Illustration Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

What it looks like

  • large, elongated body with no scales
  • 4 pairs of dark barbels around the mouth
  • pale blue, pale olive or grey back
  • lighter sides, often with black spots
  • grey to yellow to silver-white belly
  • tail is more forked than a bullhead’s


  • length: 36-53 centimetres (14-21 inches)
  • weight: 0.9-1.8 kilograms (2-4 pounds)
  • Ontario record: 13.2 kilograms (38.5 pounds)

Similar fish

Where it is found

Range of the [channel-catfish] in Ontario

Map Credit: modified from Mandrak and Crossman, 1992


  • common in southern Ontario lakes, including Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay
  • also found in large rivers, like the French, Ottawa and upper St. Lawrence
  • use Fish ON-Line, an interactive mapping tool, to find specific lakes and rivers


  • warm-water habitats in lakes and streams
  • cooler and swifter water than most other Ontario catfish
  • fast water downstream from power dams

Find a fishing spot with Fish ON-Line

Angling tips

  • try protected areas like deep holes below riffles, and under drift piles or overhanging banks
  • still-fishing is recommended
  • active feeders all day long
  • often active during low light periods (dawn and dusk) and even through the night
  • sometimes take spinners and small plugs
  • try bottom fishing or drifting a live minnow under a small float

Common baits

  • crayfish, earthworms, large dead minnows
  • cheese
  • strips of cut herring or smelt
  • chicken entrails