There are four pairs of barbels ("whiskers") around the mouth, two on the chin, one at the angle of the mouth, and one behind the nostril. They lack scales and possess an adipose fin, as well as a single, often serrated spine in the dorsal and pectoral fins.
White catfish rarely exceed 6 pounds and 24 inches long. Average size is about 13 inches. The white catfish can live up to 14 years. Catfish have numerous external taste buds, many of which are located on the barbels. Consequently, they can taste something by simply touching it with their barbels.
Habitat and Habits
White catfish are primarily a tidal water species that inhabit waters having a salinity of 5%, but also is found in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Habitats include: sluggish, mud-bottomed pools, open channels, and backwaters of small to large rivers.
Its habitat can vary from slow streams to reservoirs, ponds, river backwaters, even drainage ditches, and it prefers warm waters around 82°F. White catfish are omnivores, which feed on anything from fish to insects to crustaceans. They eat fish, any animal matter that falls near the bottom, such as fish eggs and aquatic plants. They usually stay near the muddy bottom, near logs, brush piles, holes or among other hiding places.
White catfish are native to rivers and streams that flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Usually found in slow-moving streams, river backwaters, reservoirs and ponds. They will tolerate a saltier bottom and higher salinity, and prefer water temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees. These fish are aggressive feeders and have a tendency to feed more during the daytime than other catfish. Although fish are their major food, whites also eat larval aquatic insects, small crustaceans, fish eggs and aquatic plants. They may feed at night, but are not as nocturnal as other catfish.
White catfish can be found in deep lakes and reservoirs and the sluggish sections of river and streams. They can be found in salinities up to 14.5 ppt and prefer temperatures over 20°C, surviving in water up to 31°C. In rivers they stay more than 2 m deep throughout the day but move to shallow vegetation beds at night. In lakes and reservoirs they shift depth with the seasons. In late spring and early summer they stay together between 3 m and 10 m deep but disperse into deeper regions as the summer goes on and by the time winter arrives they are spread out between 17 m and 30 m deep. This will change slightly if the lake’s temperatures become stratified. In this case white catfish will seek out areas greater than 21°C.
White catfish mature at 3 to 4 years of age, at 20-21 cm length. White catfish spawn in early summer when water temperatures reach 68-72°F (21°C) in still or flowing waters near sand or gravel banks. Large, saucer-shaped nests are shaped by both male and female fish by fanning the bottom with their tail, sides and fins.
Female lay approximately 1,000 to 4,000 sticky eggs are deposited in the nest. The eggs are yellow and granular, very adhesive and covered with a gelatinous matrix. After the female lays her mound of sticky yellow eggs, the male fertilizes the mass, drives the female from the nest and begins guard duty. He protects the nest from predators and fans the eggs with his fins to keep them aerated and free from sediments. Male guard the eggs until they hatch, which usually occurs within 6 to 10 days depending on water temperature. For example it occurs within 6-7 days at 24-29°C. Males may remain close to the nest after hatching guard the fry until they stop schooling and disperse.
White catfish are very good to eat. Fresh baits such as worms, shrimp, chicken liver, processed bait and cut fish are popular methods for catching white catfish. Methods for fishing include bait casting and bottom fishing. It is easily caught on live bait, less nocturnal than some species, and an excellent survivor. It has therefore become a very popular anglers fish and a popular stock fish in private lakes and ponds.
To fish for the white catfish, all types of equipment have been used. Mostly a single hook is used with bait, a few sinkers (you need up to 2 ounces), and a floater. Sometimes a three-way swivel or dropper lop above the weight is used, but the white catfish is not that choosy and can be caught with the easiest of equipments. One good way to know what type of bait the white catfish in your area likes is to use a multiple-hook rig or use two poles with the stink-bait on one and the live one on the other. Make sure you secure the bait since the catfish is known for stealing the bait off the hooks since they are very gentle eaters. Try to fish very close to the lakes bottom since that's where the catfish tend to be. Even dragging the hook along the muddy bottom will often encourage a catfish to pounce on the bait. As for the line, use one that can handle about 12 pounds since the white catfish has been known to fight hard once it has been caught. Make sure the reel is a spingcastin one which has a stationary spool. This lure lets you hold and release the line with a push of a button. This will become important when reeling in your catch, is easier then using your thumb, and causes fewer line problems.
The best time to fish for the catfish is at night or early morning or late in the day. If you live in a hot area the water will get too hot during the day (especially during noon) and the catfish will be sluggish and not keen to bite. But once the catfish is caught on the line start to bring it in slowly. The catfish will try to run if it knows it has been caught. They will even try to tear out the hook if they can make it happen even at a loss to themselves. A good strategy is to have a net ready in the water so the angler can pull the catch in to the net and then lift it up. If you try to lift the catfish out of the water, this is often the chance he takes to get away. If you feel the catfish trying to break away, give him more line, then start reeling him in slowly. It might take a while but try to tire out the catfish and he will be much easier to bring in.
Live bait, especially minnows and worms, accounts for most caught whites, but they also will take cut and prepared baits. The best types of bait is argued even by experts into two major directions; the live bait, and the cut and prepared baits, also called stinkbait. The prepared bait usually has some sort of foul smell which will leave an oily scent trail for the catfish; catfish of any size usually respond to this. The white catfish can be attracted by nuggets, cheese, sponges diped in a smelly dip made of rotten meat and eggs. For live bait the white catfish usually prefers minnows, worms, shrimp, chicken liver, menhaden, frogs, crayfish, grasshoppers, clam, and nightcrawlers. Some people like to combine the two different baits; some let the life bait "age" a few days before going fishing. Shrimp seems to work best. Catfish isn't choosy, some report to having caught catfish with things such as Ivory chunks, and bare hooks! Since the catfish takes such a large variety of baits it is easy to catch your own bait which will save you even more money. Minnow are very easy to catch at the edge of most lakes and in small streams.
Great rods for White catfish fishing are:
11 ft Light Casting Rod
13 ft Tele Casting Rod
12ft Casting Fishing Rod
15 ft Telescopic Fishing Surf Casting Rod
18ft Telescopic Surf Casting Rod
4.5m Telescopic Surf Casting Rod
15 ft Telescopic Surf Casting Rod 98% Carbon