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Blue Catfish Basics

Blue catfish is delicious with a taste and texture similar to rockfish. Unlike other catfish, it is not a bottom feeder. It's an invasive species that threatens the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay, so you're helping the environment every time you enjoy a tasty meal of blue catfish!


Appearance & Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Blue catfish is a member of the bullhead catfish family. It is long and slender with barbels on the chin that look like whiskers.

  • It lacks scales and is usually slate blue on the back and silvery/white on its underside.

  • It has a deeply forked tale and a straight anal fin, as shown in the drawing above.

  • A more detailed description is available from Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Habitat & Spawning

Blue catfish are not native to Maryland. They originate from the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins. They were intentionally stocked into the Virginia tributaries of the Potomac River beginning in the 1960's for the purpose of recreational fishing. The belief was that since these fish prefer fresh water, they would not thrive in brackish, tidal rivers. Unfortunately, this assumption was incorrect. Blue catfish have spread throughout the region and are now common in most major tidal tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland.

  • Blue catfish prefer large rivers with deep channels, a swift current, and a sandy bottom.

  • They seek cooler water in the summer and warmer water in the winter.

  • Spawning takes place in early summer.

  • Blue catfish select nest sites with good cover, such as under rocks, hollow logs, man-made containers, or natural crevices or depressions.

Interesting Facts

  • Blue catfish can grow to be very large. The sportfishing record is a 124-pound catch made in Illinois. 

  • They have numerous external tastebuds on their barbels ("whiskers"). Therefore, they can taste something simply by touching it with their barbels!

Blue Rapax Basics

Sustainability &
Environmental Impact

Blue catfish is invasive and it threatens the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Therefore, it cannot be over-fished. It benefits the environment of the Chesapeake region to remove as much blue catfish as possible through recreational and commercial fishing.

Endangering a Way of Life

  • Blue catfish are a significant threat to Maryland's blue crab population, which is increasing prices and availability for consumers

  • Native fish species are unable to reach spawning habitats due to predation by blue catfish

  • Invasive catfish species now make up more than 70% of fish biomass in some of the region's rivers and tributaries 

  • Disruptions to the local ecosystem threaten the livelihoods of local watermen 

How You Can Help

  • Make blue catfish a regular part of your meal planning

  • Tell your friends and family about how tasty blue catfish is and encourage them to try it

  • When fishing, catch and release of blue catfish is discouraged; it is helpful if you remove and kill blue catfish

  • Remember that it is illegal to transport live blue catfish from one body of water to another

Learn More About Maryland Department of Natural Resource's Efforts to Protect the Bay from Blue Catfish


Nutrition & Flavor

The good news about blue catfish is that it's DELICIOUS! Chefs love working with blue catfish because it is a white fish with a taste and texture similar to rockfish. For home cooks, blue catfish is an easy to prepare, tasty, and nutritious source of protein. Check out our great blue catfish recipe collection from local chefs!

Blue Catfish Nutrition Information.png


4 oz serving; 110 calories; 27 calories from fat; 3 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 65 mg cholesterol; 50 mg sodium; 0 g carbohydrates; 19 g protein; 2% daily value Vitamin A; 2% daily value Vitamin C; 2% daily value Calcium; 2% daily value Iron; Percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

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