NJ Skillful Angler Qualifying weight for Channel Catfish is 9 lbs.
( Ictalurus puncatus )
The channel catfish is condsidered by many anglers to be the most sporting and most desirable member of the catfish family. All members of the catfish family have 4 pairs of barbels or whiskers and an adipose fin on the rear of their backs similar to that of a trout. The channel cats can be easily distinguished from their bullhead cousins by the shape of their tails. All catfish with the exception of the Flatheads, have deeply forked tails, while their bullhead cousins have a squared or rounded tail shown at bottom.
The anal fin of the channel cat has 24 to 29 rays compared to the similar white catfish that has 24 to 29 rays. Young channel catfish usually have dark spots scattered along their sides however these spots may disappear with age and may not be present on larger individuals. Records of channel catfish indicate they may grow to be 40 years of age. The current World Record 58 pounder was caught in Santee-Cooper Reservoir, South Carolina in 1964. The current State Record of 33 pound 3 ounces was caught by Howard Hudson back in 1978 from Lake Hopatcong pictured below.
Our Historical Club Record of 20 pounds 12 ounces was caught by Clark Steelman back in 1986 while fishing off Dow's boat docks. The current 11 pound 12 ounce club record was caught by Jeffrey Brandon in 1992. Our 1997 1st Place winner is Dominic Sarinelli #2092 with a 10 pounder that taped 28-1/2 inches long. Our 2nd place winner is Patti Byk #6345 with a 7 pound 15 ounce entry that taped 23-1/2 inches. Charlie McBride #6018 took 3rd place with his 5 pound 7 ounce entry that taped 22 inches. Incidentally, all three of these fish were caught in August. Typical growth rates indicate the average length of a 10 year old to be 20 inches and weigh about 3 pounds You may be surprised to learn that catfish and bullheads rank among the countries most popular sportfish, second only to bass and panfish with freshwater anglers. Way back in 1961 our Club stocked 3,000 channel cats into Lake Hopatcong and several additional random stockings have been done since then. In addition to the KNEE DEEP CLUB's stocking efforts, the State added Lake Hopatcong to it's Channel Catfish Program back in 1990 and has stocked a minimum of 4,000 channel catfish every other year since then. The channel cat is considered to be one of the best-eating freshwater fish, second only to the Walleye. The KNEE DEEP CLUB's operation S.H.I.P. ( Spawning Habitat Improvement Project ) should be a tremendous asset to the channel catfish fishery in Lake Hopatcong.
Because of it's forked tail and similar shape, this species can very easily be mistaken for a Channel Catfish. The most noticeable characteristic of the White Cat are the four pure white barbels extending from the chin. The White Catfish also has a much smaller anal fin than the Channel Cat. The anal fin on the White Cat has 19 to 23 rays while the anal fin on the Channel Cat has 24 to 29 rays. There were four entries in the White Catfish category during 1997. Our 1st place winner was Joe DeStefano #4905 with a 3 lb. 12 oz entry. Charlie McBride #6081 took 2nd place with a 2 lb. 4 oz. entry and Joe Landolfi took 3rd place with his 1 lb. 14 oz. fish. the fourth fish entered was also caught by Charlie McBride and it weighed 1 lb. 8 oz. Our Club's Historical Record was a tie between Horst Kertscher in 1980 and Bob Skewes in 1983 with both of their entries weighing in at 7 lbs. 8 oz. Our current Club Record will be Joe DeStefano's 3 lb. 12 oz. entry. Th State Record of 10 lbs. 5 oz. came from the Raritan River in 1976 and the present World Record catch of 22 pounds was made in 1994 out in California. The White Catfish tend to grow much slower than the other members of the catfish family and they have been known to live to be 14 years of age. The average sizes of White Cats are 9.6 inches at 5 years, 10.4 inches at 6 years, 13.3 inches at 8 years , 16.7 inches at 10 years and 20 inches at 12 years of age. Unlike the Channel Cat the White Catfish parents excavate a large nest, usually on a sand or gravel bar and the eggs and the young fry are guarded at least one and sometimes both parents. Although they may feed at night, they are not as nocturnal as the other catfish species. They prefer water temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and their firm white meat makes this fish excellent table fare.