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Similarities And Differences Among New York's Catfish

Similarities and differences among New York's catfish species
Species Description Habitat Reproduction Feeding Fishing Information Comments
Brown Bullhead 8-14" long

Square tail

Gray to black chin barbels

Dark brown above yellow to white on belly, mottled coloration on sides
Wide range; cool Adirondack lakes; warmwater ponds, lakes and larger, slow-moving streams Spawns late spring and summer (May-July)

Male builds sauces-shaped nest in shades spot near log or other cover

Parent(s) guard eggs and schooling young
Feeds at night

Uses barbels to locate food

Eats insects, snails, worms, small fishes
Popular panfish

Fish in evening on bottom with worms, minnows and doughballs
Very common - found in widest variety of habitats

Can tolerate high water temperatures and low oxygen levels
Yellow Bullhead 8-12" long

Rounded tail

White chin barbels

Usually yellowish, but can be much darker
Ponds, streams and small brooks with some vegetation and clear water Spawns late May to June (but slightly earlier than other bullheads)

Male and/or female build saucer-shaped nest under stream bank or near protection of stones or stumps

Parent(s) guard eggs and schooling young
Feeds at night

Uses barbels to locate food

Eats insects, mollusks, crustaceans, small fish
Seldom fished for

Fish near bottom using live bait
Less common than brown bullhead

Less tolerant of poor water quality than other bullheads does not tolerate muddy waters
Black Bullhead 8-10" long

Difficult to distinguish from brown bullhead

Square tail

Dark chin barbels

Dark brown to black in color; lacks mottled coloration on sides
Prefers silty waters of ponds, sluggish creeks and rivers Spawns spring and early summer (May-June)

Female builds saucer-shaped nest near aquatic vegetation

Parent(s) guard eggs and schooling young
Feeds at night

Uses barbels to locate food

Eats insects, clams, snails, crustaceans, leeches, fish
Not actively pursued by anglers because of small size and restricted range Smallest of N.Y.S. bullheads

Tougher than other bullheads - can withstand extremely high water temperatures, low oxygen levels and silly conditions

Limited distribution in N.Y.
Channel Catfish 14-20" long

Tail deeply forked

Young and most adults have black spots on sides

Dark in color on top, light on belly
Clearer waters of large lakes and streams

Often in currents over gravel or stony bottoms (esp. below power dams)
Spawns early summer (June-July)

Male excavates tunnel for a nest - usually under logs or other protection; located where water is clear

Male guards eggs and schooling young
Feeds at night and during day

Uses barbels and sight to locate food

Eats fish, insects, other invertebrates
Large size and good fighters

Not sought by many anglers

Fish at sunrise - fish on bottom with slip sinker
Can reach trophy size: 20+ inches and 20+ pounds

Less tolerant of warm water and low oxygen levels than bullheads

Raised as food source on huge "catfish farms" in some southern U.S. states
White Catfish 12-14" long

Forked tail (less than channel catfish)

Dark in color on top - white on belly

No black spots on sides
Found in many areas of brackish water on Hudson

Avoids swifter waters of large rivers, but does not thrive in weedy or muddy shallow ponds
Spawns early summer (June-July)

Both sexes build a saucer-shaped nest - usually on a sandbar

Both parents guard eggs and young
Feeds at night

Uses barbels to locate food

Eats insects, crustaceans, small fish
Good fighters

Fished for on Hudson, but because of location, then accumulate contaminants
Least common catfish in N.Y.

Found only in lower Hudson River and a few inland lakes