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Blue Catfish

blue catfish picture, information, description

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cichla ocellaris

OTHER NAMES: channel cat, hump-back blue, forktail cat, great blue cat, silver cat, chucklehead cat, blue fulton

RANGE:Originally found in the Escambia and Yellow rivers in northwest Florida, they are now also in the Apalachicola and Suwannee. Blues were first officially recorded in 1990 by Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission biologists despite reports that anglers had been catching blues for many years.

HABITAT: Blue Catfish occur in big rivers and in the lower reaches of major tributaries. They prefer clearer, swifter water than other catfish, and are usually found over sand, gravel or rock bottoms. Their preferred water temperature is 77 to 82 degrees.

DESCRIPTION: Adult fish 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 with 30 to 35 rays. The back and upper sides are blue to slate gray, and the lower sides and belly are white. The internal air bladder has a constriction in the middle, giving it a two-chambered appearance.

SIZE: Blue catfish grow faster and live longer than channel catfish. They are the largest member of the catfish family. Blues may grow to lengths of over 55 inches and may weigh more than 100 pounds. Maximum life span for blues is unknown but is probably 20-25 years.

FLORIDA RECORD: 61.5 pounds, caught in the Escambia River, Escambia County, in 1996.

Considered an excellent food fish with white, firm, delicately flavored flesh. Best eaten when prepared with batter and deep fried.

GAME QUALITIES: One of the strongest freshwater fish; blues are caught on bush hooks or trotlines as well as rod and reel. The most effective baits are cut fish, live fish and nightcrawlers. They also will take prepared and rotting baits. Most are caught while bottom fishing with cut fish, rigged on large hooks weighted down by heavy lead sinkers. Since they can also be taken by commercial fishermen, no specific sport fishing regulations currently apply but they are eligible for the "Big Catch" program.

NOTE: Blue catfish are restricted as being potentially detrimental to the natural ecosystem if they were moved from their current range into other water bodies and should not be transported alive.

TACKLE AND BAITS: small shiners are the preferred live bait; rarely take plastic worms like largemouth bass do, but top-water lures, minnow imitating crank and jerk baits, and marabou jigs are popular artificial baits; streamers, epoxy minnows and pencil poppers are favorites of fly fishers; daily bag limit of two fish, only one of which can be greater than 17 inches.

FISHING TECHNIQUES: Casting; Still Fishing.


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