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Fishes of North Dakota

Catfish Family


Catfish Family

Catfish family members range from very small to very large fish, do not have scales, and possess several pairs of whisker-like barbels. They also have wide heads and broad mouths.


Channel Catfish

The channel catfish is our most important member of the catfish family. It has a deeply forked tail, a silver gray-brown color, and an anal fin with 24-29 rays. Small channel cats often have small black body spots. It prefers large rivers as its habitat.
JPG -- Picture of a Channel Catfish.


JPG -- Picture of a Flathead Catfish.

Flathead Catfish

The flathead catfish is uncommon but may be found in the Missouri River system. It has an unforked tail and only 15-17 rays in its anal fin. Dams on the Missouri River have changed habitat conditions for the big cats.


Black Bullhead

The black bullhead is our most common bullhead. Compared to a catfish, bullheads are stockier, darker in color, have a more rounded, slightly notched tail, and are not as large. We also have yellow and brown bullheads. The black bullhead has 17-20 rays in the anal fin, the brown bullhead has 20-24 rays in the anal fin, while the yellow bullhead usually has 24-27 rays in the anal fin. There are also variations in color as the names suggest but not as noticeable as might be expected. Most of us are satisfied to know them just as bullheads and do not worry about if they are black, brown, or yellow. Stonecats and madtoms are interesting little catfish that are ocassionally taken by anglers. They are only up to about eight inches in length and have an adipose fin that runs continuous with the tail fin. The madtom is shorter and stockier than the stonecat. Kids dangling worms among the rocks are most likely to become acquainted with these odd little catfish.
JPG -- Picture of a Black Bullhead.


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