Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Ictalurus furcatus
(blue catfish)



Ictalurus furcatus (blue catfish)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ictalurus furcatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • blue catfish
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus, is native to central and southern states of the USA, Mexico and Guatemala. In China, it has been introduced for aquaculture but is not known as invasive. It is, however,...

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Ictalurus furcatus (blue catfish); adult, caught on the Choctawhatcheee River near Caryville, Washington County, Florida, USA.
CaptionIctalurus furcatus (blue catfish); adult, caught on the Choctawhatcheee River near Caryville, Washington County, Florida, USA.
Copyright©U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey, - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Ictalurus furcatus (blue catfish); adult, caught on the Choctawhatcheee River near Caryville, Washington County, Florida, USA.
AdultIctalurus furcatus (blue catfish); adult, caught on the Choctawhatcheee River near Caryville, Washington County, Florida, USA.©U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey, - CC BY-NC 3.0 US


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ictalurus furcatus (Valenciennes, 1840)

Preferred Common Name

  • blue catfish

Other Scientific Names

  • Amiurus meridionalis non Gunther, 1864
  • Ictalurus meridionalis (Günther, 1864)
  • Pimelodus furcatus Valenciennes, 1840

International Common Names

  • English: catfish; chucklehead; forked-tailed cat; humpback blue
  • Spanish: bagre azul
  • Russian: sinyaya zubatka

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: blå dværgmalle
  • Finland: sinipiikkimonni
  • Poland: sumik blekitny

Summary of Invasiveness

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The blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus, is native to central and southern states of the USA, Mexico and Guatemala. In China, it has been introduced for aquaculture but is not known as invasive. It is, however, ranked among the most invasive species in Chesapeake Bay in the United States (Higgins, 2006). It has the ability to grow to a large size, to exceed 165 cm in length and 45 kg in weight and has a lifespan of around 20 years (Graham, 1999). These characters coupled with its omnivorous feeding strategy, ability to consume a broad prey base and its high abundance have raised concerns over the effects of this large predator on fish communities in Chesapeake Bay tributaries (Schloesser et al., 2011). Its potential to expand into a wide geographic area also causes concerns regarding its invasiveness given that it can tolerate a range of habitats from freshwater to estuarine water (Perry, 1969). Spread of I. furcatus populations is suspected to have influenced resident fish assemblages. For example, white catfish (Ictalurus catus), a native species traditionally utilized by commercial fishers, experienced declines after I. furcatus populations became established in the mid-1990s (Tuckey and Fabrizio, 2010). The pattern of establishment followed by a lag phase and then rapid dispersal of I. furcatus in Chesapeake Bay tributaries in the USA is consistent with population dynamics of an invasive species (Sakai et al., 2001).

This species is ranked in the top five "species of concern" in Virginia and also as a high priority in Maryland by the US Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program. It was further identified as a species for which a risk assessment plan is required (Moser, 2002).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Siluriformes
  •                         Family: Ictaluridae
  •                             Genus: Ictalurus
  •                                 Species: Ictalurus furcatus


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Ictalurus has the Greek meaning of "fish cat", and furcatus has the Latin meaning of "forked", a reference to the species' forked tail fin (Texas Parks and Wildlife, 2012). It has a moderately robust, elongated body with a deeply forked tail and a rounded head, which has a sub-terminal mouth (Hubbs et al., 1991; Goldstein and Simon, 1999; Ross, 2001; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2012). The lower jaw of the mouth never protrudes beyond the upper jaw (Graham, 1999). I. furcatus has a bluish-grey colouration on the back, silvery grey sides and a greyish-white abdomen (Sublette et al., 1990). The breeding male is dark blue in the body (Moyle, 1976). Blue catfish populations in Rio Grande River in Texas differ from blue catfish in other areas in that the juvenile and young are very speckled and many adults retain their spots (Wilcox, 1960).

The deeply forked caudal fin of I. furcatus has no adipose adjoining it and the genital orifices of the male and female are distinct (Hubbs et al., 1991). In the male, the papilla is more prominent with a circular opening whereas in the female it is more recessed and the opening is slit-like (Moyle, 1976). It has 30-36 anal fin rays (Hubbs et al., 1991), 6 dorsal fin rays, 8-10 pectoral fin rays, 8 pelvic fin rays; and a gill raker count of 14-21 (Ross, 2001).

Blue catfish can grow up to a maximum total length of 165 cm (Page and Burr, 1991) and the maximum published weight for the species is 68 kg (Frimodt, 1995).


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I. furcatus is native to the major rivers of Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio basins of central and southern USA, south into Mexico and northern Guatemala (Glodek, 1980). Alterations made to their native riverine habitats, particularly on the peripheries, has seen their numbers reduced in their native range. Changes to their native range leading to a decline in abundance may include construction of impoundments, channelization and increases in siltation (Graham, 1999; Higgins, 2006).

In Texas, the species is present in all parts of the state but is absent from the northwest (Hubbs et al., 1991). Warren et al. (2000) listed the following drainage units for distribution of I. furcatus in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River) and Nueces River. Warren et al. (2000) also reported that the populations in southern drainages are currently stable.

The following narrative on the non-indigenous occurrence of I. furcatus is from Fuller and Neilson (2012). I. furcatus has been stocked in the Chattahoochee River (Dahlberg and Scott, 1971), the Choctawhatchee River and perhaps the Conecuh River (Mettee et al., 1996) in Alabama; in the Colorado River in Arizona (Minckley, 1973); reservoirs in the Ouachita, White, St. Francis, and Red drainages in Arkansas (Robison and Buchanan, 1988); several reservoirs in southern California drainages (Richardson et al., 1970; Moyle, 1976); the Arkansas, upper Rio Grande, and Platte drainages in Colorado (Barkuloo, 1967; Everhart and Seaman, 1971; Zuckerman and Behnke, 1986; Rasmussen, 1998); ponds in the Florida panhandle; and the Escambia, Yellow, Choctawhatchee, and Apalachicola rivers (R. Cailteux, personal communication as stated in Fuller and Neilson, 2012) in Florida; the Savannah, Chattahoochee, Altamaha, and Satilla rivers in Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott, 1971); the Snake River, in Idaho (Idaho Fish and Game, 1990); western division of the Piedmont, Chesapeake and Delaware Bay drainage, including the mainstream Potomac River and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, in Maryland (Lee et al., 1976; Starnes et al., 2011); Lake St. Croix and Lake Pepin, in Minnesota (Phillips et al., 1982); Morris and Passaic counties, in New Jersey (Fowler, 1952; Stiles, 1978); the San Jua, and Canadian rivers, in New Mexico (Minckley, 1973; Sublette et al., 1990); the Cape Fear, Catawba, Neuse, and Yadkin drainages, in North Carolina (Guire et al., 1984; Hocutt et al., 1986; Menhinick, 1991; Rhode et al., 2009); Indian and Buckeye lakes, and the Great Miami and Muskingum drainages, in Ohio (Trautman, 1981; Hocutt et al., 1986); impoundments in Oklahoma (Miller and Robison, 1973); the Columbia River, Snake River, and Willamette River, in Oregon (Lampman, 1946; Graham, 1999); the Savannah River, Hartwell Lake, Lake Keowee, Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion, Congaree River, Wateree River, Great Pee Dee River, and the Santee-Cooper Reservoir, in South Carolina (Dahlberg and Scott, 1971; Graham, 1999; Rhode et al., 2009); the Potomac, lower Rappahannock, and lower James drainages, Lake Anna in the upper York drainage, and John H. Kerr Reservoir in the middle Roanoke drainage, in Virginia (Hocutt et al., 1986; IGFA, 2012); and in the Snake River, in Washington in the early 1900s (Graham, 1999).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ChinaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Ma et al., 2003

North America

MexicoPresentNativeContreras-Balderas and Escalante-C, 1984; Froese and Pauly, 2004
USAPresentNativeRobins et al., 1980; Froese and Pauly, 2004
-AlabamaPresentNativeRodiles-Hernondez et al., 2010
-ArkansasPresentNativeRodiles-Hernondez et al., 2010
-FloridaPresentIntroducedFuller and Neilson, 2012
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedBonvechio et al., 2012
-KentuckyPresentNativeRodiles-Hernondez et al., 2010
-LouisianaPresentNativeRodiles-Hernondez et al., 2010
-MarylandPresentIntroduced Invasive Fuller and Neilson, 2012
-MissouriPresentNativeMissouri Department of Conservation, 2008
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedLieb, 2000
-TennesseePresentNativeEtnier and Starnes, 1993
-TexasPresentNativeEtnier and Starnes, 1993
-VirginiaPresentNative Invasive Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentNativeFroese and Pauly, 2004
GuatemalaPresentNativeGlodek, 1980; Froese and Pauly, 2004

History of Introduction and Spread

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I. furcatus has been introduced to China from its native United States for fisheries and aquaculture purposes. Neither records of its establishment in natural waters in China nor its spread to other geographical areas from China and its subsequent ecological effects are reported. 

Within the United States, stocking programs and unauthorized introductions have established I. furcatus populations in reservoirs and rivers of several states, including tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia. The species was intentionally introduced to three major tributaries of Chesapeake Bay watershed and a number of impoundments between 1974 and 1989 for sport fishing, and has since spread into three additional tributaries (Higgins, 2006). According to Guire et al. (1984), the intentional stocking of this species for food and sport fishery took place in 1966. Introductions in the Choctawhatchee River, Alabama, were due to flooding of a private lake in 1993 (Mettee et al., 1996). It is assumed that these fish moved downstream into the Apalachicola in Florida (Fuller and Neilson, 2012). Sources of introductions in Escambia and Yellow rivers of Florida are unknown (R. Cailteux, personal communication as stated in Fuller and Neilson, 2012). 

Although I. furcatus were reported as introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1898 and 1905 in the Potomac River, this purported introduction has been attributed to a misidentified Ictalurus punctatus (Burkhead et al., 1980). From 1974 to 1985, juvenile I. furcatus were introduced into coastal rivers of Virginia to establish self-sustaining fisheries (Higgins, 2006).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
China USA 1980-1989 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Fisheries (pathway cause)
Ma et al. (2003) No data on ecological effects in China

Risk of Introduction

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Its large size, predatory behaviour, ability to easily increase in abundance and occupy both fresh and saline waters means that this species has a high risk of spread and the potential to negatively impact native ichthyofauna. As a measure to promote sport fishing, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service introduced I.furcatus into 70 impoundments and reservoirs in Virginia and into the James, Rappahannock, and Mattaponi Rivers until the early 1990s, I.furcatus were recorded only in the river systems where they had been introduced (Higgins, 2006). Later, secondary breeding populations of I. furcatus have been recorded in three additional rivers: Pamunkey, upper Potomac, and Piankatank (Edmonds, 2006) effectively extending their range to all major tributaries in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay (Higgins, 2006).

Its continued spread is likely to affect native icthyofauna but also cause changes to local habitats, particularly because of its nest building behaviour (Courtenay and Stauffer, 1984). Furthermore, alteration of Chesapeake Bay tributaries from historically ‘bottom-up biomass’ controlled processes to one that is 'top heavy' with predators has been suggested to be a serious consequence of the introduction and spread of I. furcatus (Garman et al., 1991).


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I.furcatus usually inhabit larger rivers and streams (Hubbs et al., 1991). It also inhabits deep water impoundments and main channels and backwaters of medium to large rivers (Page and Burr, 1991). It prefers strongly flowing water and lives over silt-free sand, gravel and rubble substrates (Glodek, 1980; Pflieger, 1975; 1997). Although in its native range it usually inhabits deep, swift, flowing areas of large rivers and lakes (Etnier and Starnes, 1993), it has also been observed within shallow creeks of the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay (R. Greenlee, VDGIF, personal communication as stated in Higgins, 2006). I.furcatus tend to move upstream in the summer in search of cooler temperatures, and downstream in the winter in order to find warmer water (Texas Parks and Wildlife, 2012). This freshwater fish enters into brackish water environments with low salinity levels of up to 3.7 ppt, and is occasionally found in salinities of 11-15 ppt (Perry, 1968; Christmas and Waller, 1973). The blue catfish is demersal in behavior and can be found in depths of up to 50 m (Page and Burr, 1991).

Habitat List

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Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Estuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lagoons Secondary/tolerated habitat

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number of I. furcatus has been established for populations in the Alabama and Santee-Cooper River system, USA. In both systems the haploid gametic (n) and diploid zygotic (2n) chromosome number is 29 and 58-58, respectively. Higgins (2006) reported that each of the six populations found in Chesapeake Bay in the United States were genetically distinct from the others and moderate population substructure was observed within the Bay. Furthermore, Higgins (2006) reported that, in general, the Chesapeake Bay populations were considerably more inbred than the native populations and they exhibited lower allelic diversity, showing evidence typical of the founder effect (the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals from a larger population).

Production of hybrids between the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and the blue catfish (I. furcatus) was reported as early as 1966 (Giudice, 1966). In the Unites States, for aquaculture purposes, the hybrids generated by crossing female I. punctatus and male I. furcatus are used in production because of its superior performances. As stated in Bosworth et al. (2011), the hybrid generally performs better than either parent species for several important production traits including survival, growth, disease resistance, and carcass yield (Giudice, 1966; Yant et al., 1975; Dunham et al., 1987; Dunham et al., 1990; Ramboux, 1990; Wolters et al., 1996; Dunham and Argue, 1998; Dunham and Brummett, 1999; Chatakondi et al., 2000; Bosworth et al., 2003; Li et al., 2004). This hybrid produced by crossing female I. punctatus and I. furcatus male tends to be easier to produce and performs better than the I. furcatus female x I. punctatus male hybrid and is thus the most commonly produced hybrid (Dunham et al., 1982).

Reproductive Biology

The spawning behaviour of I. furcatus appears to be similar to that of I. punctatus. However, most I. furcatus are not sexually mature until they reach about 60 cm in length. Like I. punctatus, I. furcatus pursues a varied diet, but it tends to eat fish earlier in life. Although invertebrates still comprise the major portion of the diet, blue catfish as small as 10 cm in length have been known to consume other fish. Individuals larger than 20 cm eat fish and large invertebrates. I. furcatus commonly attain weights of 20-40 lbs. and may reach weights well in excess of 100 lbs. It is reported that fish exceeding 350 lbs. were landed from the Mississippi River during the late 1800s.

Spawning of I.furcatus occurs in late spring and early summer at water temperatures of 21-250C (Sublette et al., 1990). However, the spawning season may vary according to geographic location, in April and May (in Louisiana) or in June (in Illinois) (Jordan and Evermann, 1916; Pflieger, 1975; Smith, 1979). Spawning takes place in nests constructed by the male in sheltered areas, often in pools and backwaters (Sublette et al., 1990; Simon, 1999). Although nesting habits are similar to those of I. punctatus (Pflieger, 1975) no other North American freshwater fish is known to provide the same level of parental care as I.furcatus. The young of this species will be guarded by the parents at the nest until the young have hatched (Smith 1979; Higgins, 2006).

In Louisiana, it was found that males matured in their fourth year at a total length of around 49 cm and females matured in their fifth year, at a total length of about 59 cm (Perry and Carver, 1973).


It is reported that I.furcatus lives at least 14 years (Kelley, 1969 as stated in Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2007). Due to its large size, Ross (2001) and Smith (1979) noted that the life span of I.furcatus is likely to be over 20 years. Some records of lifespan for this fish are from 21 years to 29 years (Hugg, 1996; Graham, 1999).

Activity Patterns

I. furcatus are the most migratory of the ictalurids, moving in response to water temperatures and travelling great distances in search of spawning habitats (Graham, 1999).

The ecological and genetic data provide quantitative measures of the potential for migration among Chesapeake tributaries and indicate that dispersal and escapement are the primary modes for the recent range expansion. Therefore, intentional introductions may not be an effective explanation for the sudden appearance of Potomac and Piankatank secondary populations (Higgins, 2006).


I. furcatus are opportunistic predators and will eat any species of fish they can catch. Although highly adaptable in their feeding habits, three general feeding stages have been determined for I.furcatus based on size and age classes (Higgins, 2006). As young <10 cm) they feed primarily on zooplankton, as juveniles (up to 24 cm) they feed on small benthic invertebrates, and as adults, they feed on larger and more mobile organisms, becoming primarily nocturnal piscivores as adults (Ross et al., 2004).

Environmental Requirements

The long-term decrease in effective population size during the cold period followed by rebound during the warmer period could be explained by this species’ preference for relatively warmer temperatures for its optimal growth and survival (Padhi, 2011). I.furcatus requires warm temperatures above 210C for spawning.

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceFood Source DatasheetLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Detritus Adult/Fry
Nekton Adult/Fry
Zoo plankton Fry/Larval
Zoobenthos (insects) Adult/Fry
Zoobenthos (mollusks) Adult/Fry

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Salinity (part per thousand) 3.7 15 Harmful Freshwater preferred

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Predator Adult/Fry not specific
Pandion haliaetus Predator Adult/Fry not specific
Pylodictis olivaris Predator Fry/Larval not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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I. furcatus are an important prey of riverine-dependent avian predators in Virginia and Maryland (Schloesser et al., 2011). I. furcatus are thought to have facilitated the relatively recent expansion of osprey and bald eagle populations into tidal freshwater habitats throughout the area (Viverette et al., 2007).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Main means of dispersal of I. furcatus is natural dispersal and intentional introductions. It has been reported that I. furcatus has established secondary populations outside its native range due to its natural movement and/or intentional introductions. Higgins (2006), using genetic variation in fish populations, tested the sources of the secondary populations of two primary invasions within the United States. The tested means of secondary populations are (1) Natural dispersal (recruits moved from a nearby stocked river through the Chesapeake Bay during periods of significant freshwater influx), and (2) Intentional introductions (Bubba). It is widely believed that the I.furcatus range expansion was intentionally facilitated by anglers or commercial fisherman. Although not inconceivable, Higgins (2006) found that genetic evidence did not support the Bubba mechanism as the primary mode of expansion and natural dispersal was found to be the most probable mode underlying the range expansion. Though not tested, he also stated that it is worth investigating a separate scenario, i.e. escapement from impoundments, as a number of characteristics of the population genetic and mixed stock analyses suggested that this could also be a possible mechanism.

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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Spread of I. furcatus populations is thought to have influenced resident fish populations. A decline in the abundance of white catfish (Ictalurus catus), a native species with traditional commercial fisheries value, has been reported after I. furcatus populations became established in the mid-1990s (Tuckey and Fabrizio, 2010). I. furcatus may represent a relatively new, and potentially significant, source of mortality for economically and ecologically important estuarine fishes such as juvenile American shad (Alosa sapidissima), Atlantic menhaden, and river herring (Alosa spp.) (Chandler, 1998).

Environmental Impact

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The large size, predatory habits, and rapid increase in abundance of this species have raised concerns about its impact on native biota. It is suspected that competition for resources occurs with native White Catfish (Ictalurus catus), Brown Bullhead (Ictalurus nebulosus), and Yellow Bullhead (Ictalurusnatalis) (NEMESIS, 2012). Competition with introduced I. punctatus (Channel Catfish) and Pylodictus olivaris (Flathead Catfish) is possible but has not been documented. As stated in NEMESIS (2012), Maryland Fisheries Surveys in the Potomac suggested a decrease in abundance of I. punctatus, probably resulting from both competition with and predation by I. furcatus.

Catch statistics have indicated that I. furcatus has adversely affected clupeid (herring-family fishes) populations in the James and Rappahannock Rivers (Austin 1998, personal communication as stated in NEMESIS, 2012). In Virginia, I. furcatus has been associated with declines in anadromous clupeid populations of American shad (Alsoa sapidissima) and blueback herring (Alsoaaestivalis), possibly compromising major restoration programs, and adding to the documented negative economic and ecological effects of invasive species range expansion (Ashley and Buff, 1987; MacAvoy et al., 2000). NEMESIS (2012) reported that I. furcatus is probably an important predator on introduced centrarchids (Sunfishes).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition
  • Hybridization
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field


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Economic Value

I. furcatus is considered as a highly valued food and recreational fish. It has been introduced to at least 16 states in the USA outside of its native range and is used to add diversity to fisheries (Fuller et al., 1999; Graham, 1999). I. furcatus populations in tidal rivers of Virginia and Maryland support modest commercial fisheries (Schloesser et al., 2011). Commercial landings of this species from tidal rivers in both states increased from about 9.5–17 tonnes in 2003–2005 to more than 72.5 tonnes in 2008 (VMRC 2010; A. C. Carpenter, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, personal communication as stated in Schloesser et al., 2011).

I. furcatus, or its hybrid with the channel catfish (I. punctatus), has also been reared commercially. However, the majority of commercial production of catfish in the United States is from I. punctatus (Stickney 1986; Sublette et al., 1990). Graham (1999) noted that the species lacks popularity with aquaculturists, but hybrids developed with channel catfish are frequently used in fee-fishing lakes because of their rapid growth and aggressive disposition.

From a purely economic and sports point of view, I. furcatus could be regarded as a beneficial introduction, but its effects on native fish communities may not have been well studied (NEMESIS, 2012).

Social Benefits

I. furcatus populations in Virginia support a nationally recognized trophy fishery which targets trophy blue catfish at more than 96.5 cm FL or over 13.6 kg (Schloesser et al., 2011).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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I. furcatus most closely resembles the headwater catfish (Ictalurus lupus) and the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 2012). Juvenile I. punctatus typically will have spots that are lacking in the juvenile I. furcatus. However, large I. punctatus and medium-sized I. furcatus can be more difficult to tell apart as they are often similar in colour and general body shape. I. furcatus can be distinguished from I. lupus and I. punctatus by having smaller eyes situated more anteriorly; a longer and straighter margin on the anal fin; a median keel-like crest anterior to the dorsal fin; a crest on the dorsal edge of the opercle; the sides lacking dark spots; and a higher number of anal rays (I. furcatus usually has >32; I. puntatus usually has 25-28; I. lupus usually has <25;) (Sublette et al., 1990).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


Eradication of I. furcatus is not an option as it has been shown to be ineffective for established populations (B. Greenlee, personal observation as stated in Schloesser et al., 2011).


Introductions of blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have resulted in establishment of populations with few physical barriers to restrict further range expansion or population growth (Schloesser et al., 2011). According to Schloesser et al. (2011) resource managers seeking to apply an ecosystem-based approach to management are considering measures to help control density and spread of I. furcatus in tidal tributaries. Overfishing of this species has been considered as an option to control population levels. Even if overfishing can be attained, current market demand is limited, and significant shifts in market conditions will be required to achieve sufficiently high harvest levels. Developing markets for this species, however, is constrained by consumption advisories (VDH, 2010) due to possible contamination with PCBs, organotin compounds (i.e. tri-butyl tin), and DDE (dichlorodiphenyl-dichloroethane) in certain tidal rivers (Garman et al., 1998; Schloesser et al., 2011).

Furthermore, increasing fishing pressure on this species may create conflict with the recreational and commercial fishery components, and may be incompatible with the desire to sustain a recreational trophy fishery (Arterburn et al., 2002).


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Arterburn JE; Kirby DJ; Berry CR Jr, 2002. A survey of angler attitudes and biologist opinions regarding trophy catfish and their management. Fisheries (Bethesda), 27(5):10-21.

Ashley KW; Buff B, 1987. Food habits of flathead catfish in the Cape Fear River, North Carolina. Proceedings of the Annual Conference Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, 41. 93-99.

Barkuloo JM, 1967. Florida striped bass. Fishery Bulletin, 4.

Bonvechio TF; Bowen BR; Mitchell JS; Bythwood J, 2012. Non-indigenous range expansion of the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) in the Satilla River, Georgia. Southeastern Naturalist, 11(2):355-358.

Bosworth BG; Chatakondi NG; Avery J, 2011. Producing hybrid catfish fry: Workshop manual., USA: USDA-ARS and Mississippi State University, 48.

Bosworth BG; Wise DJ; Terhune JS; Wolters WR, 2003. Family and genetic group effects for resistance to proliferative gill disease in channel catfish, blue catfish and channel catfish × blue catfish backcross hybrids. Aquaculture Research, 34(7):569-573.

Burkhead NM; Jenkins RE; Maurakis EG, 1980. New records, distribution and diagnostic characters of Virginia ictalurid catfishes with an adnexed adipose fin. Brimleyana, 4:75-93.

Chandler L, 1998. Trophic ecology of native and introduced catfishes in the tidal James River, Virginia. Richmond, Virginia, USA: Virginia Commonwealth University.

Chatakondi NG; Benfer J; Jackson LS; Yant DR, 2000. Commercial evaluation of channel x blue hybrid catfish production and their performance in ponds. Presented at the 2000 Catfish Farmers of America Research Symposium. Albuqerque, New Mexico, USA.

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Italy: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome,

Switzerland: IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature, Rue Mauverney 28, 1196 Gland,

USA: International Game Fish Association, 300 Gulf Stream Way,, Dania Beach Florida 33004,

USA: Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, P.O. BOX 28 647 Contees Wharf Road, Edgewater, Maryland 21037-0028,

USA: TPWD Texas Parks and Wildlife, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas,

USA: USGS US Geological Survey, USGS National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192,

USA: Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond Headquarters: 4010 West Broad Street, P.O. Box 11104,, Richmond, Virginia 23230,


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17/09/12 Original text by:

Sunil Niranjan Siriwardena, Stirling, Scotland, UK

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