The Original Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley Site Since 1996


Lake Barkley & Kentucky Lake Fish Species - Blue Catfish

Blue Catfish
(Ictalurus furcatus)

KY State Record- 104 lbs.
TN State Record-
112 lbs.

Common Names: channel cat, hump-back blue, forktail cat, great blue cat, silver cat, chucklehead cat, blue fulton

Blue catfish have a forked tail, and are sometimes very similar to channel catfish. However, only the Rio Grande population has dark spots on the back and sides. The number of rays in the anal fin is typically 30-35, and coloration is usually slate blue on the back, shading to white on the belly.


The blue catfish pursues a varied diet, but it tends to eat fish earlier in life. Although invertebrates still comprise the major portion of the diet, blue catfish as small as four inches in length have been known to consume fish.

Spawning and nesting behavior is similar to others of its family. In late spring, males commonly choose and clear a nest site, usually in drift piles, logs, root systems or other dark, secluded areas near the bank. The eggs hatch in about a week, and males guard the fry in the nest until they swim away a week or so later.

Blue catfish are primarily large-river fish, occurring in main channels, tributaries, and impoundments of major river systems. They tend to move upstream in the summer in search of cooler temperatures, and downstream in the winter in order to find warmer water. They feed primarily at night.

SPORTING 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 specifics portfishing 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.

AGE AND GROWTH - 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.

Fishing Techniques

Trot lines and set hooks baited with cut fish work well. Experienced hook-and-line anglers prefer cut gizzard shad above all other baits. Live fish, cut bait, crayfish, clams and shrimp are often used. Like channel catfish, blue catfish will bite stink baits and chicken livers.

EATING QUALITIES - Considered an excellent food fish with white, firm, delicately flavored flesh.