Catfishes of

N.C. Angler Recognition Program
Weight or Length
10 lbs.
30 in.
30 lbs.
41 in.
30 lbs.
41 in.
4 lbs.
21 in.
Catfishes of
North Carolina
Catfish Fishing Tips
Catfish Regulations
Bullhead, channel and white catfish: worms, cut bait,
chicken livers and scented baits.
• Live fishes, including sunfish, may only be used as
bait on hook and line, but not on trotlines, set-hooks
or jug-hooks.
Blue catfish: live fish, cut bait, crayfish, clams,
shrimp and scented baits.
Flathead catfish: live fish, such as shad and sunfish,
and crawfish.
Catfish Hotspots
Measuring a fish
Bullheads: The Yadkin River upstream of Idols Dam
(near Winston-Salem) and practically all lakes and
rivers in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.
Fish should be measured to the nearest ¼ inch.
Lay the fish on a flat surface. Using a measuring rule,
measure from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail
with mouth closed and tail lobes pressed together.
Channel catfish: Lake Gaston, the Black, Cape Fear,
Lumber, Neuse, Roanoke, Yadkin/Pee Dee rivers.
Community Fishing Program sites are also good
spots, as these sites are stocked routinely with channel catfish. Visit for locations.
White catfish: Yadkin and Catawba River impoundments; Tar, Roanoke and Chowan rivers.
Blue catfish: Cape Fear and Neuse rivers, Lake
Norman, Gaston and Yadkin River impoundments.
Flathead catfish: Cape Fear and Yadkin rivers,
Yadkin River impoundments and Lake Sutton.
For More Information
Visit for more
information on catfish species, regulations, lakes and rivers containing catfish, access areas, fishing tips,
Community Fishing Program sites and the
N.C. Angler Recognition Program. For information
on fishing in public, inland waters, call the agency’s
Division of Inland Fisheries, 919-707-0220.
Fish illustrations: Duane Raver/USFWS
Cover: Brian Newberger holds a 78-pound flathead
catfish he caught from the Cape Fear River in September 2005.
15,000 copies of this publication were printed at a cost of $1,260.94.
• Fishes may be used as cut bait on trotlines, sethooks and jug-hooks.
• Fishes with a length limit may be filleted for bait
but the head and tail cannot be removed.
• When using a fish for bait that has a creel limit,
you cannot possess more than its daily limit or
render it so that it cannot be identified.
Help Protect Your Sport
Flathead catfish have been introduced by anglers into
many of North Carolina’s rivers and lakes. While
they are an exciting fish to catch, flatheads grow
very large and feed almost exclusively on live fish.
As a result, flathead introductions can result in the
decline of native fish populations.
Introducing any fish species into a lake or river can
impact native fish populations through disease, predation and competition. Furthermore, it is illegal to
stock fish into public waters without a permit issued
by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
Did You Know . . .
. . . blue and flathead catfish can exceed 100 pounds?
. . . flatheads feed primarily on live food, especially fish and crawfish?
Division of Inland Fisheries
N.C. Wildlife Resources
. . . bullheads, although often overlooked by anglers, are among the easiest catfish to catch and are
considered excellent table fare?
. . . catfish have exceptional hearing? They can detect even slight vibrations that other fish, such as bass and trout, can’t detect.
. . . catfish have taste buds on their whiskers, skin and even around their gills? These adaptations allow them to find food at night and in muddy water.
Catfish Identification Tips
White catfish
Moderately forked tail
Ameiurus catus
Sides silvery gray, with no spots
Anal fin rays 19-23
Squatty body shape; length rarely
greater than 15 inches
Profile steeply sloped
and straight
Ameiurus species
Tail rounded, square
or slightly forked —
not deeply forked
The picture above depicts a brown bullhead. There are four other bullhead species in
North Carolina — the yellow, black, snail and flat. Color varies from gold to black.
Blue catfish
Ictalurus furcatus
Channel catfish
Ictalurus punctatus
Deeply forked tail
Sides often spotted,
especially on juveniles
Deeply forked tail
Sides pale gray or blue
with no spots
Edge of anal fin straight,
with 30-36 rays
Anal fin rounded,
with 24-29 rays
Flathead catfish
Pylodictis olivaris
Flattened head with protruding lower jaw
Upper jaw has large tooth patch with extensions
going back into the mouth on both sides
Entire body mottled
Tail square or slightly
forked; upper part
often pale
Anal fin rays 14-17