Catfish in Kentucky
Why is Kentucky the best state to catch Catfish?
Because there are lots of them almost in every lake and river in Kentucky. I have never seen an angler returned home without a decent size Catfish in Kentucky. Day and night, small or big lake, you will definitely hook up a Flathead or Channel Catfish or another one.
Catfish Species in Kentucky
All the members of The North American Catfish Family are found in the state rivers and lakes. Catfishes are easily recognized by their barbels or “whiskers” around the mouth and scaleless bodies. Kentucky has 18 species, including the White Catfish, which has been introduced. The largest portion of this family is represented by the small-sized, secretive species called madtoms. The bullheads and larger catfishes are important to anglers and commercial fishers. Catfishes have sharp senses, particularly taste and smell, which enables them to be active at night and in muddy water conditions. They also possess stout spines in the dorsal and pectoral fins, which can inflict a painful wound if handled carelessly. Four of the most commonly encountered species are presented below.
CHANNEL CATFISH ( Ictalurus punctatus )
How to Identify : A long, slender-bodied catfish with a deeply-forked caudal fin. Color is olive to pale gray on the back and sides, often with small black spots, and a white belly. It is similar to the Blue Catfish, but differs by having a rounded (vs. straight) anal fin margin and dark spots on the sides of the body (vs. spots absent).
Adults can grow to about 4 ft. (60 lbs), but typically range from 12-32 in. (1-15 lbs).
Distribution and Habitat : Common statewide in medium-sized streams to large rivers, but adaptable to a variety of habitats. Valued as a sport and food fish, the Channel Catfish is routinely stocked in ponds and reservoirs throughout the state.
FLATHEAD CATFISH ( Pylodictis olivaris )
How to Identify : A large, slender-bodied catfish with a broad, flattened head and projecting lower jaw. Color is yellow to brown, with dark brown and black mottling on the back and sides, fading to pale yellow or white on the belly. A white tip on the upper lobe of the caudal fin is usually visible, except in very large fish. Adults can grow to at least
5 ft. (120 lbs), but individuals ranging from 15-50 in. (1-60 lbs) are most common.
Distribution and Habitat : Common statewide in sluggish streams, rivers, and reservoirs. Adults occupy deep pools around fallen timber, brush piles, and other debris. Juveniles and smaller individuals occur in swift, shallow areas (e.g., riffles) over rocky or firm sand bottoms.
STONECAT ( Noturus flavus )
How to Identify : A small catfish with a long, slender body and a straight to slightly rounded caudal fin margin. Color is dark grey on the back and sides, with a light spot just behind the dorsal fin, and white belly. As with other madtoms, the adipose fin is fused with the caudal fin, which distinguishes it from the bullheads and larger catfish species. Adults grow to about 12 in.
Distribution and Habitat : Common in the eastern half of the state, where it inhabits swift, rocky riffles of streams and rivers.
YELLOW BULLHEAD ( Ameiurus natalis )
How to Identify : A medium-sized catfish with a stout body and caudal fin with a rounded or nearly straight margin. Color is olive-brown to black on the back andsides, grading to pale yellow or white on the belly. It is most similar to the Black Bullhead, but differs by having white or pale yellow (vs. black) chin barbels and anal fin with a straight (vs. rounded) margin. Adults grow to about 18 in. (4 lbs).
Distribution and Habitat : Common statewide in a variety of habitats, but most frequently found in pools or sluggish backwaters of streams and reservoirs over soft bottoms with accumulated debris.