|Florida Fish: Catfish|
Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) Adult blue catfish have
stout bodies with prominently humped backs in front of the dorsal fin.
They resemble channel catfish by having deeply forked tails, but are
dissimilar because they are unspotted and have a long, straight-edged
anal fin. The back and upper sides of the blue catfish are blue to slate
gray, and the lower sides and belly are white. Originally found in the
Escambia and Yellow rivers in northwest Florida, blue catfish are now
also in the Apalachicola and Suwannee. Blues occur in big rivers and in
the lower reaches of major tributaries, and prefer clearer, swifter
water than other catfish. Usually found over sand, gravel or rock
bottoms, the blue catfish's preferred water temperature is 77 to 82
degrees. Young blues eat aquatic insects and small fish while larger
blues prefer crayfish, mussels and other fish. They feed primarily at
Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) The chin barbels on Brown Bullhead are pigmented, not whitish as with yellow bullheads. The sides of brown bullheads have a distinct, irregular brownish mottling over a light background. The belly is creamy white and they have square tails. Found throughout Florida, except in the extreme southern part of the state, brown bullheads generally inhabit still or slowly-flowing warm waters in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, large rivers and sluggish streams. They prefer water temperatures of 78 to 82 degrees, but can survive in warmer waters. Brown Bullhead inhabit areas with mud or deep muck as well as sand or gravel bottoms. Brown bullheads are primarily bottom feeders, feeding mostly at night. Highly sensitive barbels enable them to smell a wide variety of food such as insects, plant material, carrion, small fish, snails, crayfish, worms and leeches.
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) Channel catfish closely resemble blue catfish. Both have deeply forked tails. However, channels have a rounded anal fin with 24-29 rays and scattered black spots along their back and sides. They have a small, narrow head. The back is blue-gray with light blue to silvery-gray sides and a white belly. Found throughout the state of Florida, except in the Florida Keys, the channel catfish is common in big rivers and streams, preferring some current, and deep water with sand, gravel or rubble bottoms. Channel catfish also inhabit lakes, reservoirs and ponds. They adapt well in standing water where stocked. Although they normally feed at night on the bottom, channels, channel catfish will also feed at the surface and at mid-depth. Major foods are aquatic insects, crayfish, mollusks, crustaceans and fishes. Small channels consume invertebrates, but larger ones may eat fish.
Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) A flattened head, tiny eyes, squarish tail and protruding lower jaw distinguish the flathead from other catfish and contribute to it being placed in a genus of its own. They are yellow-brown and usually mottled above, with a creamy-white or yellow belly. The distribution of flatheads in Florida is limited. Populations of notable size are found in the Apalachicola and Escambia rivers in the Florida Panhandle. Flatheads are predatory fish and will consume bass, bream, shad, crayfish and often feed on other catfish. The young rely more extensively on aquatic insects and crayfish than do the adults. Large flatheads sometime congregate where food is plentiful such as near tailraces of dams. They often feed at the surface or in shallow water at night, returning to their residence in a hole or brush pile to rest during the day.
White Catfish (Ameiurus catus) The sides of the white catfish are blue-gray to blue-black and may be mottled. The tail is moderately forked, and the anal fin is shorter and rounder than that of channel or blue catfish. Whites have only 19-22 anal fin rays. White catfish chin barbels are white or yellow, they have a blunt, more-rounded head, and they lack black spots on their body. In Florida, white catfish are found statewide in rivers and streams and in slightly brackish coastal waters. Usually found in slow-moving streams, river backwaters, reservoirs and ponds, white catfish will tolerate a siltier bottom and higher salinity, and prefer water temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees. 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.
Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) The yellow bullhead closely resembles the brown bullhead with a squat body and a round or square tail. It is yellow-olive to slate-black above and lighter, often yellow to yellow-olive, on its sides with little to no mottling. The belly may be white, cream or yellow. The chin barbels are yellow to buff or pale pink; the upper barbels, which are light to dark-brown, help distinguish this species from brown bullheads. Occurring throughout Florida, the habitat of the yellow bullhead is variable and includes vegetated areas of clear, shallow lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and slow-flowing streams. They are more tolerant of polluted environments than most other members of the catfish family. Though scavengers, yellow bullheads prefer to feed on minnows, snails, shrimp and crayfish. Yellow Bullhead also feed on insect larvae, vegetation and decaying organic matter. Scent and taste play a vital role in their feeding, most of which is done at night.
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