channel catfish size chart

Channel Catfish Size Chart (Captivity vs. Wild)

There are thousands of species of catfish found around the world. Most are edible, although some taste better than others. In the southern United States, channel catfish are a prevalent species of catfish. Southerners love to eat their catfish fried, and younger catfish typically taste better than older ones. However, just because they’re generally eaten at a younger age doesn’t mean they can’t get much bigger.

So, how big do channel catfish get? Channel catfish are commonly 22 inches (57 cm). The longest ever reported was 52 inches. Channel catfish weigh around 40-50 pounds on the high end. However, an admirable channel catfish catch is about 10 pounds, although the average weight found in most waterways in the wild and captivity is likely to be around 2-4 pounds.

Don’t leave before you read about channel catfish size difference based on habitat, characteristics and behavior. This channel catfish size chart answers the question: how big do channel catfish get? We compare habitats like captivity vs. wild, north vs. south, etc

Channel Catfish Size and Habitat

how big do channel catfish get

In North America, the channel catfish are the most numerous catfish species, primarily found in the central drainages of the United States.

How far north do catfish live?

Originally, channel catfish were found as far north as southern Canada, south to northern New Mexico. However, they have now been introduced throughout the United States and are even found in places like Montana! They are also now found around the world.

Where do channel catfish live?

Channel catfish live in streams and rivers. They do best in clear, oxygenated water but can also be found in reservoirs or ponds. While they prefer clear water, they can also survive in brackish water. 

They spawn in nooks and crannies under the water with adequate protection from swift currents and prefer bottoms composed of gravel, sand, or rubble rather than muddy bottoms. 

How heavy do channel catfish get?

Average catfish caught by anglers weigh about 2-4 pounds, while a good catfish weighs around 10 pounds. However, in the right conditions, they can grow much larger. 

So, what is the biggest channel catfish ever caught? The record weighed in at a whopping 58 pounds!

Channel catfish grow best in 85 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. They do well in warmer waters and tend to eat more, thus growing larger. They don’t eat as much in colder waters and therefore don’t grow as big. 

How big do channel catfish get in ponds?

Typically, catfish can grow to around 1-3 pounds in a pond. Usually, ponds are stocked rather than spawning naturally. A one-acre pond can sustain around 500 pounds of fish or about 150 fish of this size. The maximum size you will see a pond catfish get is about 5-15 pounds. 

If you wanted to raise a catfish to see how big you could grow it, beginning in an aquarium, you would eventually need to move it outdoors to a larger space, such as a pond. If you are only growing a few, you might be able to produce a channel catfish much larger than average, up to about 40 pounds. 

How long does it take for a channel catfish to grow?

The length of time it takes a catfish to grow, and mature depends on the habitat it lives on. For example, a channel catfish in captivity will reach maturity around two to three years, like in a pond. However, a channel catfish in the wild will take longer to mature, at around three to six years. A 12-inch catfish is probably at a mature age.

Channel Catfish Characteristics

As with other species of catfish, the channel catfish lacks scales and has a dorsal fin with a sharp spine that can cause a painful wound if mishandled. 

The channel catfish has the telltale catfish “whiskers,” more accurately called barbels. These are found around the mouth and are grown in pairs, totaling eight. They have thousands of taste buds that allow them to “sense” what is in the water around them and locate food. Interestingly enough, channel catfish also have these same taste buds across their entire body, not just the barbels.  

The color of a channel catfish is typically dictated by the water they live in. They may appear yellowish in muddy water and much darker in clear water. Young channel catfish may have spots, but these typically disappear as they get older. 

How old do channel catfish get?

The oldest channel catfish ever recorded was 40 years old. However, they typically don’t get that old. Channel catfish in captivity are usually harvested around age two. 

In the wild, it’s not uncommon for channel catfish to reach an average age of six to seven years old, but you usually won’t find them much beyond that.

What do channel catfish eat?

Channel catfish feed on various things, including small crustaceans, small fish, insects, clams, snails, turtles, and even small mammals. 

If you want to catch a channel catfish, it’s best to use worms or minnows, and they tend to be attracted to anything that stinks! Dead fish or other animals, basically anything that doesn’t fight back, are sure to attract catfish. 

Channel Catfish Behavior

These fish are solitary creatures. Outside of spawning season, they like to hide in places like underwater caves, crevices, or behind and around logs. Channel catfish are nocturnal, doing most of their feeding at night, then hiding out during the day. They do not have a territory and often migrate throughout a water system.

Before breeding season, pairs begin to form relationships. The female lays her eggs in nests protected from swift water, like tunnels, caves, or logs, and then the male fertilizes them.

After this spawning occurs, the male drives the female away and protects the eggs. Once they hatch, he will continue to watch over them and even stir up the bottom to bring up particles of food for them to eat. 

Channel Catfish Size Chart Recap: How Big do Channel Catfish Get?

Channel catfish are an exciting and popular catfish species. Where it lives and what it feeds on typically affect its size. Channel catfish that live in ponds will not grow nearly as big as their free-ranging brethren. 

Expect a channel catfish to grow to between two and four pounds in a pond. A one-acre pond will comfortably accommodate around 150 catfish of this size. While catfish can spawn in waters such as these, ponds are more typically stocked.

A good-sized channel catfish can grow up to around 10 pounds in the wild; however, in rare instances, such as with the world record of 58 pounds, they can grow much larger!

The average lifespan of a channel catfish is around two years old for those grown in captivity. The average age is six to seven years old in the wild, although the oldest ever recorded was forty! 

As you can see, the age and size of catfish vary greatly, so you never know what you might pull out of the water when fishing for them!