Blue Catfish

Ictalurus furcatus


Image of blue catfish
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Ictaluridae (bullhead catfishes) in the order Siluriformes (catfishes)


Smooth, scaleless skin and barbels (“whiskers”) around the mouth like all catfish. Deeply forked tail, like the channel catfish, but can be distinguished by the straight-edged anal fin.


Total length: 20-44 inches; weight: 3-40 pounds. Fish weighing 80-100 pounds are occasionally caught.

Habitat and conservation

Missouri’s large reservoirs, big rivers and lower reaches of major streams. Prefer swift chutes and pools with noticeable current.


Carnivorous bottom feeders, eating mostly fish and invertebrates. Use sensitive barbels and smell/taste to locate food.

image of Blue Catfish Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Mostly in central and eastern Missouri in the Missouri, Mississippi and Osage rivers and the lower reaches of their larger tributaries, including the Grand, Gasconade and Salt. Occasionally stocked in impoundments, but populations there are not self-sustaining.


Game fish.

Life cycle

Spawn in late spring or early summer. The male, sometimes with the help of the female, selects and guards the nest site in dark secluded areas such as cavities in drift piles, logs, undercut banks and rocks.

Human connections

People love to fish for this big, "charismatic" catfish; its firm, well-flavored flesh makes it a highly valued food fish.

Ecosystem connections

These carnivorous bottom feeders control populations of invertebrates and some fish species.