Channel catfish are easily distinguished from all others, except blue catfish, by their deeply forked tail fin. Unlike flathead catfish, the upper jaw projects beyond the lower jaw. Coloration is olive-brown to slate-blue on the back and sides, shading to silvery-white on the belly. Typically, numerous small, black spots are present, but may be obscured in large adults. The anal fin has 24-29 soft rays, in contrast to the blue catfish which always has 30 or more rays in the anal fin. Adults are largely omnivorous, feeding on insects, mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and even some plant material. Channel catfish are omnivores and can be caught using a variety of natural and prepared baits, including crickets, nightcrawlers, minnows, shad, crawfish, frogs, bullheads, sunfish, and suckers. Stinkbaits of chicken livers, dough balls, bloody meat, garlic and dead fish are popular for attracting catfish as well.
Small and large rivers with low or moderate current, reservoirs, natural lakes and ponds. They lay their eggs in crevices, hollows, or debris, in order to protect them from swift currents.
Channel catfish are native to North America east of the Rockies from southern Canada, south into northeastern Mexico, and east of the Appalachians with the exception of much of the coastal plain north of Florida. The species has been widely introduced in other areas as far west as California.