Freshwater Fish - Species

Blue catfish - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Blue catfish

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)
Blue catfish has a deeply forked tail fin. This large catfish is distinguished by its blueish back and side, lack of black spots and humped back near the dorsal fin.

Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi River basin. In South Carolina, blue catfish are found in almost every drainage. This species is found in South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ public fishing lakes and large impoundments such as lakes Wateree, Marion and Moultrie.

Average Length: 20 - 45 inches

Average Size: 3 - 40 pounds, Approximate Maximum Size: About 120 pounds in recent years, although in the 1800's, 300-pound fish were caught from the Missouri River.

South Carolina State Record: 109 pounds 4 ounces (1991)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 34 years

Preferred Habitat

Blue catfish prefer rivers and large creeks with moderate to swift current over rock, gravel or clean sandy bottoms; however, they also do well in large impoundments.

Food Habits

  • The blue catfish feeds on a variety of organisms including clams, snails, aquatic insects, freshwater mussels, fish and plant material.


  • Spawning occurs in late spring or early summer in water temperatures of 70-75° F.
  • Egg masses are deposited in cavities afforded by logs, brush or undercut riverbanks.
  • Unlike other catfish, the male and female both assist in guarding the eggs and the young while they remain in the nest.


The blue catfish is one of the largest freshwater fishes found in North America. They were first introduced into South Carolina in 1964 when they were stocked into Lake Marion.

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.