Originally native to the Gulf States and the Mississippi Valley from Mexico north to Canada, the channel catfish is the most commercially important aquatic species cultured in this country.
In the wild, catfish thrive in fresh and brackish waters throughout the United States. They inhabit large reservoirs, lakes, ponds and in sluggish streams where bottoms are sand, gravel or rubble. They prefer clear streams but are common in muddy waters.
Catfish feed day or night near the bottom but will take some food from water surfaces. Catfish primarily detect food with sense of taste, and taste buds are located over their entire external surface as well as inside the mouth. In turbid waters where visibility is extremely low, taste is the primary way they find food.
According to the National Fisheries Institute, a global trade organization for seafood processors, catfish ranked fifth among the ten most popular food fish in the United States. In 2008, there were 28 catfish producers in North Carolina with 1,944 pond acres under cultivation that produced 8.4 million pound of fish. The retail value of catfish for a major North Carolina catfish processor was nearly $13 million, making it an important commodity to the state’s burgeoning aquaculture industry.
For more information on catfish production, go to NC Cooperative Extension.
Contributed by Barry Nash